Really excited about my upcoming show, the first time the Meiklian Project will be shown in Aberdeen, the nearest city to that mythical and mystical ancient landscape which is dominated and anchored by the earth goddess Bennachie.
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.
It was great to have my work alongside other visionaries and creative outsiders, although I have been milled through art college education I still strongly identify with outsider art aesthetics and self taught approach.
I had a paradigm shifting week at the Inshriach Bothy Project in December last year, click the granny pine to see my images and text on the Bothy Project page. I have copied my summary of the experience and posted it below!
To escape… to escape the throbbing geometric city, to escape the patchwork of cultivated fields, to escape the shrunken islands of hemmed in woodland. Drive over the hills and far away to a northern place where the land’s ancient forest remains. Direct descendants of the first trees to arrive after miles thick glaciers gauged the earth goddess into her current form, forever changed from her forgotten deep time geography.
Alone in the birch and juniper wood, in a hut of warmth and solitude I had escaped what I wished to leave behind. Yet I could feel as the half moon rose and the cosmic night sky yawned wide open, that I had come to charged ground, a placeto confront myself and encounter something profound.
Oh mysterious majestic forest…Oh mysterious majestic…Emerald green glowing ember canopy, bathed by inner light. Sunburst orange trunks twisting and buckling tracing the Tao of time. Orifice puckered lilac lower trunks, eyes staring through layered amethyst bark skin. Coiled iron serpent knotted roots. Granny Pine wisdom tethered to the black earth mother. Deep pine needle carpet. Follow the wandering deer path and take me to nowhere, boulder clusters and heather micro landscapes. High hiss drones of stone carving streams …Oh mysterious majestic forest…Oh mysterious majestic!.…
Tree after tree I would stand and stare, beholding their comparative perpetuity, their old wisdom. Once I was startled from such a meditation by a whirring cheering sort of chant, I peered round the trunk warily. A dancing line of red and blue wee folk, then chains and chains of them dancing in mesmerising circles, clearly focused on the rhythm of their song. ‘They must not spot me’, I thought… But of course they did… Time stood still and off we went down and under a pine studded knowe… Vague memories… the deep bass throb of a belching engine, I was being shown around the elven city , details of a scaled surface, polished barbed interlocking surfaces, a three eyed coiled up wildcat ready to pounce, menace and ineffable beauty. The Celtic crone hovered over me, yammering away freely switching between Irish and Scottish accents. The air became dense with translucent filmy membranes, it was hard to breathe. The air, popped, hummed and fizzed. Unfettered ontolology blew away in the otherworldy wind… I awoke with a start, buzzards wheeling above, I found a hazel wand clutched in my hand.
A figure felt in the darkening woods. Phallic columns of the archaic temple arched up and over into fractal dome, an explosion of flame orange heavy limbs and green fire quartz…. Oh mysterious majestic forest…A crack of a branch ahead, then a thundering beat as the Capercaillie launches to fly heavily across my path. Clear crystal lochans, jewels on the majestic mountain. Forest walking by moon light, ‘the fear’ pushed through. More lochs with branches dipping into the reflected star encrusted abyss.
Finally a road, a road to somewhere, hopefully back to the start. I eventually look down across the pond to the farm yard and the familiar walk back through the Inschriach Estate. The Spey’s gentle roar cleanses me before I turn up towards the hut, I gather a few logs in the gloom to light a glowing fire, heat a meal and spend the candle lit evening drawing the days profound adventures.
I’m showing at the Kinblethmont Gallery in Arbroath from the 24th of May until the 8th of June. The exhibition is showing the 6 past RSA William Littlejohn Award winners which means it will have some interesting approaches and works.
Come along and see new work created with the help of the RSA William Littlejohn Award !