ELLIS O’CONNOR: Self-Directed Residency, 2017

Window out to the West. I began my journey up to the Isle of Eigg on the 3rd of January. I went to Eigg to walk, to amble through the wild terrains, to think, to be surrounded by wild weather and to make a brand new body of work made up of photographs, prints, drawings and writings in direct response from the atmosphere and surroundings of the Bothy. The first artist residency of the year and sure enough the wild weather did not disappoint

 

I intended to think about the layers of the place, the formations textures and the geological immensity and presence/ relevance of it through the dramatic surroundings and changes in the light and colour.

Oconnor_Rum

Day 1

The long yet impressive 4 hour ferry Journey from Rum to Muck then finally onto Eigg. Passing staggering mountains and jutting basalt rock formations, misty Isles, peaks hidden in fog and the distinctive alluring shape of Eigg casting a luminous shadow in the distance.

As soon as I approached Eigg a calm washes over me, the endless vast horizon of open sea and open landscapes overwhelm yet open your mind. A relationship back to nature and a realisation already of what I want to achieve and focus on with my mind cleared in a serene place. Arrived at the Bothy at 3pm whilst the midwinter January sun hangs low in the sky. Spent the remaining hours of light acquainting myself within the place, settling in within the confines of the wild place. Reading in the final light, wandering around the surrounding land and writing in the darkened hours.

Realising this is me in my element, a connection to a true place, a real natural horizon, an unwavering sense of what is important and my senses already re tuned to the nature and vast mountainous areas around me. Being here, suspended in time will grow stronger as the days go on. The framing of Rums impressive mountains is already changing every minute, light covers and then uncovers the peaks and details on the land. Fog lifting and recapturing my attention of the place.

I’m home.

Moonlight climbing over the cliffs. Quiet, calm, still. The weight of the darkness that surrounds the bothy. Cradles yet immerses itself around me. Being immersed in the deep deep North West. With the night brings silence.

 

Day 2

Awakening during the night to see the bright moon, with no light pollution comes sublime real light. Awoke early to the dark ridges right outside the window, what an amazing view to arise to.

Oconnor_mountain

Slow morning, started working on my artists books and drawing. Rum is not visible this morning, just white out towards the west no distinction between the sea and the sky.

Went on a steep climb up behind the Bothy, surrounded by burnt colours, bracken, and distinct textures flow around me in drastic comparison to the darkened columnar basalt formations that frame this part of Eigg. Film photographs, exploring and plenty of walking around the area.

Oconnor_fromabove

More drawing outdoors, preparing paper and drawing outside. Rum appears from out of the fog and the light intently captures me. Forcing myself to sit still and just look at the overwhelming surroundings.

Sit still and be.

An intense heightened feeling of sensing something between me and the landscape. We are all made up of the same rhythms of nature. Getting away from society and civilisation as such to a real place, untouched land, suspended in time. Reading more and more about Eigg and its fascinating history, the folklore and history embedded so deeply into the place, affecting how I see and interact with the Island. Sweeney was a man who was turning into a bird, the relevance of Sweeney’s Bothy and the geological space around it.

Feeling at ease with myself and the place where I am, your mind is re awakened and overwhelmed in places like this that forces you and trains you to not think about anything else other than what matters and being within the place.

Wide horizons – widens mind.

 

Day 3

Fogginess, the weather bounds me into the Bothy today, relentless hail, gale force winds, and very wild North West weather. A day of reading, writing and drawing surrounded by the dim faded light outside.

 

Day 4

Awoke to clear skies. Can see the dramatic peaks of mountainous Rum once again. The snow lies on the mountains and the sun is streaming through the clouds.

Taking photos of the surrounding area of the Bothy, the colours are so bright and vivid. As soon as the light changes even for a second, it is almost as though there has been a light switched off and everything turns into a misty grey colour. Everything then becomes dark and brooding. Landscapes altered every second by light.

Oconnor_pinacle

Started the long walk up to the Tulim part of the Island to study the basalt rock formations and geological forms of the Island. Such a calm and clear day. Lots of abandoned crofts, it’s amazing to think that for such a small Island there is so much history to it. Basalt columns and formations everywhere.

