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Ellis O’Connor – Thoughts from an Island

March 15th – 22nd

I will return to Eigg as much as I possibly can, I caught the bug for the Island back in January of 2015 when I was the first resident artist of the year in Sweeney’s Bothy. A lover of all things wild, stormy weather threw itself at the bothy and the elements hammered upon me yet it was this shelter of the Bothy and the sublime lookout to the neighbouring Island of Rum that I’ll never forget. It was a prime need to come back and that I did consistently in the past 2 years even volunteering the whole summer of 2016 just so I could spend longer and really get to know the Island and its people more.

I was fortunate enough to be able to return this March for another stint as artist in residence at Sweeney’s. An opportunity I was extremely happy to be able to receive. Once again, I set off without a clear plan for the Island and knew that after a week there I would have slowed down tremendously and allowed myself head space whilst gathering plenty of new inspiration, and this I did, in abundance.

Whenever I go back to Eigg it brings me back to the person I am. I notice how I am not in control, the weather and changeable elements remind me every time along with my insignificance as a human in comparison to the imposing landscape that has almost always been there. The residency came at a time when I needed to slow down and reign in my ideas, concentrate on my ethos and where I was going.

Ellis O'Connor (10)

Whenever I go to places that are seen as ‘remote’ away from the big cities and most of the ‘conveniences’ of the modern life I realise I do not miss out on any of it, I have what is important within me and around me. The simple act of living brings me back down to earth. Whatever is out there in the wider world is still there when I leave Eigg and to be honest I would happily live without any of these ‘conveniences’. What is the idea of being ‘connected’ nowadays? Is it not far better to be connected to nature and realise the significance of what is around us rather than be tapped into a device that creates a fake unrealistic ideology of ourselves? I am guilty of this too I admit, I use social media to showcase my work but going without for a period of time and realising you really do not have to constantly tell people what you are doing is very liberating.

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We are part of the land, the land is not in separate components, it is all joined, tangible, shifting, we are part of the earth and the more you alienate yourself from the earth the more unhappier and stressed you will be, hence the reason when people need to calm down and ‘de-stress’ they head for nature, they head for the hills or worse saturate themselves with the brainwashing of television to not even think at all. A zombie state, a non-living way.

I spent my time on Eigg fully soaking it all in once again. Becoming full again, becoming me again. Being on the Island, being present, being within it and taking this forth with me. The quiet and solitude allows for headspace. All irrelevant worries subside and you exist with simple living once again; primal, instinctual, and very very real.

Ellis O'Connor (28)

These are the words that sum up my existence on Eigg:

Rock, flowing water, fast moving clouds, smell of thick flame, breathing, quiet, stillness, primal, earth walking, impermanence of me, a blip in earths time we are, temporary elements, temporary people, cycles, chains, burning, raw, real, howling wet wind against my skin, open mind mirroring the open horizon, clear, howl, dancing breakwater, time to think, time to breathe, time, acres and only you, restore, restart, act of making, layers of rock, mist cast repeating over cliffs, flashes of Rum, becoming whole, remembering myself, room for myself, quest, charging forth, pure, hours long of being, clearing, breaking, freeing, ambling, longer light, expansive skies, dominant land, insignificant me, back to me.

Ellis O'Connor (69)

I have done what makes me feel alive. Being on the Island. I have found the depth of my life and am living within it. People rarely question this being, what is it that makes me feel alive? Fallen into ‘security’ and ‘conformity’ I bet.

What is important and what matters is the slowing down and the allowing of the hours to pass whilst watching the earth around me, a state I am never in. The time spread out in front of me, measured differently. It was my time, time to slow down, listen, gather my thoughts, watch and learn about myself. Alone time without distractions, to get things done that otherwise would be forgotten about.

Ellis O'Connor (12)

One morning I showered in the cold breeze under high cliffs enveloped in mist whilst two golden eagles circled above my head. My place on earth. This land that is still so untamed, that has borne witness to many layers and years and events, a place where you can clearly see the marks of history not only from our ancestors but from the direct crust of the earth, the obvious core of the land and layers of centuries within it, all easily recognisable. The geological makeup of the earth I walk upon, another reminder of my place on and within the earth, a small blip in the history of time. A land as old as time itself, still so accessible and barely touched.

Ellis O'Connor (7)

No distractions, slowed down, lower the pace, myself and the land, changing frequencies all around me. Fulfilling my being, a clear head and a tangible busy landscape with plentiful detail. An abundance of sights. Accepting myself as I am. No need for plans, a constant whirring of to do’s, to be’s, to go’s; to live and to simply sit in this way is an indulgence.  How fast we have all become, a loop of productivity, chasing the ever increasing time that is always out of our grasp. We cannot be so fast.

Unloading my thoughts onto the land, the landscape loading its presence and wonders onto me. A routine of slow mornings watching the light dance and change over Rum, walking to nowhere in particular, soaking it all in and nights by the fire; writing, reading, painting, thinking, reflecting, living. No through plan, no through journey.

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You can see the edges, you feel it and you can visualise when the weather will hit. None of the elements are obscured or flattened on Eigg, they are rolled out, thundering over the land. Bearing witness to the testimony of humans in surviving in these harsh open elements.Embracing the weather, listen, look at the details, patterns, lines, colours and textures of this land. All of which build a beautiful narrative of this special place. I keep an open mind when viewing and exchanging with the land.

‘In the ancient past we were all stewards of the landscape, but modernity has detached us from it.’ Camille Dressler: Eigg the Story of an Island. 

Always remember to keep nature close.

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http://www.ellisoconnor.com