The work I produced during my week in Outlandia was in response to reading Nan Shepherd’s wonderful account of the many years she spent living in, and responding to, the Cairngorms, called ‘The Living Mountain’. Among her observations of natural phenomena in a mountain environment were two which leapt out as bases for artistic activity. The first was this: ‘… the peculiar motion of the current among the ice-floes [in winter] has woven the thousands of floating pine-needles into compacted balls, so intricately intertwined that their symmetrical shape is permanently retained.’ Using glue which I made from natural, organic constituents, I mimicked the formation of these spheres and placed them near the river and streams in Glen Nevis. They would be washed away in autumn’s and winter’s floods.
She also writes: ‘… pluck a feathery grass… hold a sheet of white paper behind it and see how the shadow stands out like an etching… a miracle of exact detail.’ When the sun shone, during a week blessed with good weather, I chose a number of different plants and trees to hold my sheet of white paper behind, before photographing their shadows.
Another activity occurred to me just a day or so before I started my residency. I packed a small, old-fashioned letter stamping kit and used it to stamp Gaelic words on trees and stones in the area around Outlandia. They were words or concepts taken from, or relating to, Nan Shepherd’s book. The one shown here is: MATHAIR (mother/origin or source); [others not shown] SAMHCHADAS (quietness, silence); SAORSA (freedom, liberty); MI-CHINT (uncertainty).
My other activity during the week was to make ‘rain drawings’. I was prepared for the ‘sun shadow’ photos (see above) but realised that I would probably have some rain during my five days’ residency. When it did rain, I stayed in the treehouse at Outlandia and used water-soluble pencils and ink to produce rain trace images, some in the form of monoprints.
All images courtesy the artist.