Made it up to the winding path of the Northern tip of the Island. Overwhelming views out to the Skye Cuillin, Canna and Rum, the sea a vivid crystal blue colour, powerful wind surrounds me but a clear day calls to walk.

Jagged cliffs and plateaus that jut out of the sea, scrambled down the terrains and found many bright textured coloured rocks. Walked around the ridges and areas that are very exposed, finding intricate patterns on every part of this land. Treaded softly through the winding path down to the Singing Sands and spent hours walking through the passages of the cliffs and caves. A hail storm cane and went, the low hanging sun streamed back through the clouds and dramatically altered the detail and texture of the patterns that invade this coast line.

Oconnor_Texture

Headed back to the Bothy capturing more parts and new ways of seeing the island on the way, everything can look different at any second here. It’s fascinating how well you can connect with the land and see how quick it changes boldly when there is nothing in the form of materialised masses in the way.

Oconnor_climb

The sun already went way down and it’s getting close to dark at 4pm. Want to capture the darkened skies against the mountains and see a different variation of Eigg. I find the same spot that comforts me every, right up the winding path at the back of the Bothy. I go there nearly every day to sit still and look out to the horizon, a calming rhythm that settles in me. Eigg seems to have everything in abundance of geological beauty. Drawing and reading into the late night.

Cocooned in by the darkness outside.

 

Day 5

Howling winds last night.

Awoke many a time to hail stones and 100 mph winds rushing over my space. There’s something quite calming being sheltered amongst all of it though. Today the weather warnings of more wild weather come and go. Today has the kind of wind that you can barely walk in. Started the day off listening to the noises outside rattling the secure place. No Rum today, no faint glimpse of anything out there, difficult to decipher between the sky and sea when all is so white.

A lot of reading and drawing today looking out the window, sheltered in within the confines of the dim light.

Oconnor_Drawing

 

Was invited to the local singing group tonight, went along and we sang Hebridean songs that connect with the land around us. The sky is so clear tonight and on the way home amidst the howling winds, I can see the stars vividly and the huge lightning bolts brighten up the sky. Walking back to the comfort of the Bothy. The small warm beacon against this very dark backdrop. Content and happy to be in this place, working late into the night, looking out to nothing but black.

 

Day 6

Weather warnings nonstop. The winds and hail batter against me and I realise how wild these Islands can be.

 

It eased off for a while so I took full advantage of the clear skies and white dusting on the mountain ridges and the ground. Took a long walk along to Laig Bay in the cold still of the morning. The windy sand dunes and then the sun came out as I soon as I arrived. Grey calm sands, Rum completely revealed, small secret cottages hidden down here clinging onto the coast. Walked along the whole bay and revelled in the vivid colours of my surroundings, calm thoughts, sitting on driftwood capturing the sea.

Walked the whole length of the island down to Kildonnan. Grassy meadows, sunlit piercing the lower part of the land, the pier in the distance and the crashing shoreline up ahead. Followed the sheep tracks and white washed cottages to the burial mound and ruined church where I feel completely connected to the history of this place, a lone being amidst this symbolic presence of the important land that has stayed true here without intervention.

I feel on a different level of time here, nature controls everything. I then proceed to walk back and climb the God’s finger ridge, the Jurassic cliffs and oppressing forms surround me.

Chatting to locals of the impressive stories of sea journeys around this Island and challenging yet a beautiful dedication to this place.

The dark came in quick and so I read for a long time into the night. From 4pm here you see nothing but the backdrop of the surrounding ridges and immense shadows of Rum in the distance. Listening to the rumblings from the harsh weather outside, thunder and lightning and high winds. Finding comfort within here and enjoying the wild weather, nature in full force, you feel somewhat disconnected with the business in the city life.

Oconnor_basalt

What will come of the rest of the week?

 

Day 7  

A day of uncertainty. I have been told the Ferry will come today which I can go on and leave my residency a day early or take a chance and stay however bad the weather will get.

I choose to stay. I would much rather be here for longer than leave early. I am already settled into Island time.

The whole place is shaking, hail stones rattling everywhere and the wind throws you in every direction. How immense it is and how real it is. On a wild day I choose to visit the caves, Massacre Cave to be precise. A haunting place, a place that is covered in history, yet the weather restrains me from entering as the stormy seas advance in quick. The geological forms of the exposed rocks and shoreline around this area are very impressive, cradled against the unforgiving seas. The ferry comes in and I choose to stay I want to get to know the place further.

