Sketchbook notes from the drifting spaces

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me – Contemplating the inward and outward journeys of the self

In Buddhism we awake to the dream and realise we are still within the dream – helping us be much more aware and open. In transcendental meditation effortless concentration is practiced, moving deeper into new levels of consciousness.

The world of Twin Peaks, from the pilot to the Missing Pieces of Fire Walk With Me, explore many things. These include the journey of selves and the parting of the self into wider dimensions. There is a clear sense of the vast mystery – beyond notions of good and evil.

The spectrum of actions of the town’s residents and visitors range from extremely selfish – Ben and Catherine’s entertaining subterfuge for example – to genuinely caring – even Harry and Albert are looking out for each other after a rocky start to their relationship. The red room’s characters too seem to encompass contrasting aspects of a being’s possible ways of behaving towards others. Trust – deception accompany wholeness – fragmentation.

Bob and Mike complement each other in this way. Even Dale’s pure innocence is balanced by Bob’s intervention into his body and mind. If there is no such thing as a fixed essence or unchanging soul – these character transformations seen particularly within Leland Palmer, magnificently portrayed by Ray Wise, and Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle ‘Kale’ MacLachlan) are not unnatural perhaps but part of the wider planetary and worldly magic Mark Frost and David Lynch delve into.

Open heart-mind

Near the end of the second series Dale is seen coming out of meditation. He is sitting cross legged on a cushion in his room at the Great Northern, before beginning his regular dictation to Diane. Lynch is a practitioner of transcendental meditation. TM – carefree absorption aided by a mantra personal to the individual, which through regular practice connects to higher levels of consciousness and states that blissfully drop the immediate noise of the self.

It can be visually and multi sense stimulating, taking a self into a different place. We see Dale is vulnerable, but with an increasingly open heart-mind is gradually connecting to the mystery of the woods and the the owls.

Fire darkly or brightly

Dale Cooper deflects any symbol of heroic yogic meditator though or fearless FBI agent. He reveals his uncertainties and his fragility. The ‘good’ Dale and the blackness of the Black Lodge are smeared together, will the fire burn darkly or brightly through him?

Missing Pieces offered glimpses of future and past moments, with a humane and soft exploration of the relationships and states of the various characters of the intertwined Twin Peaks extended family. It balances the earlier film. The emerald green owl glyph ring circles on.. the broken heart necklace a reminder of throbbing hearts.

Other David Lynch related posts
“Tokyo Art Exhibitions – MOT and David Lynch at LAFORET” and other notes. →

Working on a new artist film – Directionless

Directionless 1 (

I’ve been continuing the themes of the Journey to Nowhere series with a second film, called Directionless at the moment, which I have started editing, adjusting clips, cropping, trying out combinations and planning ‘scenes’, though like the previous film there is no clear plot from a to b, nor dialogue at the present. Detached from land, finding a home only temporarily, leaving again… with hopefully mysterious situations, this film will be more experimental than the last. A lot of the footage is quite low tech which I like, and leaves open possibilities for sound. So far I have a fair amount of drawings that I have worked on specifically to bring in, plus footage of structures. Finding fragments, pulling together.

Directionless 3 (

Directionless 2 (

Pier Arts Centre ‘Living Colour’ Exhibition, Stromness

Probably one of Scotland’s best art galleries although far from the cities in the beautiful Orkney Mainland, the artwork at The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness (which has a connection to the Tate) is often nicely presented and curated. And so I wasn’t disappointed by their recent exhibition ‘Living Colour’ which a friend had recommended to me. This was a tremendously exciting show, in a way a retrospective documenting, and also repositioning, animation and especially hand painted artwork onto film (rather than filming with a camera) as truly powerful artistic statements that were ahead of their time.

Monochrome drawing of fishing boats near the pier in Stromness Harbour, Orkney, with the town on the hill behind and the mountains of Hoy under cloud in the distance

5 minute sketch with marker of Stromness harbour and the Viking Monarch

Digital photo of the Pier Arts Centre on the shore near the pier, with the rear of building and modern extension with glass, town of Stromness behind

The Pier Arts Centre, photo John Ireland (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Highlights of the show began right away with Oskar Fischinger’s ‘Radio Dynamics’, a transcendental and fast paced trip of a film with a an experimental range of shapes and colours to lose yourself in. This piece pushes the visual boundaries, taking abstract expressionism into moving image in a forward pulling relentless exploration that is mesmerising. Seeing its mature combinations, reminiscent of that of the American based painters Hans Hoffman, Josef Albers and Mark Rothko, questions our understanding of abstraction at that time.

