Alastair Cook is a lens-based artist working in fine art photography, portraiture and film. His award winning film and photographic work is driven by his knowledge, skill and experience as a conservation architect: the work is rooted in place and the intrinsic connections between people, land and the sea. Alastair trained at the Glasgow School of Art then fled the country, returning after a dutiful spell in London and a more relaxed time in Amsterdam; he now lives and works in Edinburgh.
So. I make here. It looks small when captured like this, almost cornered. My first admission is that I used this as an excuse to tidy the maelstrom driven mess it had become. An image of the Victorian terraced house I live in in Leith may be more appropriate as I inhabit the house with the full-time full-throttle artistic-endeavour that drives so many of us: the house is my place of work, not just this studio. I drift through the house, switching switches and drinking coffee, making cake and kneading bread, thinking. When I do sit in this space, it is with such focus and drive that the work comes fast. I edit, cut and write here. My films come to life here and settle here; still images taken on film or glass or tin come into focus here.
The wall behind us is a window to a Victorian cottage garden, sun dripped or rain drenched, it accepts the extremeness of Edinburgh’s weathers and refuses to stop propagating. The other wall is the wall of objects, it suffuses my influences. The opposite wall is blank, white, a nothing, a space to stare at.
So what can you see? All present and correct: a MBP, some Swedish furniture, a Super 8 camera. The intertwined glass and metal objects are from a residency I completed at North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster in May this year where I cast glass: this sea-worn wrapped-steel loop comes from the beach at Whaligoe in Caithness; I cast it in glass whole, the result the yellow and black piece on the left.
With regard to photography, I mostly don’t exhibit digital, I dance around the fringes of fine art photography, of analogue photography, of making images not taking them. Having said that, in Lybster I pursued my interest in Collodion wet plate photography, developing a kilned ambrotype process, which I will pursue further this year with the aid of a formative influence, Carl Radford. What I mean by kilned ambrotype is that we spent careful time preparing glass photographic plates using a Victorian technology and then I threw them into a kiln at 600 degrees. The results were astonishing, delicate and amber-bright.
My most recent exhibition of fine art photography, Analogue Decay, was shown at the Howden for a month over Easter; it is a collection of new analogue work, celebrating the disintegration and imperfections of this near obsolete process and the unique painterly images it can produce. The pieces are not digitally manipulated and were shown at full negative ratio. The best I can hope is that this is seen as honest work.
My room is now a midden again. I love it.
Currently, Alastair has a series of 12 short films in the Edinburgh Festival, as part of Kevin Williamson’s Robert Burns project, Not In My Name. The films intersperse with Kevin’s rote recital of Burns more radical, untagged poems. The second part of its run in the Edinburgh Fringe is from the 24th – 28th August 2011 at the National Library of Scotland, at 7pm each evening.
‘Where I Make’ invites readers behind the scenes of artists from many disciplines to share photographs and a little insight about where they create their masterpieces. See more from the series here.