CRYPTO ART IN SCOTLAND

“Miss Simpson creates arcane iconography to redeem your soul from a recidivist consumer culture”

C.C. O’Hanlon

old money corrupts (blondes) (small)

I was one of the first gamers (ZX81) who also couldn’t resist drawing all over my mother’s fashion magazines whilst I consumed hours of American stories through literature and TV. I guess that pretty much sums up my painting style now. Gaming meets collage in a world of hyper-consumerism with echoes of a kind of distorted futuristic urban landscape, all told by a digital painter.

I grew up in Bathgate at the foothills of the mysterious Bathgate Hills and then later in Edinburgh. Scotland is a land of stories, mystery and intrigue. We are a nation of artists, poets and storytellers. Some of my favourite Scottish painters are an influence on my digital paintings, such as Cadell, the Scottish Colourist. Below is one of his famous portraits, “Portrait of a Lady in Black”. I admire the melancholy and sadness that he has portrayed and tried to portray a little of that in my work below, “Unrequited Love”.

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Anna Louise Simpson
Unrequited Love

My work is also an exploration of dystopic urban environments and the people that inhabit them. I think landscape is a part of us. We are never really separate from the land that we inhabit and I wanted to show that in the work below, “Siberian Noise”

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I use many different digital tools, to layer up the pixels. My style is digital collage meets pixelated painting. I like to pepper my artworks with text and also sometimes add short stories to my paintings.

OLD MONEY CORRUPTS (GRAFFITI)

Ultimately, I see every artwork as a digital story and like to take my collectors on a journey.

I also like to have several different collections on the go at one time, the reason for that being that it really depends on my mood. One day, I will feel like really getting into a detailed digital painting, like this one – “FORGOTTEN VEGAS”

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Another day, I will want to explore a more graphic style digital collage, like one of my “Old Money Corrupts” series – see the artwork below: OLD MONEY CORRUPTS VI

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I layer my work with power and fragility; tales of passion and desire are exposed. At times, these stories are gentle whispers, at other times, they are loud and brash graffiti. Fragmented portraits hidden in urban landscapes reveal an honesty and broken reality; a mixed up version of the popular culture that submerges us all.

“Exploring the rips of popular culture and society’s vulnerability, Anna Louise produces images of dystopic fragility…’a keeper of fragile things’”.

THE GREY MASK

Haunting eyes sought comfort in the winding cobbled street, wet with rain. This was her home and she had travelled a long way to return to this wayward place. The stepping stones were still in place, hidden well. She would know her way, even in the dark. It was designed that way. Had been for centuries before and centuries before that.

She wrapped the Grey Mask up well above her face. It would not do to be discovered on this cold day. Not here. It was far too dangerous. There was only so much that magic could save you from. There was a power in this place which threatened so much more than raw magic and the thought of it sent shivers down her spine.

Her fearful eyes were swaddled in grey lace. A lace so fine that it looked like spider’s gossamer, spun by an ancient spindle. The Grey Mask was a beautiful shield and a protection like no other.

At this moment, on this cold day, it was all she had…

THE GREY MASK (1) copy

CAN’T GO BACK

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis

CAN'T

They say that you can’t go back but today is my futile attempt. I was born four miles from one of the most ancient pagan sites of worship in Scotland, Cairnpapple Hill. I liked to think this is why I was a little different as a child; intuitive and mystical with an aptitude for spinning a good yarn. However the truth is that the hospital I was born in was also the area’s mental institution so the jury is out on that one. Growing up in the back hills of Bathgate was fun; scrambling up the ruins of Cairnpapple and playing in the small seventies housing scheme with a bunch of friends.

School was a different matter though. For a child with a very colourful imagination, attending a strict Catholic primary school in the early eighties was always going to be a challenge. I was also intelligent with a slight speech impediment and a faulty kidney. These were the conditions for a strange primary school experience at best. I could read and write before I went to school, so I guess I must have been what they would call “gifted” nowadays but in the eighties council-run education system, I was labelled a troublemaker. I would tell the other children elaborate stories to pass the time, as I was often bored senseless. As a result, I would get the belt for distracting the class. The hardest corporal punishments though were reserved for religious offences. I can’t remember the number of times I was belted hard across the hands for questioning questionable religious beliefs. Picking holes in the Catholic religion in a strict Catholic school was the ultimate act of rebellion. I look back at that seven year old girl, trooping up to the front of the class to take yet another belting just for asking an intelligent question and I am so proud of her.