I walked through the forest surrounding Galmisdale and headed back up towards Cleadale a stormy walk, the rain battering against me. I work late and tuck myself in waiting for the storms to come.

My natural instincts are thriving here.

The night came in very quickly again and I had my last night in the Bothy with the wildest weather yet and it is the most peaceful I have ever felt. Completely isolated from outside elements, from outside distractions, just a complete focus on my art, my writings, my quiet reflective thoughts and natural alignment with this life. Unware of the outside world and outside time.

Oconnor_Drawing1

The storm is due to get worse overnight yet this heightened exposure to the elements comforts me, a realisation of the true natural land and the way in which we truly are controlled by nature itself. I have been thinking a lot about the ecology of time here upon reading Soil and Soul and reflecting on the way in which we as humans need to come back if only for a while now and then to reflect, to engage with our primal instincts and to only be with the natural world, no connection to manmade materials of technology. It is here where we truly thrive.

Everywhere there is horizons and vast Jurassic basaltic mountainous areas and it is here that is real.

Oconnor_Sgurr

I am on a different level of time here and everything is measured differently. No pressures as it all relies on the weather and outside forces. I will miss the howling winds and the distant sounds of the waterfall in the black light not so far from where I stand.

 

Day 8 and days 9, 10, 11 – longer than expected.

The day I am due to leave yet I don’t. I don’t end up leaving the Isle of Eigg until the 13th of January. 4 more days longer than I was supposed to be here. But that’s what happens when you visit an Island in the mid-winter harsh climate of the west of Scotland, you go with the knowing in the back of your head that you can’t predict the weather, it inevitably controls what you do and I enjoy that, it is real that way.

The ferries were cancelled until Tuesday and so I had longer to connect with Eigg and deepen my knowledge of the place and work within it.

I move into the Cleasdale Bothy to make way for Bobby who arrived on the Friday. I spent the last few days on Eigg anticipating when I would leave but not wanting to leave, this Island grabs hold of you when you are here for longer than a few days. A way of life that comes very easily to me.

I’m cut off here from existential matters. When the sun glows on Eigg and the blue crystal waters of the sea light up the surroundings you know you’re in a special place. Do I feel like I’m missing out on things in my ‘otherworld’ back in the business of it all, no I do not. This is my real world too, I have disconnected and reconnected with what matters and what is important.

I have for the next few days another Bothy with four windows which frame every part of the Island I have captured, and connected with. From the front is the lookout to Rum, the framing of the crofting land, to the right of me is the Jurassic cliffs and the ridges, the back window frames the God’s finger look out perfectly with the cascades of the waterfall rising from the wind not falling downwards and to the left I find myself in awe still at the misty framing of the Sgurr, the distinctive form standing defiant in the distance.

I leave on the Tuesday when the weather settles, 11 days on the Island, longer than expected but on the Ferry back over to the mainland I find myself thinking I have to spend longer here. I have connected with this place in a way I have never connected with an Island before, walking all over, learning how to slow down and leave out all existential matters; just be here present in the place and matter.

Oconnor_tide

Against the weather warnings, and the wild west coast, I found comfort and sanctuary within the place, mentally and physically.

I will forever remember that window out to the west.

 

http://www.ellisoconnor.com/

Ellis O’Connor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELLIS O’CONNOR: Residency, 2014

January 2014. Slowing down, ongoing thoughts and connecting with nature. My intentions for my Artist’s Residency for the week stay at the Bothy were to build up work that captures the feelings, essence and atmosphere of the place and of being isolated in the wild. Secondly an outlet for my work, to allow it to flourish in the right wild environment and thirdly to document a diary each day focusing on the spirit of place within the forest. I came away with so much more.

I have always been drawn to the remote, sublime and natural areas of Scotland and within my work, put across the feelings of the spirit of the place and panoramic markings. And so within the Bothy I was able to think more clearly, allow myself to slow, connect with nature and truly realise what I wanted to accomplish within my artistic practise.

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www.cargocollective.com/ellisoconnor

Day 1

Driving into the mountains, I am already connected to the wilderness, I already feel my pointless worries slip away.

