We explore the Hidden Harmonies in the latest exhibition at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle
Painting music, inspired by surrealist literature and creating imaginary portraits out of nature… Hidden Harmonies – by wife and husband artists, Pamela and Erlend Tait – is a gorgeous dedication to strange coincidences…
Scottish artists Pamela and Erlend Tait have unveiled their latest collection of artworks at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, and it’s a gorgeous dedication to strange coincidences, synchronicity and serendipity, and the secret, hidden harmonies of the world around us.
Which seems beautifully fitting for the pair, who first met at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, fell in love, got married and now live on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands in an artistically satisfying tale of modern romance. Borne from over a year of lockdowns, the work these two artists display in their latest exhibition – fittingly titled Hidden Harmonies – has never been more synchronised.
From their muses and inspiration to their creative processes – which have been interwoven with musical influences, literature, the environment around them and the ‘aloneness’ experienced during the height of the Covid pandemic – Hidden Harmonies has challenged Pamela and Erlend to create in new ways.
‘All my work pre-Covid had been etchings of trees, taking direct inspiration from observing their form and shape, then describing them as a mass gathering of beings who ultimately represent love, acceptance and friendship,’ Pamela explains. ‘But when Covid happened, the print studio I used had to close, and I had to adjust my practice.’
This adjustment saw Pamela return to drawing and painting at exactly the same time that a new inspiration entered her life – the words of writer Douglas Thompson, and a collaborative project funded by Creative Scotland, ‘Oneironauts’, which called on her to respond to Douglas’ writing with illustrations.
Not long after, Stuart Murdoch – frontman of Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian – contacted Pamela to commission illustrations for their forthcoming lyric book. ‘Here I had two projects, where my focus and source of inspiration was to be words rather than trees – and pencil was now to be my main medium,’ says Pamela.
This new source of inspiration, and the way in which Pamela had to respond to the changes in her practice, is something that is clearly evident in the new pieces she exhibits in the Hidden Harmonies exhibition at The Biscuit Factory.
‘Having the two projects running simultaneously really strengthened the approach of storytelling within my work,’ she tells us. ‘Straight after completing those two projects, I had to create new work for the joint exhibition with Erlend. I found myself looking inwards for inspiration rather than out into the forests. And what came pouring out of me were situations of support, encouragement and love. It’s definitely felt like I have been creating situations of deep solace.’
In a similar way to how Pamela’s experience during the pandemic had seen her begin to look inward for inspiration, Erlend’s work also draws on his own imagination – specifically, how he experiences the natural environment around him, particularly light and colour, and manifests those experiences into portraits.
‘My imagery is portrait-based, but nowadays I seldom work from models,’ Erlend explains. ‘I prefer to see how“imaginary friends” take form through the processes of making marks on a surface.
‘I’m inspired by our local environment, especially the colours and atmospheres I experience when outside. An image might form from a passing thought, while colours and patterns might allude to the reflected light of a morning walk or the darkening night sky.’
The majority of Erlend’s artistic practice focuses on drawing, painting and stained glass. But in recent years, three dimensions, moving image and sound have also become part of his process – something which he hopes will be uncovered by art-lovers in the Hidden Harmonies exhibition at The Biscuit Factory.
THEIR WORK TOGETHER
Despite admitting that the changes to their practices in recent years presented a challenge for creating a new collaborative piece of artwork – a piece called ‘Yew’ – for the Hidden Harmonies exhibition, it seems the experience has ultimately been a positive one.
‘Technically speaking, it was a real challenge to find a medium we could work with together,’ says Erlend. ‘We tried a number of different media, but it kept feeling like a compromise for one of us – until we settled on drawing on paper. As always, it started with one person making the initial marks, then handing over to the other until they got stuck and handing it back and forth.
‘But this one feels special. It marks a new phase for us both.’
Erlend and Pamela Tait – ‘Yew’ – £1,500.00
FIND OUT MORE
Hidden Harmonies will run at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, until 30th June . The exhibition is free to view, with all of the pieces displayed available to buy.
The Biscuit Factory is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.
The Biscuit Factory, 16 Stoddart Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 1AN