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My work during Ceangal has been an intuitive response to the natural woodlands and native forests encountered in the Gairloch area. Every woodland we explored had its own atmosphere; a different range of smells, plant life, birdsong, colours and light. Vibrant timeless ecosystems, remaining pockets of the great wood of Caledon which nurtured and protected the peoples before us for thousands of years. In our recent history we have become disconnected from the land, from the seasons, and have lost simple traditional skills, and rarely work with our hands.
I only gathered small amounts from any one tree or woodland, so as to not leave any visible impact and to widely explore the area. the work was to explore the cycles, seasons, the celtic tree alphabet, the tree of life, the rags and prayers people attach to sacred trees, faerie trees or ‘cloutie’ wells, ancient faiths and creating patterns like celtic knotwork, the weave a metaphor for our lives and connections. Rather than the expected tranquil woodland meditation the residency became an unpredictable fight against the weather, the woodlands and my own self imposed limitations.
Count our blessings
As a society we are too focused on aspirations, on what we want, what we haven’t got, what others have, rather than remembering o give thanks. I wanted to create a sphere that reminds us to do this. I wove the sphere sheltering from the rain under a beautiful Hazel tree, coloured paper with bramble juice. The pupils from Gairloch High school decorated it with what they are blessed with and thankful for.
Full of Hope.
This sphere was made from sticks gathered widely across the area. I gathered Rowan Berries to fill it with, this harvest is ephemeral, if shaken they fall out. As the berries drop out they leave hints of colour wherever the sphere has been. Hopes, dreams, wishes and aspirations should be held gently also. Sometimes we need to let go of them too.
Mud,Blood and Love
A simple Birchwood hoop, rags and threads stained with brambles and peat. Life is neither light nor dark. Nature is not always gentle, love and pain, joy and sufferning, all part of the story. The triskele can stand for many things, earth, sky, and sea being one. We are all woven into the web of life, all but a small part of a balanced connected greater whole.
24 Birch saplings formed the uprights to this structure, a basket with no base, a shelter a dome, a fairy home, a vessel, a container; it took on the shape of a head and could easily be a cage rather than a shelter. We can live in harmony with nature or trap ourselves in a disconnected world within the limits of our own heads. Throughout our lives what sort of construction are we weaving- a flexible, open, nurturing structure or a brittle, dense, constrictive one?
‘ I SURRENDER ‘
Walking along the pine trains of the surreal Gairloch…very excited as the mind and eyes were trying to soak in all the splendor, I found myself moving mindfully , observing more closely and carefully, and experiencing a sublime state of awareness. Photography is a significant part of my art practice. I take photos to narrate stories.
A walk in the Flowerdale Trail was like taking a stroll in the nature’s gallery that has enormous natural art formations. Uniquely beautiful twisted branches of trees, a throne like blossomed tree, massive uprooted trees with exposed roots, and new plants growing from roots of the dead trees. Many such wild and natural formations don’t imitate human art forms, they simply expand it. Besides the aesthetic quality, the wild wood formations document excesses of time, its footprints, they all tell stories of times that runs parallel to human lives.
When confronted with vast and inimitable beauty of these natural ‘installations’ I could not help being overwhelmed and the instinctive response was to SURRENDER BEFORE THE SUBLIME.
Hence I chose to take fragments of those beautiful natural installations and contextualize them in my work in Gairloch. I have photographed some of the natural installations and place them in modern urban backdrop. I have used a mix of photography, wood, found objects and other natural materials to demonstrate a dynamic relationship between humankind and the nature.
This work tries to document a contrast between natural processes of growth and decay and the man made technological world through my photography. The work has moved into the realm of installation incorporating the natural materials as symbols in a universal language. The abandoned boats in Badachro are as if natural installations..in nature’s lap. Experiencing these within the context of landscape and memory becomes a metaphor for the individual’s metaphysical relationship with the natural world. I’m reminded here of the famous lines of Wordsworth; “What’s the point of this life full of care if you have no time to stand and stare.”.The swing made of an abandoned piece of a boat and on purpose tied upside down, has layers of meanings attached to it and is a metaphor for joy, celebration, innocence, childhood, memories and freedom that we would have experienced in our life time. The work explores diverse meanings incorporated in everyday, overlooked objects one would find around us and the viewer is invited to look more closely at that what has been experienced on a daily basis. Objects and images take on layers of meanings leading to diverse interpretations.
This is second year of my association with Gairloch and Ceangal International Art Residency. A few things I learnt about Scottish Highlands in general and Gairloch specifically, during this time has made strong impressions on my sensibility. It is from these impressions that my art works made here originate. One of the visuals that fascinate me the most are the woods and farms that are dotted throughout the Highlands. Then I notice the sheep grazing in the wooded enclosures and farms. A conversation about this landscape eventually leads to references of forcible displacement of significant number of people from Scottish Highlands to make way for ‘agricultural revolution’ in 18th and 19th century. Ironically, I am told, people were removed from vast patches of land for sheep rearing. One of my work untitled Refers to those events and explores continuing conflict between development of economy and the masses, modernity and personal histories.
