I am currently writer in residence at HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme, on the Finnish island of Suomenlinna, working on a project called Frontiers in Retreat.
Frontiers in Retreat is an art and ecology project I have been involved in for the last four years. A series of exhibitions, titled Edge Effects, has just begun and showcases some of the work produced by the 25 artists and 8 curatorial partners in the project:
June-September, Edge Effects at Skaftfell, Iceland; June-August, Edge Effects at Mustarinda, Finland; July, Edge Effects organised by Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Glasgow; July-September, Edge Effects in Aizpute, Latvia, and opening soon online in July: Edge Effects, Farrera, Spain which includes my work, FORD and my interview series with some of the artists. More Edge Effects exhibitions opening later in the year in Zagreb and Seoul.
HIAP has just produced the beautiful booklet above, designed by NODE in Berlin, and edited by Salla Lahtinen and Jenni Nurmenniemi. You can download a free copy here
The booklet summarises the work of the Frontiers in Retreat artists and partners and is also available at the Edge Effects exhibition venues. It features the photograph below of my installed text work, MEANDA, from the Exoplanet Lot exhibition organised by Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc, last year.
My interview with author, Stephen Goldenberg, has just been published on The Displaced Nation website. Goldenberg has written and self-published a murder mystery set in France and thrillers set in Britain. He is now working on a novel about a man who modelled for the artist, Francis Bacon.
Stephen and I are talking about our novels at The English Library in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, France, on Friday 21 April, 5.30pm.
The English Library is a lending library for English readers with over 3,000 books. It is open on Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons and situated next to the 14th century Place de la Fontaine and the Urbain Cabrol Municipal Museum.
My interview with acclaimed novelist Simon Mawer was recently published on The Displaced Nationsite. Mawer’s fiction has received a slew of prizes: The McKitterick Prize for his first novel, Chimera; The Glass Room was short-listed for the Booker Prize; and Tightrope won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. He has lived in Italy for many years and finds his imagination is fired by the extraordinary and the unfamiliar.
A beautiful new edition of Mary Renault’s classic novel, The King Must Die, the story of Theseus in Knossos, has just been published by The Folio Society. The book includes eight exquisite illustrations and cover design by Geoff Grandfield. Grandfield’s dominant black and terracotta palette references Cretan frescos and black-figure Greek pottery, which were, in their turn, inspirations for Renault’s own creativity. Renault surely features in most people’s roll call of significant historical novelists. Her Alexandrian trilogy fired my own imagination as a teenager. Renault’s vivid, sensuous depiction of Hellenic life drew on Arthur Evans’ excavations at Knossos. My review of the book has just been published in the February issue of Historical Novels Review.
For an article just published in Historical Novels Review, I asked four novelists to tell me about material they decided to leave out of their novels and how they approached being selective about their researched material. ‘You should fight the desire to include something simply because you find it interesting,’ said Livi Michael, who recently published a 15th century trilogy. S.G. Maclean cited cutting out loving descriptions of a 17th century apothecary’s shop and a Scottish bookseller’s shop from her novels, and advised ‘learning not to be self-indulgent, instead keeping the story focused’. French medieval mystery writer Andrea Japp reported: ‘I have to understand everything, even if I do not use it. It is a way to ground my story, so that my readers wish to accompany me back to these ancient times. There are many things that do not make it to my novels, just because they are a sort of substrate.’ Researching her 19th century music-hall novels, Kate Griffin visited Victorian cemeteries and is now immersed in researching Victorian stage machinery, make-up, props, and the mechanics of illusion.
You can read the full article online or in print by joining the Historical Novel Society. They have over 2,000 members worldwide who are historical fiction writers, readers and publishers. They publish Historical Novels Review quarterly, the online Historical Fiction Daily, and organise hugely enjoyable and inspiring conferences in UK, US and Australia.
An interview with Booker short-listed novelist, Simon Mawer, is published in my regular column for The Displaced Nation. His novel, Tightrope, set in 1950s London, won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Mawer had a peripatetic upbringing and now lives in Italy. He says that not feeling at home anywhere fires his creativity.
My review of a new book on the artists Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, has just been published in the Times Higher Education.
‘Nothing but devils, buttocks and cod-pieces,’ declared the 17th-century Spanish poet, Francisco de Quevedo, on the paintings of Bosch. In his new book, Joseph Leo Koerner writes that the delectation of Bosch’s The Garden of Delights, ‘draws us like bees to blossom’, whilst Bruegel offers us views ‘that so far exceed our capacity to look that we can never feel finished looking’.