A Farewell in photographs

traigh an taoibh thuath_14414

It is not long now until we leave our beloved Scotland again for another few months. I have taken a few more photographs here as we walked the hills, moors and beaches, and the slideshow at the end of this post is my farewell to Scotland until we return next year.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, is now open at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, from 13 September to 11 October, a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

The Grounded residency diary entries and photographs begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

You can also link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, and the promotional audiovisual, can be watched here

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

The introductory page for the blog can be found here. Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here. Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A BBC Radio Scotland interview can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

More posts coming soon from Australia where the exhibition will start its tour in 2015

Click on the images below to enlarge:

 

Advertisements

Saturday Art Club with Grounded

Working in collaboration with Joe Mahoney, this video shows the children at an Lanntair during their Saturday Art Club Session. The workshops were linked to the Grounded exhibition and encouraged the children to think about the environment that they live in. The thought about colours and landscape and each produced a diorama of their perfect land. The dioramas were linked by portals and a ‘fly by’ of a video camera captured their unique vision. The video can also be viewed here.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition is now open at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, from 13 September to 11 October, a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

The Grounded residency diary entries and photographs begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Joe’s video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

You can also link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, and the promotional audiovisual, can be watched here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here. Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here. Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A BBC Radio Scotland interview can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

An Lanntair Arts Education for Grounded

Joe Mahoney at An Lanntair arts education has devised some great educational workshops around Grounded. More on that coming soon. He also made a short video where I talk a little about the show. it can be linked to here or viewed below.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition is now open at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, from 13 September to 11 October, a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

The Grounded residency diary entries and photographs begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

You can also link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, and the promotional audiovisual, can be watched here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here. Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here. Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A BBC Radio Scotland interview can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

Day 11, A journey to Ness and the rare machair habitat

14B Machair_10155b readjust600

26 June 2013

My journey takes me north again today, to the Butt of Lewis and Ness, to meet with Jayne, a local dancer, who has been dancing for most of her life. Step dance was always done in the Western Isles but the tradition had almost died out when Jayne was introduced to it at the age of 18. She talks of the strong connection she felt to the dance on that first meeting, and of the older generations who can remember their parents tapping out the tunes, reminiscent of the existence of Step Dance on the island in days gone by. Step dance is traditionally danced “Close to the Floor”. It is an energy that is taken from the earth.

We talk of the special culture and traditions of Ness, the dialects that change from village to village, and things specifically Niseach. Jayne is another that points out to me that Ness loyalty to traditions, language and a vibrant culture might be put down to the 27 miles of distance that separates them from the main town of Stornoway. “We’re so far away from the main town”, she says “and we’re all very proud of our heritage and our culture and our language”

We go for a walk along the cliffs, where the sturdy pink sea thrift tumbles from cliff top to rock ledges, trembling in winds whipped up from a crashing sea; and we visit the historical society where Jayne’s ancestors, and others from the villages, tell their stories from the walls and the books and the folders that fill the rooms.

When I leave Jayne and head back down the western coast road, I detour to the coastal machair and spend what is left of the day walking there. The machair is a delicate bobbing mass of pink and white, purple and yellow, heavy with scent, and humming with insect life, crowned by skylarks, oystercatchers, plovers … In the approach to the sea colours stretch into the distance, blurring into a mass of predominant yellow buttercup where it meets white sands, and then the turquoise of the sea. On my right, cottages straddle a distant green slope. As I sit amongst the flowers, bees buzz in and out of hearing against a constant ocean roar. The place is heady with life.

Some machair facts are available on the blog Digital Resources page, but here are a few:

Machair soil is sandy and full of ground up shell from the sea. It has been traditionally crofted over the years and fertilised with seaweed; rotational crops allow for the seeding and profusion of the wild flowers.

Machair is one of the rarest habitats in Europe and half the Scottish Machair occurs in the Outer Hebrides. There can be up to 45 species of wild flower in a one square metre area and 17,000 wader pairs were counted nesting in Uist. There is a rare bee that is found here which is no longer found on the mainland.

Day 10, How people’s connection to a place can help it survive

Heather is the 18th letter of the Gaelic alphabet. U, ur in old Gaelic, Fraoch in modern Gaelic.

Heather is the 18th letter of the Gaelic alphabet. U, ur in old Gaelic, Fraoch in modern Gaelic.

24 June 2013

It’s Monday. I drive west again, today to Bragar where Anne Campbell works as an artist, painting the beautiful colours of the moors; the russet browns and mossy greens, bright yellows and the dancing creamy whites of the bog cotton.

Anne is another who grew up spending time at her family sheiling, out on the moorlands with her father.

She explains how each pool of water or variation in the ground is identifiable and finely mapped in Gaelic names, to those who know the moors. The sheiling culture that facilitated this knowledge, continued into the 1950’s, and now, alongside the decline of people moving to the moor with their cattle for the summer, these Gaelic names are dying out. The names are largely remembered through song and stories.

The significance of this is important, Anne tells me. For a place to slip into anonymity poses a threat to its wellbeing. If we are all like strangers on the road seeing only vast, empty landscapes, that to many may appear difficult and forbidding, what is there to prevent the destruction of that landscape, she asks.