That was a long time ago though I think as I travel back to Bathgate today. I sit on the train and I remember a true story amongst all of the farcical tales that I used to make up. I am surprised that I would remember this, of all my many memories. It spurs me to get off the train and walk down the high street, taking a sharp left at the bottom that leads to a wide path. At the end of this gravel path, is a large overgrown piece of ground that faces an old rusted fence. I can’t believe it is still here. As I look through the wire barricade to my small concrete primary school beyond, I remember. And I remember you. You used to stand here, staring through the same wire fence, staring at the other children, looking so lost and sad. But you are not here today because I can’t go back.

I distinctly remember the catalyst for this one particular story; there had been a fight in the playground, over the concrete turtle and blood had been spilt. We were all just working class kids, only seven years old, but at times, we fought. However, in this school, they took playground scraps as a slight against the Catholic religion. Therefore, on the day in question, my usual charm offensive of being the entertaining storyteller was wearing thin. Parents had been involved and for some of us, that had resulted in a kind of playground ostracisation. To be honest, I liked my own company anyway; I could easily imagine a magical world without an audience.

However, this time, it was different. Some kids had started calling me names and I had been struggling to find any friends to play with for well over a week now. For the first time, in the playground, I felt an aching loneliness. It was on this day, whilst wandering the whole boundary of the playground that I noticed the high wire fence. What was over there in the wild open space beyond the fence? I wondered if it was like the Cairnpapple Hill that my Dad often took me to; maybe there were ancient ruins over there too?

As I reached the furthest point of the boundary, near the corner, I heard crying. Now, I might have been a bit mischievous but I could not abide sadness, even at that young age. I guessed it was one of the other kids, feeling a bit lonely too, so I called out, “Hello? Are you ok?”

The crying stopped immediately, followed by a few muffled sniffs. It was a dark morning, one of those cold winter days, which feels like early evening. The wind was up too, leaves swirling round and round faster as I walked towards the fence. I screwed up my eyes, trying to see, trying to make out the small figure in the corner. As I got closer, I suddenly saw a girl, not much older than me, sitting on the ground, arms wrapped tightly around her knees, dirty face watching me carefully.

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I slowly approached her, “Hi. Are you, er…are you ok?” I knew how embarrassing it was to be found crying and didn’t want her to feel bad. She just stared at me in amazement. She looked absolutely terrified.

I walked over tentatively and discovered that she was on the other side of the fence, “What are you doing over there? I didn’t think any of the kids were allowed in that place?”

She stood up then and laughed, twirling around, her dirty dress sending a flutter of leaves up in the air, “This is my home, silly!”

I was intrigued; here was a kid, actually living in the forbidden space beyond the fence! Wow! I nodded back to the kids playing behind me, “Have they stopped playing with you too?”

She looked sad then and put her head down, “Oh, they never play with me. It’s like they don’t even see me,” at this, she looked up shyly, “You are the first one to speak to me.”

Now this horrified me. I knew some of them could be cruel but I always knew that, deep down, it never lasted. The idea that the other kids had never spoken to her was devastating. I was only seven; I didn’t have all the answers but I understood that sometimes adults did strange things. Maybe this wee girl was being kept in beyond this fence for some reason? I will admit that my imagination ran away with me. However, I vowed that day, to always speak to her. I told her that we would always be friends.

From that day on, the wee girl beyond the fence and I became great pals. We would meet every playtime and laugh and joke, mindless of the barricade between us. It was there but in our childish minds, it never mattered. She was such a good friend; the loneliness I had felt before had gone. I often wondered if she might be one of the gypsy kids that sometime frequented our class but I never pressed the issue. I was now in full-blown speech therapy that embarrassingly would be carried out during class time. None of this really mattered though, because my friend at the fence was always there.

This continued until one day my mum was called into the school. What had I done now, I thought miserably, as I walked alongside her to the Headmaster’s office? My mum was angry, particularly as I was unable to tell her why. She thought that I was holding out but I was in the dark as much as she was. As we walked in to the office, I was surprised to see several teachers there, sitting next to the stern Headmaster. He looked like a fire was eating him up, with red fat cheeks and angry lines all over his face. I started to feel scared now; I just couldn’t understand what I had done wrong? I sat and tried to listen but I was so confused. I could easily make out adult conversation but did not always understand some of the things they were discussing. Then, it dawned on me that they were talking about my friend beyond the fence and seemed to be annoyed that I was spending so much time over there in the corner of the playground. I had to speak up!

