Eleanor MacFarlane

Artist Writer Researcher


Artist Ideally I like to spend about a year making a complete hour-long piece of moving image with a sound piece, series of stills and objects, and associated multiples and interactive ideas. Given the chance, I make it an installation, different each time, responding to the room. I like the challenges of meticulous framing and editing, and the resourcefulness needed to manifest ideas in solid form. I like the whole concept of framing, making ideas into objects, and reframing in the psychological sense. I've rarely been able to show complete works as I would like, but make it anyway, even though what may be exhibited is an extract in a group show, a still here, a sound piece there, or a download project. That's great, but I'm nonetheless driven to make these extensive projects - to collect and process hundreds and thousands of images for each, to devise how they will link and layer together, and to keep on building up and editing down the piece, to make it fit into formatting, while making the media serve the material. I'm drawn by what it all means, and it leads me in discovery. I like using everything I know, and learning more, all those thoughts and understandings over many years, since childhood, and that alignment of seeing what things mean. There's nothing like the series of revelations uncovered while completing work, and there's absolutely nothing like the times when I have been able to show it all as I want, and it is right, and I get to see viewers moved by it and getting meaning through it. That's why. 

Writer I've been writing stories and novels for as long as I've been making art. To me, it's all streams and undercurrents of the same river. I find the same quests drive me, the urge to explore and uncover meanings, and to weave together many different ideas through my voice. I realise my processes in art and writing are similar in the way I construct and edit. I always suspected I was an artist who worked like a novelist - I prefer privacy, and to keep a vast amount to information in my head, which I trust to work itself out. I never thought I'd do this, but I'm writing simultaneous novels, in fact series of novels, at the moment. When I'm in charge of the process, I absolutely love this multi thinking, shifting sands of perspective, and resolving complexities with a light touch. The discipline of studying psychology tightened my writing considerably, as has technical demands of the moving image practice. What are words, or images - they are the associated thoughts and meanings, and the game is in weaving together their connections.

Researcher I felt very drawn to putting myself through studying psychology. It was fascinating, although frankly a wee bit of a slog at times as I had not studied a science, or the dreaded statistics before. I'm very interested in the mechanics of thought, and keep finding new ways to explore that enquiry, through art, writing, psychology, science, heritage and especially where these disciplines intersect. I'm fascinated by gallery and museum practice, and have developed a unique perspective, with experience as a practising artist, a curator and gallerist, a reviewer and assessor, and having conducted my own psychology study comparing artists and non-artists. I love all those questions and debates about what is put in galleries, how it's shown and interpreted, and above all, how it is experienced by the viewer. I've worked on projects, applying research insights to archives and other institutions, and have researched and written catalogue pieces for contemporary and heritage exhibitions. I also work as a freelance assessor, offering an expert eye to galleries.

Artist statement I've always found shadows and glints of light revealing, as if they are manifestations of the inner person, or psychological messages. Art can see through to the meaning of things. I consider moving image an ideal form to explore ideas about our relative experience of time and the pace and rhythms of thinking. I use layers of photography, video and drawing which at times extend into installation and making art contraptions - low-tech objects with destabilised imagery. I bring my background in classical music into my art practice by abstracting and layering music with recordings to make sound for work, waves of acoustics which reflect the pulse and cycles of consciousness and memory.

I often reread The Object Stares Back by James Elkins to think about its central philosophy that vision is a series of illusions: Seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer.  I am fascinated by the process of creativity itself and how the mind interprets what it sees or invents. My work imagines hidden movements behind solid things, as a reminder to my own thinking that nothing is really static, and even the most solidified thought or belief is subject to change. My approach to making is like a complex abstract painting, which, as soon as marks are made, has layers of equations to resolve. There are many processes and thoughts towards the finished work, and there may be myriad solutions, but there is one right one, one expression and ordering of all the elements which brings art together, creating the form and frame of an idea.

Artist bio I am an artist making and exhibiting moving image, installation, sound and art contraptions. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, and currently living and working in London, I originally trained in classical music. Using video, photography, recordings, drawing and low-tech construction, my work distils abstract and scientific notions into beautiful insights. I have an MA in fine art (Open College of the Arts 2014) and a BA first-class in fine art (Middlesex 2006). Research interests and a fascination in psychology led me to undertake an MSc in the subject (Hertfordshire 2017). I make gallery-based work and often set up projects for myself. I run theViewergallery pop-up for artist projects and moving image screenings, and work as a covert artist in residence. I mentor and tutor, and review and write about books, exhibitions and culture.

Some of that artworld game, the endless applications, the supposed hierarchy of emerging, mid-career and established artist, the submission fees and no payment, fitting in to pre-curated exhibitions and all that. I'm just not playing any more.

#I seem to have run out of bandwidth to add new videos to my website - to be amended in due course.


Eleanor's portfolio of projects: 

theViewergallery thelongLine theProgressiveImage Crucial Pursuit! Absolute Magnitude

covertartistinresidence Facsimile@V&A, Abridged@RCM

theGlamorousAnorak ARTicles, Reviews

ARThinkingThoughts Research, Art, Creativity, Psychology

VIDA collection eleanormacfarlane Wearable art, scarves, art-inspired clothing

Saatchi Art Eleanor MacFarlane Saatchi Art Eleanor MacFarlane prints

TheWrittenArtist Handwriting, signature, autograph coaching