Sian Macfarlane


Having Macfarlane as a speaker was incredible, mainly because my love for archives and research grew more, if that’s even possible. Sian’s someone who’s working closely with our group so its great to start to get to know her and understand her work and ideas behind art.

So lets start with some of her previous work to give you an indication into Sian’s artistic choices.

‘We Will Meet Sooner Than Two Mountains’. Finished in 2013 as an MA piece, the work is concentred with place, which she previous had explored. She started with experimenting with photography and pre-manipulations such as light leeks and double exposures. She was interested with personal experiences and being very autobiographical, so exploring childhood experiences or family relations. She soon began to realise that showing internal relationships to you and this place is extremely hard. She made the connection to spirit photography in the fact that they are both trying to show something deeper than what can be seen in person. Sian also began to realise there’s two different types of photography that is traditional. Firstly landscape and secondly mans ownership and superiority over land. However, she wanted a more personal effect and to show that it’s something you inhabit and connect with and not just something that you own. Sian then began to collect images, family albums showing her connection between memories and the land. Whilst working with this project, Sian then came across the work of Henry Clarence Whaite, and this completely changes the direction of things.

Henry had a daughter called Lily and they had a really interesting relationship. Henry was a famous landscape painter during the 1800’s but his interests lay with photography. Sian recreated these images that Henry took and used the same F stop and distance as some details were contained on the back of the image. The video that Sian created is her trying to find Lily, it shows letter extracts as well as Sian’s experiences of trying to find Lily and going on this recreation journey. It has personal connections and interactions as well as exploring feelings. There’s a lot going on within the video, and I love the historical aspect with retracing letters and memories that happened over a hundred years ago. It also has an interesting telling of how women were seen in the art world at this time. Lily was a phenomenal painter and created a lot of work, but Sian could not find any of it. Additionally there were also the personal aspects that Sian included such as her family trips that she would take as a child, including one car crash that happened near a church that Henry photographed. The video shows this in an almost half clarity feel, with nothing really being conclusive. Sian doesn’t show the archived work, but she uses it as a tool and works on from it.

Another project Sian produced in was “We are illuminated”, I personally prefer the first lot of work I’ve talked about but ill speak about this work because I feel like the research was incredible. She used a range of medias such as news reports, student performances, resident’s experiences and curator’s knowledge’s. All informing the viewer about this one parade that happened through a small town. It’s interesting to see the range of information that has been included, and it creates an experience for the viewer. Sian’s advice was to not present our findings but that its important to share our opinions and frame it ourselves, give your own interpretation. For her its not technically the photographic aspect it’s the content that’s important, and that’s what a love about the was Sian works. I’m really excited for future projects and to have someone that I can relate and aspire to work in the similar manor too.


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