Part of the McLaren 2014 programme, the next strong piece was by the pioneering Scottish filmmaker himself, Norman McLaren, from 1949 – ‘Begone Dull Care’ (see the 7min 52s video below, courtesy of The National Film Board of Canada). Watch the visuals of this frameless film flow with the jazzy music and especially piano by the Oscar Peterson Trio. The splashy and textured mark-making slides from very simple and funny-quirky to more heavy, built up and layered surfaces, but mainly has a delightful drawing feel, and one which is so in tune with the processes as well as the free sounds of the instruments.

Begone Dull Care by Evelyn Lambart& by Norman McLaren, National Film Board of Canada

Moving towards the end of the show’s chronology, more recent work included a speedy piece by self taught filmmaker Ian Helliwell called ‘Get Set’ – here the artist made the excellent soundtrack with a toy organ. It was great to see that the seminal ‘Dresden Dynamo’ (16mm film, made 1974, 5 mins, colour, 4:3) by Lis Rhodes was on display too.

I had enjoyed seeing this very electronic feeling piece in the Tramway art gallery in Glasgow, through the LUX Collection, a year or so ago, and although on a smaller screen, the cadmium red and cereleum-cobalt blue linear minimalism was again highly striking. The pureness of the abstraction seen here in her earlier work hits the mark, thematically totally non verbal or language orientated, stemming from the method of sound creation that the projector bulb would interpret the sound of the images…

“It was perhaps the question of sound – the uncertainty of any synchronicity between what was seen and what was said that began an investigation into the relationship of sound to image. Dresden Dynamo is a film that I made in 1972 without a camera – in which the image is exactly the sound track – the sound track the image. A film document.” – Lis Rhodes

Music Collaboration with Stuart Corkindale

music collab

I had been thinking about sound explorations to work into a new film and friend, and very talented and versatile musician Stuart, kindly offered to record some sound with me. We worked on a few soundscapes on Stuart’s piano and also synthesiser, aiming to make some fragmented compositions with non conventional scales. It was really good fun experimenting with sound with Stuart and hope to take this forward soon and work in some visuals too..

Music collab (

Artist Film Clip – ‘Traces’

  • 10 March 2014
  • Film

TRACES (clip from artist film) from Blair Thomson on Vimeo.

(5 mins 35 seconds)

Artist film clip – ‘Journey to Nowhere’

  • 10 March 2014
  • Film are a couple of the film experiments I have worked on..

1 Journey to Nowhere clip from Blair Thomson on Vimeo.

(5 mins 7 seconds)

‘Shuffling’ (popped into Glasgow School of Art Degree Show with ‘friends’)

Shuffling (blairthomson) from Blair Thomson on Vimeo.

Circling Connections: Peter Fischli / David Weiss and Alexander Calder

The tongue and cheek, playful search and questioning of meaning in life and art was a major theme in the development of art in the 20th century, accompanied by a desire, starting with the Surrealists, to really subvert and later skirt around any kind of categorising of artworks. I’ve been thinking about the ‘circus’ of fun and hedonistic delight in the works of a few artists that show some loose connections.

Recently visiting the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow) I was captivated for the full thirty minutes of ‘The Way Things Go’, a 1987 film by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. It takes the viewer on a comical journey of movement in an old industrial looking interior between a set up of disparate home and industrial objects, such as tyres, bottles, liquids, chemicals on benches, ladders and shoes, that come together after moments of tense waiting for fuses to burn, ignition, steam or gravity to do its job and for something to crash or explode into the next in the vaguely circular set-up. Seemingly filmed in one shot to promote the feeling of a never ending, inevitable process, the film has several cleverly crafted edits. In the continual but fleeting meetings and silly interactions between the many parts of their installation, there is a sense of the circle of life and death and of the inter-connectedness of all things. The questioning has gone beyond one of dealing with the traditional gallery system and being surrounded by the remnants of mass production.

