April 14th, 2010 Doug
The art comes out of this clutter!
Back in the studio after a short break (hadn’t realised how much doing the last exhibition had taken out of me!), and working on new images for the next exhibition at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, in May and June 2010.
This week I have been working on a sequence of seven drawings, based on the Hebridean Thumbnails, evocative one-line poems or ‘threads’, written by Scottsh poet Andrew Philip. I had originally created four drawings as a visual contribution to an interview I did with Andrew as part of his Ambulance Box Virtual Book Tour (see link below), organised by Salt Publishing in June 2009.
In the new drawings, I have tried to recreate the linear, sketchbook quality of the poems. Rather than just being illustrations of Andy’s poems, I have used the work as a prompt to create new images; influenced by the words and combined with my own experiences and memories of Lewis and Harris. By doing this I hope I will have created work that will enhance and support the poems, rather than merely describe them.
Here are Andrew’s seven poems, along with my four drawings I created for the online ‘blether’ between poet and artist.
islands buried in the sky’s white sands
the thatched ghosts smile as the sun slides down
gazes held for centuries, waiting for one to crack
sligean air an traigh
all the bonnier for being broken broken broken
solus na stoirme
where sky and land split, a fragment of grief flickers
taigh làn cuileagan
black nuggets of erosion settle everywhere
còmhradh a’ chladaich
after all this time, what has the beach left to say to the tide?
Original sketches for Hebridean Thumbnails (Four drawings for a blether with Andrew Philip)
Watch out for further posts featuring this and my other poetry collaborations which will be featured in the Edinburgh exhibition.
Poems reproduced by kind permission of Andrew Philip
April 7th, 2010 Doug
Evocative exploration of island life
Small Expectations by Donald S. Murray, a Lewis man now living in Shetland, goes well beyond the wry claim of the title. From the author of the intensely evoked and researched The Guga Hunters (Birlinn, 2008), focusing on a small group of Western Islanders who hunted gannets, expectations are great, and are not disappointed.
This new collection of explorations of the inner and outward Hebridean is a three-course meal for the mind, weaving stories and poetry with a shimmering sensitivity. From his deep island roots, Murray has travelled far to come full circle to this book. It’s a hymn of love and longing; of belonging and exile, and a wry, perceptive conjuring up of the individual exploring himself and straining against a particular, imposed identity.
The book is beautifully produced, with striking cover artwork by Doug Robertson. It’s sensitively thought out, reading seamlessly from cover to cover, or as a ‘dipping in’ book. The mix of story and poetry is organic and satisfying – it shows off the full breadth of Murray’s talents, and the depth and musicality of his voice.
Murray has a sharp eye for character and tells it as it is: the places people have in their community, the restrictions and liberations that brings about; the peculiarities, small-mindedness and generosity of the islanders. He focuses on the imaginative life, bound to the islands and his native Gaelic – ‘the ghost inside my throat’, and the fear of losing them, while the lust for travel, adventure and education pulls him ever away, glimpsing ‘the clink of far-off worlds’.
There are lovely poignant stories, exposing how communities interact and how people can be forced out of their usual roles. In Valentine’s Day in the Hebrides, life is turned upside down by the arrival of a Valentine card on the door mat of every John MacLeod on the island (sent by a lost love who cannot remember her John’s address). Consternation ensues, with everyone looking at themselves, and each other, in a wary new light, and the unexpected result of encouraging a particularly bashful John MacLeod to finally declare himself to the woman he has long admired.
Throughout, the central questions are prominent. What gives a sense of belonging? When do you no longer belong? How can you escape from your roots? How can you pay homage to your cross-hatched love of a place and its landscape and traditions that shaped you? The questions are posed and explored, although it is clear there are no answers, or a varying multitude of them.
Clear influences are the surprising combination of Dickens, Iain Crichton Smith and Clash lead singer Joe Strummer, whose roots were in Lewis. ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’ from the Clash song, sums up the restless impetus of the book, and the capturing of those moments when your childhood home is sometimes a prison, or a lost home from which you realise you have escaped more thoroughly than you ever meant to. There’s great deal of haunting, wry sadness and wisdom in the book.
‘If things got worse, he could always live
on sea-pink, heather, the sprawl and tuck of fish
hooked upon the foreshore, all that was in the gift
of the old world that he’d squandered and let slip.’
Small Expectations will be launched unusually in a simultaneous, virtual experience across the whole UHI campus, from Shetland to the Western Isles, including Orkney College, on Friday 26 February. The book is available from bookshops or directly from Two Ravens (www.tworavenspress.com), price £9.99.
April 3rd, 2010 Doug
Walk To The Ferry - Mixed media asemblages (painted wood, resin, herring net, acrylic)
April 2nd, 2010 Doug
Walk To The Ferry - Mixed Media Assemblages
WALK TO THE FERRY
This work features images inspired strangely enough by the futility of fishing with drop lines from the pier at Broughty Ferry as a young boy. Hours spent dangling a line into the water hoping that something would bite. Most of the time the hooks were baited with nothing more than homemade milk bottle cap lures, sparkling in the waters below the pier.
What I didn’t know was that what I was ‘catching’ was a love of the coastline. The stories of the old fishermen, the relics of Dundee’s whaling past in the Castle Museum, and the colour and mood of the changing river that would be a main part of my artistic vision.
The homemade fishing tackle is replaced by unusual looking lines, the main frames are made to symbolise the oars, harpoons, and net mending needles, the tools of the area. The catches are not so much the sought after fish, but driftwood and weed fish, relics and tokens of the past, and the usual catch of nothing but a few shore crabs!
The objects are supported in the triptych form by the background of the Tay and the distant fife shore, which when we were very young may well have been abroad.
April 1st, 2010 Doug
Traigh Mor - Mixed Media Construction
April 1st, 2010 Doug
Abertay Sands - Mixed Media Construction
April 1st, 2010 Doug
Ardneil Bay - Mixed Media Construction
April 1st, 2010 Doug
Uig Bay - Mixed Media Construction