Stark quietness, the presence in the woods and the back to basics way. Upon arrival at the bothy I was overwhelmed by the stark lonely setting of the Bothy in relation to the outside world.

I already feeling settled within the sublime place.

The only sounds that surround me are the ones of the crackling fire, the howling wind, even the quietness has a sound.

The complete darkness outside, the dark comes in quickly around 4:30pm, I only had a few hours to do some writing before it took over.

Immersing myself into the quiet calming wilderness.

I feel comforted by the surrounding woods and I settle in.

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Day 2

I woke up to a view of trees. I look across and see the first light shining on the mountains captivating me instantly. Cocooned by nature.

‘The Mountains are by their nature immovable. Yet everything else is so changeable, we feel the rhythms of nature yet the mountains steady us.’ Hamish Fulton.

It’s a strange thing that I am already unaware of time here, early morning light turns to early darkness so you really have to make the most of it.

No thoughts of the modern outside world, your worries are based on the basic necessities of fire, light, water and making. It’s refreshing. It’s when you realise that all outside problems become insignificant your vital survival and true human instincts come in.

The Freedom and Simple beauty is too good to pass up.

My first task of my practise is to start working instantly on my large rolls of paper. Letting the elements affect the paper, layer, paint and use natural found materials to become part of the work itself. The way the ink runs down and merges with the washes and rain water lets the work and mark making become uncontrollable like the wild.

I take a walk down to the River Spey in the setting light and it instantly reminds me of the scene in ‘Into the Wild’ when is alone in the wilderness on the banks of an Alaskan River.

Walking wherever through this endless forest, I stop and the rays are focused on my face, all that surrounds me are the trees and the mountain’s, I feel elated I could walk anywhere out here and feel connected to the place.  Wide open spaces yet with the security of the trees.

All is possible here.

The remaining sunlight falls dimly through the forest, I catch a plane flying high in the Sky, and I already feel so disconnected from that world.

The darkness of the sky, the fading blue as the backdrop against the branches.

At night, again, I am enveloped by the complete darkness of the woods, yet sheltered by the warming light of the Bothy.

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Day 3

The sounds, the smells of the firewood walking back from the surrounding areas to the Bothy, they have all became familiar to me. It’s this basic human relationship to nature that is of great importance.

The silence, space to think and the unawareness of passive time.

Reflecting in the morning light, I realise I have an increased amount of thinking time, thoughts that are of upmost importance to my practise but often get overlooked due to deadlines.

Is there still true wilderness here?

I wrote this,

 

Mountain Awakening

Dawn enlightens

Expanses of forestation and land

 

The land surrounds me

Trees they comfort

Lost in the wild

By the presence of nature

 

I walk silently,

Forever losing track of time

No significance of outside noises or meanings

I am here

Tread softly through the terrains

 

Reading in the pathless woods, I am accustomed to this place, showering in the wild, hot water tingles against the coldness of the air.

No – one else treads here for I am completely free.

It is completely humbling to be living in a way that does not ask for the help from modern society. No need for electricity, all work therefore feels more accomplished, no easiness, just you, your thoughts, the very basis core of your spirit and the necessities to get by. You ease into a way that follows the rhythm and flow of nature and the surrounding wilderness. A deeper connection to humanity, the real way of life, no reliance on the often toxic pressures of modernity.

I am secure within the wild.

Later today, amongst the forest, I sit, I listen, I hear the birds echoing in the distance, the Spey splashing down the hill. But here I am sitting writing, lay right down on the wet leaves surrounded by it all.

It is the sounds of the wind or Loch? I don’t know anymore.

I am looking past the landscape, what is beneath it and reading into the true significance. Our connection to these overwhelming landscapes goes a lot deeper than our simple vision of the Mountains.

Mountains from my mind.

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Day 4

Morning rise, look out from the Bothy to the Mountains peaked in snow through the gap in the forest. The mountains are very misty today, from far away I can just make out the textures, contours and lines upon their surface.

Working on my drawings again in the early light. Sitting on the ground, allowing nature and the unforgiving elements to set to work on my paper. The heavy rain drops on my drawings and I don’t mind that, it allows the effect to take place.

Everything here engages my attention, the light rain falling on the trees, the crackling of the fire, echoes in the forest.

