Open Frequency 2008: David Blyth selected by Claudia Zeiske

Open Frequency 2008: David Blyth selected by Claudia Zeiske David Blyth, Scranky Black Farmer, 2006. 2 mins 16 secs

Claudia Zeiske profiles the work of David Blyth

If you ever get the good fortune to visit David Blyth's studio out in Knockespoch in the rolling Aberdeenshire landscape, then be prepared to find yourself in for an experience that lies somewhere between a Wunderkammer -a cabinet of marvels- and a Pandora's box. It's a place where art and nature play with one another, a microcosm of the local world where animals look and remind you of other orders.

Blyth's work explores the boundaries between the real world and the spirit world where we humans are definitely part of the animal kingdom, where even if we may not succeed in dominating the animal world we certainly try to rule the world of the spirits. The focus of his examination is in rites of passage: birth, death and what lies in-between, in an age that is highly-paced and beset with the too rapidly moving kaleidoscope of visual impressions.

Blyth is a shaman artist with deep, sensitive and powerful feelings for nature. He uses taxidermy to fix and capture the life cycle and the spirit, from motherhood and the pangs of a still birth to mating, reproduction and death, and in-between the drudgery of a domesticated animal controlled and exploited by man. In his work Blyth conjures all these creatures and other things together through a multitude of modi operandi including film making, sound and more traditional forms of sculpture. No area that arouses admiration, be it nature, art or technology is left out, arriving at multifaceted collage installations of surreal stories that challenge the factual with the fictional and the fetishistic.

Bringing together local history, beliefs and knowledge in the apparently familiar worlds of lambing, horse handling or field ploughing, he makes transformations that unnerve, evoke superstition and create ambiguity. Outputs range from full exhibition installations to -my all time favourite- the 'Scranky Black Farmer' (2006), a 'remix' album compilation on vinyl of the eight remaining versions of this obscure bothy ballad which tells of the travels of a young man in search of employment.

On reflection, it's not just a Wunder (marvel) but also a Kunst (art) - kammer that we find in Knockespoch. A place that conveys symbolically our control of the world long before modern science started to categorize the objects of naturalia, mirabilia and artificialia as belonging to natural history, archaeology, religion, art and ethnography.

Claudia Zeiske, December 2008

Artist's biography

David Blyth is based in Aberdeenshire, where he completed his fine art education at Gray's School of Art. Over the past decade he has profusely exhibited his sculptures and installations in group shows worldwide: Gray's Box Folio No.8, Anchorgate Gallery (Chicago, 2008); RSA Annual Exhibition, The Mound (Edinburgh, 2006); Glasgow Arts Fair (2004); Zenomap, Scotland's presentation at the Venice Biennale (2003). He has also frequently shown in a solo capacity in his native Scotland: Godspeed! The Human Plough, Woodend Barn, Banchory (2007); Knockturne, Aberdeen Art Gallery (2007); Mutton Heids, Scotsheep Festival (Huntly, 2006).

In tandem with his gallery-based practice Blyth undertakes many public commissions. This includes his current work for The Turra Coo Sculpture Commission (Turrif, Aberdeenshire) and A Book of Spring Lambs (Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen), which he completed in 2007. He has received many prestigious awards: The Henry Moore Foundation Award and The Dewar Arts Award (both 2006) and taken part in several residency programmes, e.g. Deveron Arts Town Artist Residency (2004-2006). The artist also lectures at The Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen).

About Claudia Zeiske

Claudia Zeiske is a freelance curator and cultural administrator who has advised organisations on all levels through her company FineFunds since moving to Scotland in 1995. She has gained experience in arts management over many years through working both in the UK and internationally, developing contemporary visual arts related projects, including public art projects, residencies, touring projects and installations. She has an in depth knowledge of contemporary art practice in Scotland with wide international contacts and visions for bringing local issues on a global level.

Claudia works with both artists and communities. She has collaborated with many smaller and larger organisations across Scotland including the National Galleries of Scotland/Duff House, the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Peacock visual arts, and the Royal Scottish Academy. She is co-founder and Director of Deveron Arts in Aberdeenshire and has set up the acclaimed Artists at Glenfiddich programme in rural Speyside.

Recent visual arts projects include KnockturneI, an exhibition with David Blyth at Aberdeen Art Gallery (2007); Some Distance to the Sun, with Dalziel + Scullion at Aberdeen Art Gallery (2007); Lilith, a Public Art Commission with Kenny Hunter (2006); ARTCUP, A Public Art Commission with Roderick Buchanan (2006); and ARTISTS AT GLENFIDDICH, A visual arts residency at Glenfiddich with 8 international artists: Stéphane Magnin/ France, Rosalind Nashashibi/Scotland, Berni Searle/South Africa, Wu Chi-Tsung/Taiwan.

Claudia has a keen interest in stimulating critical debate and has produced publications and education/interpretation materials. She has a BSc in Economics (Fachhochschule für Wirtschaft, Berlin) and an MSc in Social Anthropology from the Freie Universität Berlin, University of London. She lives in Huntly, a small market town in rural Aberdeenshire.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.