Christine Borland works amidst the life of her family – three daughters and her husband, Ross Sinclair , also an artist – in Kilcreggan on a peninsula outside Glasgow. They moved from Glasgow 13 years ago in order to have more space for their growing family: "It is on the road to nowhere, equidistant between two nuclear power stations, so it was cheap." Bathed in sunshine today, it could be the Mediterranean with its views of the sea. Borland and Sinclair both worked in the house until a year ago when they completed a purpose-built studio in the garden.
When I visit Borland, she and her collaborator Brody Condon are about to install their large project Daughters of Decayed Tradesman for the EAF, and the studio is full of the evidence of its genesis. A sack of the cardboard hole-punched circles sits near to a few of the distinctive cards from which the work has been stitched together. This is the first major piece Borland has made in this formal collaborative way, although most of her projects are made "in discussion with many, many people, often in the areas of medicine or science". The final objects may be deceptively aesthetic; Borland's works are always "underpinned by research".
Borland, born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1965, was on the all-women Turner Prize shortlist of 1997, losing out to Gillian Wearing. Although labeled as one of the YBA movement, she feels her affinity is to her native Scotland, and in particular to Glasgow where she studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Recently she has become Professor at Northumberland University and will head the Institute of Contemporary Art, a joint venture between the university and the Baltic Centre of Art.
Borland's current project is near to her heart: "The loom was made in a little village near to where I grew up, which was the centre for hand loom weaving." It was inspired by the stories of women who were housed in Edinburgh's Trades Maiden Hospital, a term she says loosely was like a "boarding house" for daughters of tradesmen, an early manifestation of boarding schools. Tracking down the women, she and Condon have recorded their stories. As the women chose to remain anonymous, their words have been translated into a binary code: "The pattern made on this jacquard loom [the same as the one that historically was used for weaving jacquard rugs in Scotland] is the most incredible reproduction, like a computer printout, and the cards are like the first incarnation of binary codes."
Later, I see the work in situ. Borland and Condon have chosen well: "In this piece ultimately you go to this amazing spot, you see this architecture, you see an incredible view of Edinburgh." It sits amid a graveyard eminently suitable to a work by Borland who admits that "graveyards and death – that is my area". The sewn-together cards cascade from the Watchtower sending out a beautiful, albeit unreadable, message. Borland is pleased that the project will help restore the tower. "Our interest has been to intervene at the moment to halt its decay," she says.
Christine Borland and Brody Condon: Daughters of Decayed Tradesman, Watchtower, Edinburgh (0131 226 6558) ends tomorrow
- More about: