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Reflecting on Dislocation

In response to his previous feature, visual artist David Lemm looks back over five years of practice to highlight the notions of infrastructure, place and community so interwoven within his work
words + artwork – david lemm
location – edinburgh, uk

Visual artist David Lemm is informed by subjective encounters with place, process and artefact. His practice spans printmaking, drawing, assemblage and installation – often with a focus on found materials and how these might be innovatively reimagined to unlock the artistic potential of our existing infrastructures. Elements of industry, from steel sea fastenings to slices of tram track, interplay within his pieces to breathe new life into our built environment. David’s gleaning of found objects speaks to a responsible approach to the production of artworks and reconsiders how we might present narratives of our relationships with our environment – presenting an engaging vehicle from which to better understand our communities and individual existence within the cities and human settlements we inhabit.

“In response to my ‘Tear Sheets’ feature, I’ll be reflecting on the work previously shared – ‘Dislocation,’ a small collage. The work was originally made in 2017 whilst I was artist in residence at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture in Skye, Scotland. I was there for three months, exploring various ideas around place and landscape. I was inspired by the planned construction of the first new village on Skye for 100 years, and my immersion into Gaelic culture. It’s now five years since ‘Dislocation’ was featured, so I thought I’d share a selection of projects I’ve been working on since then, with a particular focus on collage, assemblage and found materials.

Reclaimed shuttering plywood and mixed media

“In my recent work I have focused on materials harvested from the tramline development outside my studio in Leith, Edinburgh. I collected various items which were being discarded as waste during the building process, reimagining the potential of our infrastructure to create something new. The compositions created echo observations recorded during the process and consider how the city is constructed. I focused on salvaged shuttering wood to produce sculptural reliefs. These overlooked artefacts literally formed the streets we walk on, and the works can be seen as an investigation of our relationship with urban space. Housed within these assemblages are glimpsed impressions of the tram track itself. The graphic motif is the profile of the track and has been printed here using an offcut slice of track.

‘Relic 130’
Reclaimed shuttering plywood and mixed media

Painted steel installation, 90 x 168cm (x2)

“This work was made around the same time as ‘Dislocation,’ as a temporary installation in the closes of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. It was recommissioned by Edinburgh World Heritage in 2021, the initial wooden frames remade in steel. When I made the work, the window spaces sat empty alongside the original railings under the word ‘Rebuilt.’ The historic railings were in disrepair and I saw this as an opportunity to respond directly to the existing vernacular of the close, using what already exists to find new connections whilst considering the temporality and perpetual flux of the city. I deconstructed the original designs to find shapes and motifs which I used as building blocks to create the new designs, which hint at present and potential narratives of the close. I recently made screen print versions, too, which are available on my site.

‘Ting Tree Tabu Type’
Plywood relief

“This is a response to a residency project in Norway and subsequent research in Shetland. The assembled pieces are based on found steel sea fastenings – objects used to secure loads in the North Sea industry. The forms are presented here as speculative artefacts, symbols or tools awaiting classification or interpretation. The residency in Norway was a collaborative project between Scottish and Norwegian artists exploring ideas around language, materiality and connections between the two countries. The collective work has been exhibited around Norway and Scotland as a touring exhibition called EBBE+FLOW, and will be showing in Dundee in October. I’m currently developing new work using these forms again for an upcoming exhibition at Moray Art Centre in November.

'Accumulated Reaction (1)’

“This work was made during a residency working in a wee studio in a field in Norfolk. I spent the time experimenting with various printing techniques and exploring ideas around image construction. I’m interested in objects and artefacts in relation to particular sites, especially overlooked or waste materials; I primarily worked with what I found in the studio, like printing scraps or old pieces of type. I used this residency as an opportunity to consider the making process, allowing incidental observations to drive the work and unexpected results to emerge. As I printed with the letterpress blocks, on a press they weren’t made for, they slowly de-bossed the card I was using. So I inked this and made prints, which felt like ephemeral records or echoes of a process.

‘Studies for a New Normal’
Paper collage

“This work is probably the closest descendant of ‘Dislocation,’ and was made in similarly isolated circumstances during the imposed home residency of the COVID-19 enforced lockdown. I particularly like working with collage as a process that allows potential narratives or unexpected meaning to emerge through experimentation. The physicality is incredibly important to me; digital collage with its myriad of options just isn’t as interesting. As with much of my work, it’s about making something with what you have and expanding from a specific point of enquiry – exploring potential resonances between materials, images and objects. There’s also the lack of an undo button, so if you mess up you need to embrace it and I like being surprised by what I’ve made.

‘Oblique Territories 5’
Acrylic, admiralty chart and wax on board

“I’ve been exploring sea charts in various ways since 2011. In these works, each drawn composition is informed by the existing markings, where chance and the printed information determine interventions. A key idea within the work is how the contemporary world has been demarcated, and how territories or societies might be created, defined or erased through abstract lines on a map. These specific charts were actively used in the oil industry and ambiguous working notations remain visible alongside my new additions. The applied forms create a palimpsest of sorts; a speculative new layer in the history of the object where the obsolete information acts as a metaphor for the impermanence of existing systems or conditions.”

‘Oblique Territories 6’
Acrylic, admiralty chart and wax on board

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