I was beside myself, “No, no, please don’t stop me speaking to her! No one else speaks to her. You can’t do that to her. I am the only one she has. Please, can’t you just help her to get through the fence?” My voice was wobbling. I knew enough of adults then to know that they could do anything they wanted and I did not want to lose my only friend.

There was silence in the room. All eyes were on me then.

The Headmaster coughed loudly, “Who exactly are you talking about, Anna Louise?” his black eyes squinted at me.

I was scared now, “I…I don’t know her exact name. She…she lives in the space beyond the fence. That is why I go to the corner! I go there to speak to her!”Again, there was dark silence and as I saw my mum put her head down in quiet resignation, I couldn’t understand what I had said that was so wrong. But, I knew in that moment that they had the power to stop me seeing my friend and I broke down; inconsolable with tears and grief.

They boarded up the fence with cheap plywood after that and I was warned that if I ever went near that part of the playground again, I would be expelled. I hated the school after that. I hated the authorities. And I never saw my friend again.

…………..

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As I stand here today, I wonder at the cruelty of childhood. I look out, across the fence, from the place where she used to stand and I feel so sad. I am so sad that I can’t go back. I am here today at the Bathgate Cemetery for the funeral of my Uncle and this has brought me back to this fence, which sits as a border between the school and the cemetery. However this time, I am on the opposite side, looking back, now as a grown woman with children of my own. I still took time out to come to this patch of ground where we played, just to see if you might still be here.

However, there is more space now between us than a mere fence. I realise that there was only one little lost girl back then and it was me. Were you a figment of my imagination or just a little ghost offering love and friendship to a sad wee girl who was so very lonely. I can’t go back, as an adult, to the space in which we played, a space between this world and the next. I wonder if you are still here, watching me?  I can’t go back, wee one. I can’t see you anymore but I am still your friend. I can lay down this flower for you, in this patch of grass beyond the fence, and I can thank you for your friendship all those years ago, in the space between.

 

 

 

Divorce in Scotland: a recipe for poverty…

Being working class is a heavy mantle to carry. You have to fight all of your life. And when you think that the fight over, then you have to fight some more.

You don’t start out like this. You believe in the silky promises of meritocracy. You work hard to escape the clutches of poverty. You study. You do the degree…often the first in your family. There are no nepotistic family trees to cling to here, lass. Make sure you work harder than everyone else. Make sure you go that extra mile to fight to get the good job.

Once I was qualified as a lawyer at a top law firm in Scotland, I entered a strange twilight zone. I was easily one of the best in my year yet I found there was a club that I was simply not part of no matter how hard I worked. It was a school club, a rich club, a middle class club and there was no way I was getting in.

As life went on, it got worse and a subsequent failed marriage brought it’s own challenges. I worked hard, at being a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur. But working hard, isn’t enough. One of the massive setbacks and challenges of being working class is that there is no safety net. There is no trust fund or rich parents to lean on when times get tough. Poverty creates cycles of poverty consciousness that future generations suffer from. When you take risks when you are working class and they don’t work out, you cannot lean on family, as that family is still operating within a poverty consciousness themselves. They simply cannot help and that leaves a working class person suddenly back to facing poverty and that is the cycle of poverty repeated again.

The only solution is to fight. And then fight again and again. Harder, tougher and faster than everyone else. Never stop fighting until you have secured something that no one can take away.

Women and in particular mothers are very vulnerable in these circumstances. Agreeing with your then husband to put a career on hold to bring up children should provide some degree of security as it an agreement of trust. However when marriages break down in these circumstances, it is often the women who are left with very little, no career, children to look after and suffering severe financial hardship. In these circumstances, if you are working class, it is often the case that there will be no safety net to fall back on. This is not right and the law in Scotland needs to change to protect women in these circumstances. The golden nugget of “a clean break” policy in current divorce law is causing real poverty to creep in for mothers who thought they had escaped the poverty cycle by pursuing a career.

The law needs to change and until it does then we have to fight, and fight and then fight some more.