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Blog by Lar MacGregor


March 2022

“Your imagination… is mostly an accidental dance between collected memory and influence… a construction that awaits spiritual ignition.”  Nick Cave

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Find a ‘spiritual ignition’. It’s that simple… and yet there is no blank slate upon which true originality exists. A conglomeration of thought, instinct, panic and hope must align, in order for the first tentative steps of any dance to begin. That is where luck rolled in, and I saw a post on the CiRCUS ARTSPACE Facebook page: ‘Graduate Associates: Visual Artists Apply Now!’ (delivered by Circus Artspace in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands and supported by XpoNorth, Creative Scotland and the Hope Scott Trust). So with thought, instinct and hope taken care of, and my application sent, I waited for panic to abate and for the dance to begin.

The core programme of the Graduate Associates Programme, was to consist of eight online training sessions with invited speakers, held on the last Monday of every month, over Zoom. It was an opportunity to focus, to share a creative space and to grow as an artist.


I got in! Anybody want to dance?


So that was then, and this is now. For anyone engaged in lives of creativity, they will understand that this often solitary life of self-discovery, becomes the force of all the meaning and making that makes life worth living… whether they call it art, passion or insanity. 


Loneliness is sometimes a by-product of the solitude necessary for creative work, natural and needed, often terrifying, but always rewarded with moments of clarity. This journey with the CiRCUS ARTSPACE Graduate Associates Programme, has opened up new possibilities for collaboration, cemented friendships and pushed the boundaries of what is comfortable.


To be an artist is to be fully awake to the totality of life; to see what others cannot, to move through it and to be moved by it, then to interpret what is encountered and render that inner fluttering, into something solid and whole.


In this instance, my work is an exploratory walk around my own sense of place. I read a book called ‘Wanderful’ by David Pearl, about the arts, walking and social change. He believes art and walking can deliver fresh insight to our lives and I responded to this notion by exploring my garden. The installation and sculptures I produced are my findings: a marriage between other people’s discarded carrier bags and gardening! All life happens in the garden. Chance plantings, sitting with much loved trees, wildlife, growing food, solitude, sounds, tactility, creativity and growth!


Being a Graduate Associate has given me space to grow in a supported and creative environment. From the first tentative steps of setting goals and understanding failure and resilience, we went on to learn about how to write an engaging artist statement and how to maximise impact via social media. We have had the joy of Davina Drummond sharing her insight into how to develop a socially engaged portfolio career. We learnt to recognise transferrable skills and were given advice on devising and leading community projects and public workshops. We have had checklists, templates, conversations, questions asked and questions answered, Sideshow Socials, laughter and tears.


Of course, I have also had the pleasure of fortifying friendships with my fellow exhibitors in CIANALAS: Morag Smith and Louise Allan. Their support in this place of constant change, has given me sustenance and an ability to keep saying ‘Yes!’ when everything in me was saying no.

Somewhere in the great void that is the internet, I read an interview with Nick Cave. In his own inimitable style, he said that we should: ‘Worry less about what you make — that will mostly look after itself, and is to some extent beyond your control, and perhaps even none of your business — and devote yourself to nourishing this animating spirit. Bring all your enthusiasm to bear on the development of that good and essential force.’  Nick Cave went on to say, ‘This is done by a commitment to the creative act itself. Each time you tend to that ingenious spark it grows stronger, and sets afire the ordinary gifts of the imagination. The more dedication you show to the process, the better the work. Apply yourself fully to the task, let go of the outcome, and your true voice will appear. You’ll see. It can be no other way.’

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…and if Nick Cave says that it’s ok to let go of the outcome, then I guess I’ll go along with that.


Enjoy your creative journey, wherever you are along your path. Oh, and apply for the next cohort of the Graduate Associates Programme if you see it advertised. You won’t regret it.

© All images and text are by Lar MacGregor, 2022  Instagram @larmacgregor

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