Here I am without distractions and allowing my mind to think clearly again.

Quietly listening to melodies whilst drawing and contributing to my practise by candlelight, focus is complete.

Long nights.

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Day 5

Awoke today early, so completely used to this place.

Do not want to reconnect with society, the absence of infiltrating sources has left me renewed.

I took some photos in the new light.

I will never get tired of roaming this forest.

The weather is surprisingly still, the forest barely moves above me.

I realise that this way of life is completely achievable, it connects you to nature and the way it’s supposed to be.

Today I took a trip to Loch Eilean today, so close to the Mountains. The dark loch yet the still pure light shining upon it.

I walk to the top of the Hill and all I see around me are the mountains and tree tops, a panoramic view. I forever want to be outside in this environment. A full 360 movement of what the views offers me, ridges of mountains, and the light highlighting the forms, the snow merging with the horizon of the sky, forestations in the South.

I see everything in a new light, all of nature catches my eye.

Smelling the spruce, moss and ferns, taking it all in, closing my eyes on the forest bed.

Closing my eyes, settling into the undergrowth, breathing it all in.

This view never changes, it welcomes you in.

‘Temporary isolation, a kind of deepest concentration on oneself and self – recovery not to avoid temptations, but obligations. Away from the tyranny of stimuli and influences which sentence us to spend our strength in reactions and does not permit us any more to let accumulate to the point of spontaneous activity.’ Nietzsche

There is a clear detachment from the world behind in this remote place.

Retreat

Being here has allowed me to realise that not only does being alone in an isolated beautiful landscape resonate deeper overwhelming feelings within us, but it lets us connect with our inner selves, the wild is an untamed place where we find clarity in these places as they are untouched, unruly and natural, a complete connection.

The bothy is in a natural place which offers us a lot more diversity than the economic world which has been played and set.

The terrains and elements are a lot more spontaneous here, it ties in with my thoughts, allowing my mind to breathe from interference.

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To the West are the peaks

And the east are the lines,

Tower over me, still yet further out the storms are brewing

The sunsets beyond the forest

The calm before the storm

Cocooned within the trees, I wait

 

Everything is so real, knowing that it’s naturally this way heightens the feelings.

The wide open vast spaces open my vision and my mind. They bring freedom to me.

Because I am here in the forest, I am experiencing time differently, I am experiencing a place that has very little human intervention, and I could be in any period or certain space. I have no awareness of urgency around me.

I have been at the Bothy for 5 days now and it is hard to think outside of the isolated landscape and where I am.  I have no inclination to do so, submerged in my practise.

I have been forced to slow down here.

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Day 6

This is my last full day here at the Bothy.

I stood silently outside breathing in the familiar fire air. The sun peaking right over the line of the forest, casting everything in an orange glow.

Looking straight out to the mountains.

I’m not ready to leave, I will leave here with a true realisation of life and my thoughts restored in quiet isolation.

The forest shining after the rain fall.

Photographing my work today in the wild, it works better within the landscape, a true influence. I have worked outside every day in the elements, it has allowed me to fully express myself as an artist, no limits and pure inspiration in the midst of it all.

The darkness creeps in quietly here and quickly, the dark blue of the skies, revealing the mountain forms far out.

Clear mind and clear thoughts.

Folk songs in the background, drawing and reading.

Contemplating.

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Day 7

I have to go.

 

I placed a piece of my work within the land surrounding the Bothy, a clear reminder of always looking out to the Mountains.

Sad to leave the wild.

I will be back.

 

‘There is pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar;

I love not man the less, but Nature more.’

George Gordon Byron

 

The Bothy allows us to escape from the monotonous routine and think about what you really want to do. The thought process and the slow unchanging rhythms of the land.

I realised a few things on departing and from my ongoing contemplation throughout my time spent at the Bothy. The outside world is full of distractions, it is good to be alone and allow yourself to connect with nature, your thoughts become simpler day by day, and no pollution from civilisation and so you truly realise what you want to do and accomplish. I left the residency with a new body of work built from time spent within the cold elements, new drawings, a lot of photographs and also numerous writings from my wanderings in the forest.

I already have an altered and refreshed perspective.

Peaceful and small basic comforts, I go back into the world renewed with a quiet mind.

 

Long live remote wild and sublime places!