Over summer I have been an intern with rewilding charity Trees for Life, this has been an amazingly informative and inspiring experience which has deepened my knowledge of the magical highlands. I have taken over 1000 photographs of the Caledonian forest and so expect a lot of drawings trees over the next months. Click the calm pine lined lochan to read my text on Trees for Life's website, I have also pasted my words below.
This summer I had the fortunate opportunity to join Trees for Life as their Photo Library Intern.
My time was spent looking at and organising thousands of photographs taken by the staff at Trees for Life and by professional photographers. I soon realised my task was rather daunting, however on a daily basis I found relief and enjoyment as I learnt about the ecology of the Caledonian forest and discovered new pinewood remnants which I would later visit and explore.
The respected ethos of Trees for Life, restoring the Scottish wilderness, resonates with my art practice, where I have created an alternative historical narrative describing an ancient magical Aberdeenshire. The visual work is concerned with generating a radical contemporary myth, depicting a sacred archaic landscape full of spiritual energy, and its eventual demise through the affects of human civilization beginning with the dawn of agriculture.
Last December during a solitary artist's residency at the Inschriach Bothy I felt a powerful connection to the Caledonian forest. I spent my days in awe as I wandered through different areas of the Glenmore, Glen Feshie and Rothiemurcus forests.
Over the summer I used my Northern location to frequently visit the Glen Affric area, often camping at Cannich to extend my time. I've been fascinated by the unique ambience which I have experienced in different places. My desire to get off of the main paths as quickly as possible showed me the micro world of hummocked ground flora, the soft lush leafy birchwood and the lofty majestic pinewood.
Entranced whilststood looking across a gorge at the white water stripes of Badger Falls and noticed an impressive stand of Aspen trembling in the breeze. On another occasion I felt like a giant, roaming through beautiful stunted bonsai bog pinewoods, whilst looking down upon rainbows somewhere between Cairn Fiaclach and Loch Amair. I was at peace on a pine studded knoll as warm scented air blew through the lilac trunks. Later beside Lochan a Chlaidheimh under a gnarled veteran Birch I was gripped by terror as I looked down to find my t-shirt was covered in a mass of black midge. During my most recent trip up to Creag na Callich I exchanged glances with the old hag herself and as I sheltered from the wintery rain under an avenue of granny pines, I was certain I could hear gaelic jeers and taunts blowing in the wind.
I was unable to draw from observation whilst wandering in the landscape, the midge act a bit like the wolf would to the Red Deer; driving me onwards, sweating and never able to over graze a good view or contemplative spot. I've found that working from good photographs is beneficial whilst working in my studio back in Edinburgh; in a way it's like I haven't left those memorable walks and moments of insight; I can meditate on the scenes for many hours whilst drawing, 100% midge free!
During my time with Trees for life my knowledge and understanding of the Caledonian forest has grown. I became deeply connected to the energy of the ancient woodland which I encountered, they instilled a beautiful sense of oneness within me; on many levels I have felt awe in the landscape which at special times gave glimpses into an other and absolute reality. The ongoing myth which I create within my art practice will soon have a new chapter to it, featuring humble modern people planting trees and putting back the magic that was almost lost.