Duncan Robertson: Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop Member Residency

Day 1 – 19th January 2019

Got train from Edinburgh, was quite a trip.  My bicycle reservation worked, which was great!

First seeing the snow at the Cairngorms is quite exciting.  It’s like entering another Kingdom.

The train was 30 minutes late into Aviemore, so I only had a quick few minutes in Tesco before the bicycle-carrying taxi I had ordered up to Inshriach Farm.  I did a bit of a Supermarket Sweep.  The taxi driver, who originally came from London, had just taken the previous artists out the morning before.  I bet she could tell a few before and after stories.

Got to the Bothy just before it was dark, so had time to arrange everything with the firewood etc, settle in and see my location.  (I think if you arrived in the dark that would be difficult.)  I remained in silence for the best part of that night.  I was so taken by the quietness.  It felt a bit like entering into a monk’s contemplation cell.  I read a book from the 1880s by candlelight and suddenly felt the 20th and 21st century ebbing away from me.  The week at this point seems like an eternity or two in front of me!

 

Day 2 – 20th January 2019

It was absolutely breathtaking stepping out of the Bothy into the majestically frozen landscape.

I took the day to find a way around the area, looking at what was around the Bothy.

I took my bicycle from the Farm to Aviemore, just looking around the area.  I found a cafe where I could do an application and work a little bit online.  Not all the cafes were friendly at all, definitely recommend the Bridge Inn, it’s the place to go for such things.  Lovely, friendly staff, beautiful bar.

I just got back from Aviemore to the Farm by bicycle before it got dark.  I took a wrong turn walking back to the Bothy and almost ended up in the yurt.  It was occupied, so hopefully didn’t frighten the occupants.

I discovered in the Bothy at night that I did have internet connection, so I could use my phone to listen to the radio.  This is a very pleasant surprise.  The 21st century came hurtling back in.  (I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing but I feel very much relieved!)

 

Day 3 – 21st January 2019

Got up very early at 3.30am to see the Blood Moon.  It was a surprisingly bright moon until about 3:30 and then suddenly got dark and clouded over at the critical time of 4.20am.  It was completely overcast and I couldn’t see the Blood Moon lunar eclipse during full moon.

I return to bed to try and catch up on some sleep, however didn’t managed to fall back asleep again, just left me feeling very disorientated.

There’s soon to be a lot of chores to do – collect wood for the fire, get water for the Bothy (it’s only day 2), work out how to use the ghillie kettle, which was easier said than done, but once it worked was fantastic!

I had planned to go to Loch an Eilein, but ran out of time.  This has been recommended by a friend who visited the area previously and it looked intriguing on the map.

I planned where to put my bird feeder sculptures and went to get seed from the Farm.  I visited the Potting Shed – very lovely place, closed down now, but it has a bird viewing area and I managed to see a woodpecker.  The man who ran it gave me lots of advice on how to attract birds, but didn’t think they would find the seeds within just one week.

Did some experimental photographs of me wearing camouflage.  Not sure where I’m going with this, it’s just a little bit of an experiment.  There is a World War II lorry transformed into a glamping hut on Inshriach Estate that gave me the idea of wearing ivy as a sort of camp camouflage crown of leaves.

Spent the evening looking at the GoPro camera and working on a little bit of time-lapse photography.

 

Day 4 – 22nd January 2019

Plan where to fix bird feeders, attach the screws into trees.

Went to Loch an Eilein, did some photography with digital SLR camera and tripod, experimented with floral crown photography, just sort of fun images.  However, felt time pressured as light was short, and I had not found where the best compositional photographs could be taken.

It was a stunning at Loch an Eilein when I arrived.  The light was bright, but low in the sky.

I was quite taken by the ruins of the castle in the middle of the loch with Jacobite connections.

Was running low on memory on my phone so decided to go down to Aviemore to get a memory card.  This is quite hard to find.  I asked the shop owner who sold me the micro memory card, if he would not mind inserting it into my phone.  He did this without dismounting the card that had already been in and when I left the shop I tried take photographs my camera and still thought it was full of images.  I waited till I got home to the Bothy and thought it had secured all the images on the cloud, then returned to my old memory card.  Before dismounting it unfortunately something went wrong and I seem to have lost all 7000 images were on the camera.

Most importantly all the last 3 days images have disappeared, except the ones that I managed to post onto Facebook and social media.

 

Day 5 – 23rd January 2019

Was very frosty in the morning, however it was very beautiful and crisp.  The Cairngorms were covered in snow and looked very near to the Bothy.

Took quite a lot of time to get fire on, breakfast ready, water cooked, prepare lunch and dinner.

The walk down to the farm seemed a long journey, very slippy and I see however something magical…

I remember as a child feeling so inspired and captivated by the nature of landscape, and the urge of wanting to artistically respond to nature, that strong feeling of reverence and wanting to respond to the world around me has not changed in all these years.  It’s like getting back in contact with myself in time and place, present, future and past.

I did not get down to the farm early.  I did not know if the road would be possible or the snow would be covering the road, but the main road was clear so I could cycle.  I was able to charge my devices in the farm, in the wonderful saloon which is an honesty shop and a place to hang out next to the bar.

I set off again to go to Loch an Eilein.  The light was dramatically changing.  It was already about 3pm by the time I got to the loch, however I was still very much taken by the atmosphere of the place.

 

Day 6 – 24th January 2019

Set up time-lapse cameras.

Went to see if I can find wax but it seems to have disappeared (it had been ordered along with bird seed from Amazon but the packet of beeswax has disappeared or not been found).

Showered at the Farm whilst waiting for my devices to charge, etc.

Return to the Bothy to make seed head, unmount the hands in position for photographing.

 

Day 7 – 25th January 2019

Had been snowing the night before and snow covered everything.  Everything was crisp and silent on leaving the Bothy.  It was quite breathtaking.

I managed to have some connection on the internet with previous resident Hanna Tuulikki.  She sent me documentation of singing to the seals from Bothy Project on the Isle of Eigg: “while you’re charming the seas, I’m trying to charm the birds out of the trees.”

Horrible realisation that this is the last day of work.  It was so beautiful.

I went back to Loch an Eilein with my bicycle and two of my floral suits and had fun photographing with the digital SLR camera and the GoPro camera time-lapse photography.

The cover for my job at the National Galleries of Scotland has not replied, but they should do the workshop on Friday, so I had to get a very last-minute train down to Edinburgh.

I got lifts up to the Bothy.  It was very, very icy and snowy and we almost had an accident with the car sliding backwards down the hill going up to the Bothy, however it was fine.

It was quite a wrench having to leave so suddenly.  It felt like I suddenly began what I wanted to do, and find out where I was, however the next day would have just been a boring wheelbarrowmyselfout day, through ice and snow.  I don’t think I would have had much time to do any more work but perhaps it would have more time to say goodbye to the Bothy and the wonderful atmosphere that surrounds that magical place.

It felt like coming out of a dream too quickly.

 

Postscript

The Bothy was a great, magical experience.  I really hope I can get back there again sometime.  It was a very inspiring place, but the main thing I remember is that it brought me back to why I really want to do art in the first place, inspired by nature and landscape.  And somehow in my very humble existence I have been able to communicate my great reverence for the fragile, infinite beauty of nature.

Thanks very much to Bothy Project for facilitating the residency, and building such a magical space.  I just wish I had had more time.