Weiss and Fischli have made a variety of work, often characterised with humour – one funny little piece is a quick looking, lumpy clay street with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones going home happily satisfied after a session in the studio doing ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’. The popular film ‘The Way Things Go’ has less narrative but takes forward their ‘Quiet Afternoon’ series of photos from the mid eighties, in which there is a quirky gravity defying and comical still-life combination in each piece of some five to ten tattered bits of home furniture or bottles, packaging tubes, plates, ladles or fruit for instance. The imposed boundaries between ‘man-made’ and ‘natural’ become blurred with one title in the series ‘Natural Grace’ reminding me also of the impending collapse of a piece of balanced stones on a hill top by Andy Goldworthy. In some ways the often used terms ‘land artist’ or ‘conceptual artist’ are truly meaningless and a distraction from seeing work afresh. One other thing I like about many of their works is the rugged, unfinished looking aspect that doesn’t value detail and solid compositions too much. Some later works lose some of the feeling perhaps due to the visual choices of the artists themselves or curators, (especially the photography on show at the GOMA) and started to lack that sense of the fleeting, off kilter aspects.

Two early films (excerpts below), ‘The Least Resistance’ (1980-81) and ‘The Right Way’ (1982-83) capture their energy and half joking, half serious mood that is full of life. There is a method too in avoiding factual documentation and underscoring a desire for unsentimental creative freedom, serving to communicate charged as well as playful encounters and experiments in various environments. Their work has obviously spawned a whole array of materially similar pieces over the years by younger artists, but their overall philosophies give a strong edge to their interesting body of work. As the Panda said: ‘Such understated vehemence’.

The sculptor of mobiles and stabiles, Alexander Calder, was also keen on mesmerising and making the audience laugh with his fun characters and gravity defying objects. His moveable clowns and animals of tin cans, brushes and other bits and pieces were performed like puppets in his ‘Circus’ for kids and adults to enjoy, and are quite similar to the animals and human shaped or characterised objects of the Swiss duo later in their films and installations, such as their Rat and Bear.

Much of Calder’s work broke the tradition of clunky sculpture rooted on a plinth and challenged the art world like Panda and Rat did briefly in Los Angeles (‘The Least Resistance’), before turning to crime in their case. His mobiles opened new scope for art installations and possibly encouraged the idea that ‘sculptures’ could be much more temporary works (seen only as traces in the work of some of the land artists for example) from cheaper, mass produced materials. Whilst aiming to engage with themes of the universal and inter-connectedness in a circular wholeness, Calder like the Swiss artists also looked for ways to challenge artistic boundaries and have plenty of kicks in the process.

Images from new film work Journey to Nowhere


Having edited down the two contrasting chapters of the digital film I’ve been working on to around twenty minutes now, the piece seems to be getting there thankfully, though I need to get a bit of space to re-look at it again in a couple of weeks with a fresh (less bloodshot!) eye. It has been fun developing the various sound sequences too from excerpts of recordings and film clips and modifying, building these up in parallel with the scenes. Here are some stills I collected from it earlier that I quite like the atmosphere of…




Working on new city themed artist’s film

Journey to Nowhere

Journey to Nowhere

In the last couple of weeks, or certainly since the last heavier snows, I’ve been putting together a strange new film piece taking in lots of city and infrastructure footage, mostly gathered in and around Tokyo, but also some from the UK. The previous artist film works I showed at the Omotesando exhibition last year were working with more landscapey man made ideas with sculptural motifs too, so has been quite interesting to develop a darker, slightly surreal take on city life with more figures coming in, and just a wee touch of sci-fi dystopia hopefully to boot. I’m aiming to edit down to around 30 mins but still a long, long way to go! Making plenty of notes too and have been reading some excellent Soto Zen writing by Shohaku Okumura which has been very helpful generally and has ended up triggering some ideas too for this. Chapter one has developed into a bit of a slow buiding up of momentum, Journey to Nowhere, and the next one I’ll be working on is a sort of vision of Tokyo, a dematerialising phantom world view…

Snowy notes, thinking spaces

Snowy notes, thinking spaces