A walk across Belfast, 2016, Silkscreen Print
Print Workshop: Belfast Print Workshop
By combining art and cartography with printmaking techniques I aim to depict a recognisable sense of the places that I have walked and challenge some of the inherent authority of official maps. My art practice is based on psychogeographical exploration and this is complemented by my work as a professional cartographer. As a cartographer I develop geographical information systems (GIS) that produce digital maps for a range of official purposes whereas I use my art practice to distort these official depictions. Cartography has always been a mix of art and science but for official maps the science element is very much to the fore. This was not always the case as can be seen from lavishly illustrated historic maps. Ultimately both elements must successfully combine to present a version of the world that reflects the aims of its creator and this is the basis of my art practice.
My current art practice is an extension of an initial MSc research theme. I returned to university in 2006 to study for an MSc in GIS and this experience continues to be a major influence. For my dissertation I explored interactions between art, science and cartography and examined the use of GIS in contemporary art practice. I also assessed the possibility of greater interaction by creating a series of maps that deliberately disrupted scientific accuracy. For example, I manipulated digital terrain datasets to produce a series of 3d visualisations that included text scrawled across mountain ranges (Plate 1) and the shape of a running dog formed on an otherwise flat area of ground (Plate 2). I also became interested in psychogeography through the work of writers such as Iain Sinclair and Stuart Home and artists such as Richard Long, Bill Drummond and Laura Oldfield Ford. I continue to create maps that alter the interplay between art and science. My methodology is based on enriching my own experience of familiar locations by devising psychogeographical explorations. Examples of this would be; walking the outline of a shape or word, following the course of an underground river or a route linking a set of copper spires. My intension with the walks is to subvert any preconceived ideas that I may have about which way to go, what to look out for or what to record. The source material is therefore a mix of spatial datasets, historical research and repeated walks to acquire reference sketches and observations. The resultant maps seek to depict a sense of place that official maps deliberately forsake or simply overlook. Like traditional cartography the resultant maps are primarily visual images intended for contemplation rather than practical navigation.