Tag Archives: Lee McDonald

St Mark’s & St John’s University Student Documentation

On Thursday 1 May 2014 we were asked to attend the Council House so that students from Marjon’s University could document the exhibition.

We met up with two students, one of which was Harry Chance.  Unfortunately, he did not seem well prepared and he also didn’t realize that this was a PCA project and simply thought it was an exhibition by Lee McDonald.  He interviewed Lee with questions which seemed to be based on briefly looking at Lee’s website.  Furthermore, although Lee said that Harry should speak to all of us because it was a group project – he was not particularly interested in interviewing myself, Kath Howard or Maddy Crossley but did so nevertheless.

Although we had no feedback as to where we could find Marjon’s documentation of the exhibition, I managed to track down the page online and was slightly disappointed that Plymouth College of Art was not mentioned at all:



14/02/2014: Student Group Meeting with Lee McDonald

The following is a brief summary of the ideas discussed following our meeting with Councillor Penberthy:

Wall piece:

  • Clad a section of the existing panelled walls in foyer with different sized wooden panels in block colour from floor to ceiling;
  • Colour: blue to reflect “Ocean City” – also a serene colour;
  • Coloured panels to gradually transition from the solid edge to edge coloured panels section to the existing panelled walls – creating a breakaway effect i.e. a transition of the old panelled walls to the new “walls”.
  • Coloured panels to be of differing depths to create a “landscape” to the wall and change the existing effect of the existing panelled walls.

To do list:

  • Everyone to collect wood for panels i.e. plywood, hardwood etc and store in Studio 11 and blue paint(?);
  • Arrange to measure wall space in Council House (also see wall plans attached on earlier post);
  • Arrange to meet up in Studio 11 at least once a week to start preparing panels.

Also considering two sculptural installations: light and viewfinder.

31/01/2014 – Lee McDonald discussion

On Friday 31st January, I attended the exhibition opening of Peter Randall Page’s work at Peninsula Arts and Plymouth Museum & Art Gallery.

During my visit a bumped into artist Lee McDonald and had a brief conversation regarding the Council House project and discussed the following:

  • I asked about the possibility of using one of his existing sculptures – such as Sonic Reverber, 2012, because of our limited funding. However, he said that it would be possible to create something new by using the materials already in his studio.  As mentioned in an earlier post, Lee has “breathed life” into defunct mechanical objects so to speak, by recycling objects to create new kinetic pieces.
  • He was concerned about timescale, but when I advised that the exhibition was due to open on the 24th April, he felt this was certainly enough time;
  • I mentioned that we as a student group were keen to make some pieces to compliment his work and he also mentioned that we could perhaps collaborate on a new sculpture.

I advised my fellow students the next day and we decided that once we knew the date of our visit to the Council House, we would arrange to meet Lee in his studio to get a further idea of the materials we could use and what we actually would like to see in the exhibition.

Student Group Meeting 30/01/2014

The student group met in Studio 11, Regent Street to discuss our progress thus far and how we could move forward.  Our tutor Edith Doove advised that the Council House exhibition is to open on 24th April 2014.

Via our social network group we had discussed several ideas throughout the week, of how we could contribute to the Council House exhibition and perhaps create some pieces which could compliment Lee McDonald’s work and tie into our theme of the machine and moving forward.

We decided that we would like to work on pieces collectively instead of individually and several ideas were brainstormed including:

  • mechanical photographic imagery;
  • film of group interacting with Lee’s sculptures – perhaps projected over sculpture;
  • audio pieces of Lee’s sculptures ( – use of headphones to avoid noise disturbance;
  • artwork created using the sound waves produced from Lee’s sculptures;
  • create video pieces by filming the everyday, “invisible” machines used as transitional objects i.e. escalators, elevators, revolving doors etc.  

Student Notes from Meeting

Student Notes from Meeting

These ideas were discussed in more depth during the meeting – particularly the later.  However, we felt that the best course of action at present, would be to arrange a suitable time with Lee McDonald to visit the Council House together, refreshing ourselves of the space.

Following our discussions we sent the following email to Lee:

Further to my last email, I have now had the chance to discuss this project in more depth with the group.

We think it would be best to meet together at the Council House, so we can get a better understanding of the space. This would allow you to see how your work could fit into the space and environment.

Would you be available either Wednesday or Friday next week? 

Unfortunately, we are limited to funding and therefore can’t commission you to make a new piece however, as a group we are particularly interested in your Sonic Reverber. As mentioned previously, there may be an issue with sound but we are specifically interested in the mechanical, kinetic relationship of functional and dysfunctional objects.

He later advised that he would not be available until after 11th February.  We advised our tutor of our plans and asked if she could arrange a suitable time with Judith Robinson, Exhibitions Officer at Plymouth City Council for us to visit the Council between the dates of 11th and 14th February.  We now await a response.

Lee McDonald, Kinetic Artist

Following the student group meeting on the 16th January, I thought about the prospect of working with a kinetic artist for the Council House project.  Although I have used kinetic mechanisms in some of my own artwork in the past, I do not feel confident and fully equipped or knowledgeable in producing a working, professional piece which would last the duration of the exhibition (which I expect to be for several months).

Thus, later that evening, I recalled earlier conversations I have had with Southwest artist Lee McDonald during Plymouth College of Art’s Ephemeron, “Artist as Curator”, Critique Event at Karst in April 2013 regarding his sound pieces – particularly his Sonic Reverber pieces.  (Lee also has a studio at Karst, Plymouth.)

Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012.  Image available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/sonic-reverber/
Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012. Image available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/sonic-reverber/

After visiting his website again to refresh my memory, I could see that Lee is predominantly interested in the mechanisms of objects and explores the reactional processes and properties of such objects i.e. pushing their capabilities and possibilities in terms of physics and sound (McDonald, 2014, online).  

Lee is also interested in audience participation and although there may be a restriction on sound pieces, there is still the opportunity for movement.

He also uses many recyclable materials or “dead” mechanical objects i.e. objects which have had a live use but are now defunct.

I personally feel that his pieces would work particularly well in the Council House building because it would be completely unexpected.

Lee has showcased his work in gallery spaces, as well as festivals and it seemed that he has a positive attitude  in bringing his art to new audiences.  Much of the art on display at present in the Council House is fairly traditional and Lee’s kinetic work could  literally “liven up” the somewhat serious nature and atmosphere of the space.  I also feel this would be an excellent opportunity to promote discussions regarding art and its environment – especially as the student group are looking at the role of the artist as curator.

I mentioned asking Lee if he would be interested in the project to my fellow student group members and received a positive response from them.  On this basis I emailed Lee a week later and received a reply back, advising that he would be interested and suggesting the group meet up to discuss.

Contents of email sent to Lee McDonald artist



McDonald, L. (2014) About [online] Plymouth: 2014 Lee McDonald.  Available at: http://www.leemcdonald.co.uk/about/