'Stewards of the Undying Deer Cult Series: The Problem of the Glen'. Ink on Board. 41.5 x 67 cm. (for sale, email if interested)
Inspired by Edwin Landseer's 'Monarch of the Glen', which is now part of the #ScotNatGallery, who describe it evasively as 'for many people it encapsulates the grandeur and majesty of Scotland’s highlands and wildlife'. A nice gloss but as a man of the Scottish woods, so much is missing. No mention of the bald majestic highland's habitat destruction and deforestation caused by an increase in deer numbers. Nothing of our bizarre fixation which drove those numbers to increase, the cult of the wealthy to shoot for 'sport' and stuff the obligatory dead horned head on a wall. This incredible yet totally passive animal (herds swollen to long term habitat destruction) is venerated as the 'prize' while the old wild gods such as wolf, bear, lynx and boar are now allowed on the land in placenames only (positively the beaver has just had it's citizenship restored).
The red deer were a later wave of profitable killable lawnmowers, the first were the sheep which helped the clearances, both of these ungulates eat saplings which if left unchallenged for 250 years will stop any new trees from growing, therefore not allowing any old woodlands to regenerate.
Judge me by how many points my deadhead has (24), Landseer's had 12, making it a 'royal' stag by someone's account.
Thoughts such as these bubbled up regularly as part of the #rahoyhillsreserve residency, a rewilding nature reserve with far too many deer on it, however I think about these things whenever I drive to the remote isolated pockets of true highland majesty that still grow, where (for usually only a few square miles) one can be surrounded by the old forest, where some old wilderness can still be glimpsed, the one we almost destroyed completely.
Alright, its here, I'm starting to breathe again… my exhibition 'Wild Hanging Woods' opens this Friday at Resipole Studios! The works are inspired by my time on the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve, on Ardtornish Estate. Again I cannot thank Fife Contemporary enough for the funding to pursue this adventure, many new territories have been covered and great local folk have been met. My thanks also to Anna Raven for her support and the decision made by the reserve committee to have me as artist in residence. Also my thanks to Steve the ranger, the true artist and warden of the reserve.
‘My time as artist in residence on the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve came at a transitory time and has a curious tale... I came to my first period of residence in February having just moved out of my home in Fife that afternoon. As darkness gathered, I chased the constellation of Cygnus flying head first down a dark Glen Coe and arrived at Ferry Cottage late in the evening with a car full of belongings, completely exhausted. I then spent three amazing and restorative weeks regularly visiting the reserve alone or with Steve the ranger. At the end of the residency, I drove south to prepare to fly to China later that week, to Chong Qing where my wife was lecturing there in the Sichuan Centre for Fine Arts. We lived at the edge of a city of 30 million people and I considered the differences of there and here: the space at the western edge of Scotland and the intensity of a thriving Chinese megacity.
I had time to make art there and made small studies from the many photographs I had taken on the reserve. My thoughts were often somewhere between the mossy boulders, heavy oak trunks and the edge of Loch Arienas. Meanwhile, my feet stood on the seventeenth story of an apartment block looking down onto a rising concrete metropolis; its concrete foundations continuously growing out of a patchwork of sprawling old Chinese farmland.
During my time in China, I had a solo exhibition in Taiwan, which I had spent the last year preparing for. We embarked on several adventures across China and over the weeks I slowly continued to make small works about a remote nature reserve at the western edge of my homeland.
After four months in Asia, I returned to Scotland at the end of July and quickly gathered my things to spend two weeks back out on the verdant summery reserve before trying to find a new home. Since then I have been living in Glasgow, making the work for this exhibition and busily studying for a PGDE at Strathclyde. I feel like I have lived many lives this year, yet throughout all of it, a constant has been with me...
On the opposite shore of Loch Arienas is the wood; in the dark twiggy gloom over there a steep-sided burn pours over crystal studded boulders. Steep sides give way to a wide gorge that the burn has carved into the hillside for a long time. Moss greens abound around there, the oak trunks, branches and boulders are soft with their deep moss blankets. On one side of the burn, a huge beech reaches into the void. On the other, a tall grove of emerald green pines stand lilac and lofty. The glistening noise of the burn hypnotises.
You can find some quiet shelter and look out from the cave up on Beinn Uamha. From the hilltop and looking northeast the cold wind blasts. Down there are swathes of moor and further away rising out of the heather is the snow-covered slopes and crags of Beinn na Ladain. Isolation here. A beautiful yet haunting melancholy washes over.
Back in the stillness of the wood, nose touching the old oak trunks, gaze at the many structures of moss, lichen, epiphyte and bryophyte.
