Happy days. I love it when work and ideas merge together into new forms.
The above painting is North, second in the series of three paintings for the upcoming Eigg Island exhibition. It was inspired by a day in September on the last visit to Eigg, on the geology trail with geologist Prof’ John Hudson, who showed us fragments of bone from a Pliosaurus (estimated to have lived about 147 million years ago).
We sat underneath the fossil-filled cliffs on the north end of the island and ate lunch while Atzi Muramatsu began (unbeknownst to me!) to write a music piece which became ‘Gaea Metempsychosis’; a piece for string quartet, which will be performed at the exhibition launch.
It occurred to me after a day of painting the final touches of North that it would make perfect sense to add Atzi (the musician I’m collaborating with alongside poet JL Willams for the exhibition) on the cliff. Once painted I gave him a quick call to make sure he didn’t feel a bit ‘Dorian Gray’ or superstitious about it, but he thought it was a great idea as long as it worked for the painting!
‘Metempsychosis’ is a Greek word meaning transmigration of the soul – or its reincarnation after death, ‘Gaea’ meaning of course – the earth. So the inspiration of fossils, and of being on the island in a particular moment in time, yet feeling the sense of our own infinity – and that, like fossils, we become part of the landscape once more, was the inspiration behind Atzi’s music.
North’s place in the trilogy of paintings, is to represent the idea of the reality of being on a Hebridean island, after imagining what that experience will be like, because to me there’s always a time when you feel not a part of the landscape, you’re not sure of your place in this wildness of sea and cliffs, although of course we are a part of it.
I have a piece of marble that I collected from the Isle of Iona (the beautiful small island off the coast of Mull on the west coast of Scotland). It represents the idea of ‘Gaea Metempsychosis’ exactly to me. Iona was the first place where, in my early twenties I felt a powerful connection to nature – I felt my place in the cycle of everything.
The piece of marble in the photo to the right is formed by the minerals of tiny sea creatures from millions of years ago, their remains crushed by the weight of rocks and ocean over time into dense, heavy white marble. You can see seams of serpentine – a silicate formed by algae and water that ran into cracks and faults of the marble.
It’s so beautiful, and it’s from a very rare seam of marble on the south side of the island that’s pretty difficult to find for newcomers. Islanders mined it about 100 years ago to form the alter in Iona Abbey, but to me it’s is best experienced on those south cliffs of Iona, looking out over a wild blue sea.
It’s quite difficult to express how rewarding collaboration is; when ideas connect – also the way that nature inspires and makes meaning of our lives. I felt very similarly about the recent Lindisfarne collaboration with poet JL Williams – view video here – When you write to the light..