In August I collaborated with Platform Arts, Urban Scale Interventions and Connswater shopping centre to co-facilitate a large-scale community drawing workshop on the roof of the centre’s multi-storey car park with the theme ‘every grain of sand’ referencing how each individual person is unique and has a valuable contribution to make. The drawing was part of ‘Rooftop Summer Recess,’ part of the Eastside Arts Festival 2021 in Belfast.

There was a great response from participants of all ages who used the cardboard stencils of shells and abstract shapes I had made as a starting point or added their own imaginative contributions. The experience makes me want to do more community art, feels that it was successful in encouraging people from diverse backgrounds to join in.

Co-facilitator Meadhbh McIlgorm (left) from Platform and participants adding to the drawing.
Local artist
Many chalks were used over the weekend
Drawing in progress
Nearing completion

Platform enlisted the talents of photographer Simon Mills to document the exhibition. Here are a selection of his excellent images. In my experience good documentation is always important, this sense was heightened for ‘Rule Driven’ because Covid restrictions meant the public were not permitted to enter the gallery space, only catch fleeting glimpses from Connswater shopping mall windows.

drawing in process
drawings, drum kit, sculpture and projected video
Me at work
A still from iterations of a shape video
Drawing near completion
drawing detail

John Macormac is a recipient of a Support for the Individual Artist Programme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Over the duration of ‘Rule Driven’ at Platform Arts Belfast in Connswater Shopping Centre I worked on a large scale chalk drawing to activate the space. Passing shoppers stopped for a look, some were intrigued and asked me to explain what I was doing, others seemed totally bemused.

John Macormac is a recipient of a Support for the Individual Artist Programme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

It was a real privilege to spend several dedicated months experimenting with the possibilities of Tilt Brush software earlier this year using an Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset. This was in the lead up to “Project VR,” part of this year’s excellent Belfast Photo Festival.

The project culminated in a night of performance where I and the other two participating artists, John Robinson and Jane Rainey performed rehearsed Tilt Brush works, accompanied by the excellent Arco String Quartet. The feed from our headsets was projected live in the beautiful surroundings of Riddell’s Warehouse in Belfast. Thanks are due to the vast team of talented individuals who made the event possible.

Excellent photos by Michael Weir, CEO of the Photo Festival.

The incredible video of all 3 performances is available here: https://youtu.be/va6KxjS6slI

Shown as part of Rule Driven at Platform Arts, this video piece comprises photographs of a shape as it repeats in rows, one shape at a time. The audio component comprises layered percussive sounds and field recordings that include radio static and a washing machine fed through multiple effects. As new layers are added new sounds can be heard. When the drawing reaches the fullest point the process reverses until the wall is left blank once more.

The ordered repetition makes visible the process of drawing that follows a set of pre-determined rules, a framework for operation.

John Macormac is a recipient of a Support for the Individual Artist Programme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Last Saturday Dr Robin Price and I performed a specially composed, structured improvisational performance as part of Rule Driven in Platform Arts in Connswater shopping centre. The drum kit was prepared with piezo microphones and augmented with a Roland SPD-SX sample pad.

As they were played, these sent signals to Robin who manipulated them using a bank of modular synthesisers, effects units and a space echo. Thousands of lines of C++ code translated signals from the drums in to lines that formed repeating triangles beamed from a heavy duty laser. These repeated regular forms echoed those present in the drawings. The triangles were also projected on to the sculpture. Midi signals from the sample pad allowed the projection to be reset.

The gallery is located in a busy shopping centre mall. Priceless reactions from passers by ranged from interest to utter bewilderment.

Robin Price is an artist-inventor, trans-disciplinary physicist, musician and cat enthusiast. He holds an MPhys in Theoretical Physics from the University of Wales, Swansea and a PhD in Composition and Creative Practice from Queen’s University, Belfast. Recent solo exhibitions include Escape Sequenceat CCA, Derry~Londonderry, Lambent Ambient, R-Space, Lisburn and Air of the Anthropocene at University of Atypical, Belfast. His work is held in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s public collection and has been covered in Source MagazineNew Scientist and the Guardian.

“I use electronics, algorithms, code, glitches and hacked objects to push at the boundaries of what is technologically and ecologically possible, permissible and ethical. My approach is playful, experimental and publicly engaged.

My work comes from personal experience. I’m an outsider artist who trained not in art but physics and music who works primarily with new materials to try and make concentrated moments of wonder or joy an audience can carry away with them; making a memory that stands out against the background urban hellscape. This approach came out growing up around the tail end of the UK rave scene, living for the weekend and beginning my creative practice putting on visuals for local promoters. I often work with children and first became interested in the environment at a young age, this points towards the playfulness, connection with the inner child and environmental themes in my work. Theoreticians that have influenced my practice are Rachel Carson, Lev Manovich, Timothy Morton, Simon Reynolds and Lakoff and Johnson.”

John Macormac is a recipient of a Support for the Individual Artist Programme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

I am currently exhibiting a mix of new and remixed/re-activated old work in a solo exhibition in Platform Arts’ new home in Connswater Shopping Centre, Belfast. The exhibition had been postponed several times due to Platform losing their old space and successive lockdowns during the pandemic. Under current restrictions, we cannot welcome people in to the gallery but shoppers are very welcome to observe through the windows. This is the press release:

Rule Driven

Platform Arts presents Rule Driven by John Macormac. The exhibition is the latest manifestation of an ongoing exploration of sonic and visual pattern, informed by mathematics, geometry and the natural world. Each component enacts a set of carefully formulated, self-determined rules, influenced greatly by instructions for works written by Sol LeWitt.

Densely worked drawings of repeated forms echo those present in nature gathering inspiration from wide ranging sources, from the hexagonal structures of beehives to the lattice formations of atoms in crystals. In providing Instructions for drawing for the audience to take and make themselves, the heroic artist myth is interrupted and the artist/audience hierarchy is challenged.  Visual rhythm is augmented and amplified by layers of percussive sounds and field recordings that have been digitally processed. The imposing sculpture takes influence from science fiction, particularly the mysterious monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is a three dimensional distillation of a sustained period engaging with geometric forms. 

The show will feature a specially composed collaborative performance with Doctor Robin Price that includes a drum kit prepared with contact microphones triggering synthesised sounds and images that are manipulated in real time.

John Macormac is a recipient of a Support for the Individual Artist Programme award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

928 11 sided irregular shapes

Back once again on the kitchen table. The repetitive act of making these seems more important than the finished/abandoned piece.

White pencil on black recycled card.

A1

2112 10 sided shapes

First drawing of 2021, back at our kitchen table.

Attempting to heighten a machine drawn feel, hundreds of tiny human mistakes are always present.

White pencil on black recycled card.

A1

Original drawing

Mixed media on black recycled card, A1

Star chart 8

Digital manipulation:

Star chart 8 remix

I’ve been continuing this series of drawings that started in March as the Covid-19 lockdown began in Belfast. The process harks back to an earlier method of working, where marks are added and erased until a precarious, fragile balance is achieved. Lately I’ve felt the process becoming repetitive, the early excitement burning out. Digital manipulation or ‘remixing’ of the work presents a new avenue of possible development, extremely intricate and unexpected new configurations are possible. These may suggest organic growth, the infinite complexity inherent in nature from the structure of cells to galaxies. The next step may be to attempt to replicate these through drawing, or acquiring a plotter and learning how to program it to draw.

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