So many patterns, forms, and colours to these mosses and lichens. These are at the edge of my knowledge: a state of open unknowing can take hold gazing at these fractals. They are there.
Focusing on the phenomena to just be there with it: a man within the landscape alone becomes together for a time. Above signalling time to move on. It is man's landscape. Geometric deer fences enclose an overgrazed woodland, the wood itself a forgotten plantation for charcoal burning - the mossy platforms for this practice can still be found - and the old lichen-rich ruins of a few at the loch's edge. The loch's edge... the moon's rippling reflection and the green soft trunks of the old oaks and the faraway sound of the burn.’
I'm really enjoying my time back in Scotland, mainland China was a complex experience. Coming back to Ferry Cottage on Lochaline feels like I've come back to a (temporary) home. For the first time I had a drop in motivation and creative energy whilst in Chong Qing, however in the last few days out here on the west coast of my homeland I dont feel I have to try and be creative, its more an energy working through me again. I've been going for a morning dip in the sea loch which has been quite amusing, a good hot shower in the cottage sorts the chills out very quick. At some point I will upload some China posts. At another point I will upload some detailed ravings on my time here on the west, along with the small works I've been making here and in China.
New work and part of my Flammarion Series: 'The Melting' is on show in the @royal_scottish_academy Open show. It's also received the RSA Latimer Award which was a great surprise. The exhibition is on until July 25th
Since I left Taiwan I have used my artwork to excavate the profound experiences I felt there. Taoistic wonder temples, reality shattering encounters with 'the other', Chinese landscape painting! And longing for that beautiful stone-circled Scottish landscape.
Seven years later I'm pleased to announce that this artwork - The Meiklian Project - has returned to it's birth place, the crucible of mind, the ontological forge that is Taiwan.
The show is going to be in 182 Artspace, back in Tainan, now a home from home.
Would be great to see you for the opening! Send your astral bodies if your back in old Albion
Opening this Saturday 28th of April, 3- 5pm, 182 Art Space, Tainan City, Taiwan.
This past April I left Scotland to join Georgia Rose Murray here in ChongQing, China. Life has been pretty chaotic AND INTERESTING for us recently. Trying to move with the situations presenting themselves has been difficult at times, yet these things have led to flexibility and fluidity which is always the stuff of gold. We had lived in Auchtermuchty, Scotland for a year, experimenting with a calling for a more rural life. It was a good and real life, where having a studio in the house was an excellent move for me, I reconnected to a late night muse in the studio and enjoyed our garden and the quiet life.
I have been working very intensively over the past year, preparing for 'Paradise Lost', a solo show back in the Taiwanese city we lived in called Tainan. More to come on that soon... very soon...
So life is now in a mega city 30 million, though some say only 12 million in the inner city. Luckily we are near some hills and a lot of vegetation due to university campus'. Things are good - I am preparing for the show and not much else. I plan to return to Scotland in late July and return to the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve... cant wait for that!
All for now.
I'm excited to have my work in the latest Kinblethmont Gallery exhibition, 'The Artist Gathering' is a group show and will open on the 24th of February, running to the 4th of March. The Kinblethmont Gallery is on a beautiful estate 10 minutes drive from Arbroath.
I will be exhibiting old and new paintings and relics in this exhibition, including this piece 'Pine Snags of Mar I', inspired by an old dead pine I met in Glen Derry. This is also one (the left) part of a diptych that started the new melted ink series I've been working on, enjoying the expressive glowing oriental marks against the contrasted dark European etching line. Thoughts of some where in the hanging highland woods of my mind.
After a chaotic few weeks of leaving our Auchtermuchty house/studio (I'm moving to China to join my wife, the incredible painter Georgia Rose Murray in March), I am now artist in residence at the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve for 3 weeks, with plans to return for the summer and autumnal experience. I have now been here for just over one week and I'm in love with the area, the reserve is on the Morven peninsula and feels very remote, I can see Lochaline and Mull through the window of the lovely Ferry Cottage - my home/ studio during the residency. The Atlantic rainforest is my main inquiry, staring into the lichen and moss wrapped boughs of oak, hazel, wych elm and ash. However the reserve also has a large area of wilderness to contemplate between Beinn na Uamha and Beinn Ladain. I would also like to mention that I am eternally grateful to Fife Contemporary for their support which has enabled me to spend an extended period of valuable and peaceful time here. Expect photos and rambles on my experiences of the mossy woods from the edge of Scotland !
Relic of Origins was shortlisted for the 2017 John Ruskin Prize, here are some images from the opening. The show runs until October in the Millenium Gallery, Sheffield.
