after Assynt

now it is more than a month since we stayed in Kylesku, and the after effects are building up in my studio. while writing the last three posts I did a lot of research, on geology, place names, flora and fauna – that sort of thing, which is feeding into the painting. Luckily there is a fieldwork club website which has been extremely useful

it’s quite hard to imagine the complex underground burrowings and shatterings of the Moyne Thrust (which also created the Great Glen and Loch Ness) but layering with wax, paint, gritty substances like marble powder and mica flakes, can express some of that ages-old process. another way to approach the geology is to imagine the circumstances of the rock’s formation, whether sedimentary or during volcanic episodes above ground, as well as the mind-boggling intrusions and vents of hot magma  and superheated steam and chemicals deep under mountain-forming events.

everything has to be imagined in slow motion, impossibly slow to us quick ephemeral human beings.

limestone as the lives of billions of tiny corals, calcium encrusted protozoa, reefs and ocean floors rained on by the dead.

sandstone made when there was no plant life on dry land to anchor a soil, each grain and stone blasted by hot winds, carried in torrential floods.

and the Lewissian Gneiss, almost unimaginable in its ages-long formation in the deepest hot pits of sub-continental subduction and upthrust.

so it was really interesting to see these collaged works, titled Lewis Forms, by Doug Cocker in the RSA galleries in Edinburgh, Cocker is a sculptor who has been making paper collage for about eight years, and these works are, for me, very expressive of the geology of this kind of landscape.

other works, such as this giclee photographic print by Danielle MacLeod, Guardian of the Peatlands, (one of a triptych)

and this, one of three mixed media paintings on mylar, in a triptych by Janette Kerr, Grounded, resonated with me strongly in the light of my recent experiences in the North West.

back home in Fife, walking on the beach

through the landscape, I am not yet letting go of the naming

(the field of the yellow-haired boy)

the saturation,


(Achd Ille Buidhe)

the immersion in the place, even though it was only a four day visit. the work ought to be stronger as memory work. as Daniel Moysaenko says in his poem Interlude “recalling the impeded stream/ is the one that sings”

I am trying to dig down into painting about place, in an empathetic attentiveness, to invent a way of recalling

that is not a “Dreaming” (image above taken by Idris Murphy of Central Australian country) in the way that Indigenous Australians know it, but a way in which the resonances of what has been going on in deep time and in human history and is continuing to go on, in growth and weather and sheer physicality, can begin to be suggested, felt, responded to.

(the blue slope, Sàil Ghorm, 50 x 50 x 4 cm)

as Tim Winton says in his 2014 essay about Idris Murphy ” perhaps it’s you, the viewer, who is changed; something has stuck, something’s going on … a listening gaze. ….. open to the steady yet returning stare of a creation that groans in travail even as it feeds us.”



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