In the words of a “geographically removed” proponent of large-scale moorland wind farms, she tells me the moorlands were described as “miles and miles of nothing”.

Large, foreign-owned companies have proposed massive wind farms on the Lewis Peatlands that, to date, have not been approved due to the environmental significance of moorland and its function as a carbon sink. Anne wonders, if the names and the landscapes were still known by all, if people remained more connected, would this threat exist? As crofters are offered money, perhaps a delicate balance might be tipped. But why do we want money, says Anne, and many like her. We have what we want.

There is, as in any community, a range of views. Some think a few windmills on a smaller scale might be beneficial to the community. Others do not want any disturbance to the moors, its cultural significance, and the important ecosystem it supports. I did not meet any locals who were in favour of a large-scale development, though I make no claims of having spoken to everyone.

Anne points to a hill in her painting and then through her window. That is Beinn A’ Bhoghalan, the name from the west side of the hill. The map says Beinn Mholach, the name as viewed from the east side of the hill. The name from the west is disappearing.

Moorlands are full of stories of faeries and the supernatural; they were places of edgy excitement for the children who played at the wild freedom of the sheiling, and the songs and the poetry of activities on the moors live vividly on in the consciousness of local people today.

It is late afternoon and from Bragar I am driving south again towards Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris.

I stop on my way at the Iron Age Norse mill and kiln in Shawbost, that I see marked on the map. The small building is hunkered down under thick thatch, roped in place with the weight of boulders, which hang to secure the thatch. Powered by the stream that runs from Loch Roinavat, the corn mill and kiln were in use up until the 1930’s.

Back in the car and following the road south through Càrlabhagh (Carloway), I can’t resist taking another stop at Callanish, revisiting the site of the stones in the daylight. But my destination is Tarbert and a Gaelic drama production run by Pròiseact nan Ealan, in conjunction with the schools. Pròiseact nan Ealan works nationally and internationally to promote Gaelic language and culture through the arts. They are also a supporter of this residency. Thank you Pròiseact nan Ealan!

It is hard to find the time to write a little each day – I am on the go from dawn to dusk, and dusk is 11.30pm. But that is good.

(I am adding some more information to the Digital Resources page of the blog)

Day 9, Sweeties and the washing

FB washing10695

23 June 2013

It’s Sunday today and the winds are stretching and hammering the washing horizontal on the solitary clotheslines, secured at rocky cliff edges and grassy beach-sides, and the rain is streaking across the landscape in gusty sheets of grey. As clothes battle with the wind and the rain, they can safely be left in the knowledge that the sun will soon fly out from behind a cloud, and at some unknown point in the day it can be brought home fresh and cool and dry.

But Sunday is a day when people take a day of rest on Lewis; everything is closed. Locals like it this way. There is time to be together and time to refresh for the week ahead.

I have an easy start to the day, chatting and drinking coffee and lingering over a long lunch with the family. In the afternoon I spend some time on the cliffs a few minutes up the road from Garrabost where I am staying, enjoying the damp salty air and spongy heather underfoot.

Erica, Alisdair, Katie and Domhnall Ailig invite me to church with them for the evening service and we set out into the blustery evening, holding firmly to hats and skirts as we scurry, heads down, into the church.

I had noticed last week at Back church, a rustling of sweetie papers but thought little more of it. Today again though, as we left the house, Erica thrust a handful of butterscotch into my hand and the family dived for the sweetie bag as we hurried out of the kitchen door.

As the sermon commences, Erica indicates the sweeties, and I look around to see a general dipping of hands into bags, and hear a rustling of papers around the pews. Everyone is in a state of contemplative chewing, and I am amused at this unspoken custom of the churches. How very Scottish it seems.

Day 8, The Moor and The Pentland Road

20B shielling9458 60022 June 2013

It is Saturday and I don’t wake until 9.30am. It has been another late night enjoyed over a glass of wine with Erica and Alasdair in their cosy sitting room by the fire, after getting home in the very early morning from the solstice activities at Callanish.

So it is a slow start to Saturday and I do not wander out until afternoon. The rain is falling in soft sheets as I head for the Pentland Road, a moor road that crosses the peats to Carloway. The road is narrow single track, rutted and less used, and fits prettily into the moor. I am going here to see some moorland shielings.

The shielings are brightly painted But ‘n Bens, traditionally used by families when they transferred themselves and their herds to graze the moors for summer, and left the coastal pastures for growing their crops. Everyone talks of summers at the shielings with a wistful look in their eye and a smile that flickers with memories recounted. The shielings are not an entrenched part of life as they used to be, though people will still visit their shieling on the moor. But the stories from the past are full of freedom and playfulness as the women and children and old people stayed with the livestock, while the men were at sea. Much mythology and song springs from this time, stories rising from the mists and the peat fires, songs for the milking and the activities of the day.

I spend the whole afternoon wandering the moor, sinking my feet deep into the heather and moss and the peat, soaking my shoes and my jeans in the rivers as I clamber deeper to film swirling weed under clear amber water. Not a sound, just the sky larks trilling and dipping through the air, water tumbling by and heather heavy with insect life.

(There is some more information on the Pentland Road on the blog Digital Resources page)