Image credits: Kyle Noble_The John Ruskin Prize 2017: Master of all Trades, Millennium Gallery, June 2017. Photo: © Andy Brown
My thanks to the team at Grampian Hospitals Arts Trust, I enjoyed hanging the work with you. It was also great to talk to a number of hospital visitors during the hang, 'The Meiklian Project' is of course about the North East landscape that we have shared. For patients, staff and visitors I hope that my works can transfer some of the light and inspiration I have found from our archetypal mountain goddess Bennachie, the forgotten energies of the recumbent stone circles and the landscape of time twisted birch, pine and hazel. The exhibtion is runs until the 21st of July and features the recently reworked 'Forest Magick' and a number of pieces from the last few years.
Relic of Origins: Horse is going to be showing alongside 25 other intriguing artists from the 21st of June to the 8th of October at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield. A great opportunity to bring an old relic of the Meiklian culture into the public domain. The space ship may holographically project all who behold back to the time of stone circle wizardry!
2- 6 May, Rediscover: The Torrie Collection, 3 May, special event
Rediscover: The Torrie Collection
Tuesday - Saturday
Objects from across the University’s collections will join the Torrie Collection this week as part of an innovative project for postgraduate students. Now in its third year, Rediscover: The Torrie Collection enables students to put their History of Art learning into practice to create public displays. Supported by the University Art Collection and with contemporary curatorial steer from Talbot Rice Gallery, the displays foreground fresh perspectives on The Torrie Collection, opening out expansive narratives about curiosity, possession and the endurance of classical themes.
Wednesday 3 May, from 3pm
Join us for a drink on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the Torrie Collection exhibition, now in its final week. You are welcome to join Neil Lebeter, Art Collections Curator for the University of Edinburgh, at 3pm for an informal introduction to the exhibition. Short speeches at 4pm will then draw attention to the impact of the project, the catalogue launched with the exhibition and the Rediscover: The Torrie Collection projects.
I went for a Caledonian Pinewood quest in late November. It was crisp and chilly, but as often the case in these wilder woods, a sense of warmth emanated from the lilac orange trunks of the old pine trees. Memories of warm resinous heady smells of summer. It was my third adventure in the Glen Derry/ Glen Luibeg in the past year, I have found the pine woods - tucked away behind a fold in the glen - to be a magnet, the sense of quiet stillness and wild beauty addictive, often I hear the faint calling of this place whispering softly on the cold north wind. The path was VERY slippery with melted and re frozen ice so I took that as a sign to do what I like best in these woods- to get off the path and wander around, looking for that illusive goddess - Inspiration - in her robes woven of archaic pine wisdom, soft snow capped looming mountains and an amazing golden adn deep blue winter light. I came across a few black grouse and before I scared them by clumsily photographing them at great distance, they scratched around the pine needles, it was beautiful and reminded me of my impermanence there...Their life in those hills. On this occasion I wanted to pursue the route through Glen Lui to the start of the ascent of Ben Macdui, I didn't have the time or the light for a mountain ascent. However I am often caught with a fulfilled sense of achievement just looking at the woods and feeling the nowness of it all, many moments of insight found up and out there. I was struck by the number of pine snags (dead gray wood often simplified by branches which have fallen), each snag was twisted like a cork screw, the trees spiraling growth seems like an energy cord frozen in time and now decaying back into the heather clad moory mountainside. A lot of regeneration has been taking place in the area which is great and these young trees lighten my somber thoughts on the old snags. Those piney witchy hags wands pointing and the yawning at the abyss like old wintery fingers. Great sunsets and solitary darkness descended on my return to the road home.
My work had a major inspirational kick from this expansive wood when I spent a solitary week at the Inschriach Bothy Project. It was great to return to this landscape, the scale of continuous indigenous forest is very immersive, I love being in the depths of a lilac trunked forest. Since the residency I have learned much about the ecology and variations of Scotland's pinewoods and on this visit I felt that less cultivated round topped canopies of old wood remnants were not very expansive. However a few areas I had visited previously up on the slopes felt wild, and the remnant around Lochan Uaine was incredibly beautiful. The numerous juniper was juniper an excellent bonsai forest to enjoy and I did hear and see highland parrot, the Red Cross Bill.
I'm really excited to be part of the Syn Festival's Metamorphosis exhibition in Edinburgh, opening this Thursday 9th of March!
Details can be found at this link:
open until the 19th of FEB
I'm excited to be showing work alongside four other inspiring artists at the Royal Scottish Academy's exhibition 'The Artist Traveller' from this Saturday, 12 of November. Studies from my time during the Bothy Project, Inschriach and two night sky works (inspired by the hypnotic pine studded knolls and the cosmic voids above our heads) shall be on show, one of which 'Astral Abyss', will be on show for the first time! Click the image for more info