Most of us remain curious about ‘other’ cultures of ‘foreign lands and I am no exception to this nor is the local community of Gairloch. Our day today practices and rituals fascinate ‘others’. In Indian metros we struggle to find quiet paths for people to walk on. The walks there are restricted mostly in small local parks. But here in Highlands, there are many beautiful forest trails for people to enjoy their walks. It is no surprise that ‘walking’ is a kind of cultural ritual in routine Highlands’s life. On the other hand many people who visit India are intrigued by various symbols they see outside and inside Indian homes. For instance, many Hindu families in India mark their house door with a symbol which reads ‘Shubh Labh’, a good luck wish for the visitors to the home. Aligning synergies between Scottish and Indian culture is the core of my other work titled SHUBH LABH.
A present day blessing of the sun
Upon arriving in Gairloch, Scotland as an artist in residence for Ceangal, I felt consumed by the vast beauty and humbled by nature. The moody and voluptuous sky; the forceful wind; the delicate, robust plant life all left me tongue tied.
After several tours of the landscape, I became intrigued by the human history of the Highlands and, in particular, the Bronze age “round house” structures along Auchtercairn mountain right above Gairloch. I was particularly fascinated by one of the larger round houses that may have been used for community gatherings and perhaps solstice celebrations. This large round house structure faces the prevailing winds as it opens directly towards the sea.
There is also a rock atop the mountain that was deposited by the glaciers. This imposing rock looks as though it may plummet through the round houses and into the village with the touch of a breeze. As I stood in amazement at this rock, I couldn’t help but wonder if ancient inhabitants had not done so as well. I wondered if, along with the winter solstice, the rock had influenced where they built their round houses. With the rock teetering above them, by placing themselves directly in its path, were they paying homage to the divine?
While combing the beach and observing the rapidly changing weather and shifting sunlight through rain, I became interested in the circle as a symbol: the circle of the sun, the round house circle, and the use of circles in rituals. It struck me that while the ancients may have prayed for the sun to warm the earth in the dead of winter, our modern prayer may be more of a plea and a wish.
During Ceangal, I created a series of objects and performed small rituals in order to plea with the sun and beg for solutions. I created a small altar and climbed up to the rock above Auchtercairn to present my wish to the sky. After I placed the altar, I climbed down and stood at the center of the round house directly below the rock and held up dry grasses from the fields to present my wish to the earth. Far below on the beach, I created a rope wreath from trash and formed seaweed circles to present my wish to the sea.
EARTHSEASKY is about a longing to renew and a hope to find solutions for our environmental problems. I have created a series of objects using household trash and rope washed up on the beach to question the staggering quantity of waste each person produces daily. For the exhibit, I have combined my fabricated objects together in one piece.
This residency, while only two short weeks, will inform my future works. Though I live in the bustling urban environment of New York City, this landscape will find its way into my paintings. For the time spent in this exquisite and remote place, I can only say thank you.
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My work is a personal reflection of the area I live in and my fascination with people worldwide, a sense of place, history, movement and displacement. Nature and Time, together record these movements without deleting anything. There are no subtractions, only additions. Incidentally Peat becomes the archive of these changes. Records of natural changes are buried within each layer of Peat.
In my recent work I have been exploring the use of Peat, a naturally occurring source of material which the people in this area and much of the Highlands have relied on historically. The work has been placed near a peat bank where we personally still cut fuel for the winter. A remote windswept area, bearing imprints of natural power and forbidding. When the sun shines it is a glorious place with shimmering colours – a joyous day out for work and a picnic. When the wind and rain sweep in you feel you are on the edge of the world…. alone.
The peat structure will shrink, warp, and break down over time, quietly beginning another cycle of decay and growth. Meanwhile I place my work within this renewal of life cycle.
Feel for a moment – this is the last place you are seeing….sit, watch, feel, contemplate, enjoy..!
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I AM CLOSER TO YOU THAN YOU THINK
You are a lens. You focus, defocus, you refocus. The first word on the screen is not necessarily the strongest word but you don’t give up. You focus, refocus and see the word pulling a batch of other words. They want to become a sentence. And once formed they pull a series of images from labyrinth of memory, your and other people’s memory. Memory is usually the departure point of a desire. Desires are the easiest to trap, to mold, to reconstruct, and to infiltrate till it becomes culture. What is culture? Never mind, your desires are securely trapped in a creel. They will mutate there.
PS: You should have been warned- a leaf is the second most intimate writing material, next only to the back of your palm. What you want to keep you write on the back of your palm. What you write on the leaf is temporal but meant to travel. Apologies for contradiction.
Materials : Wood platform, lobster creel, desires of people written on leaves, drawing on the leaves, Enamel paint, nylon wire.
I USED TO BE A SAILOR
Memory is usually the point of departure of a desire but it also is the resting place of the loss. Once the loss is complete, it silently and without resistance becomes an island. (But no one told you that memory has dark spots? The moments when exploration becomes hunting are shrouded behind these dark spots. And I am not even talking about memories of blood and open skies) Now the island is up for grabs, it must participate in its own transformation. The hunter has become the hunted. And you don’t know it. God Bless!
Materials: Abandoned boat, toy cars and toy trucks, toy plane, fishing net, acrylic paint and nylon wires.