Connections

Above, chatting to people at the opening of ‘Coast’, at The Resipole Gallery a few days ago. The exhibition features paintings by myself, painter Jim Wright and ceramics artist Helen Michie, until 22nd July.

This has a been a very special year for many reasons – I’ve loved painting this series of Ardnamurchan for the Resipole and felt fully immersed in the season of May and June there, exploring the Silver Walk near Castle Tioram and the stunning coast at Sanna Bay.

As mentioned in a previous post, I created a video featuring our new arrangement of a song about Ardnamurchan, originally written by songwriter Donald McColl, so I was delighted when the project featured in an artcle in the National, here it is! –

https://www.thenational.scot/news/20203905.landscape-artist-rose-strang-unearths-rare-scottish-gaelic-gem/

The exhibition launch on Sunday 12th was a pleasure to attend. It’s a four-hour drive to Ardnamurchan but worth every minute for what turned out to be a very enjoyable meeting with the other artists, Jim Wright and Helen Michie, as well as gallery owner Andrew Sinclair and gallery manager Kerrie Robinson.

They did a fantastic job of presenting the exhibition, I think the colours, themes and mood of the works compliment each other beautifully …

It was lovely to hear the music of the McColl family (from a CD collection of pieces) played alongside our recent song arrangement, but especially enjoyable to hear live music from fellow exhibitor Jim Wright, who not only paints beautifully but also sings folk songs and plays guitar, all adding to the convivial atmosphere!

 

 

The best thing about this year though, is this! …

Adam and I got engaged! It’s a very special ring; the stone is taken from a rock I found on the Isle of Iona about thirty years ago. It’s from a rare seam of white marble streaked with green serpentine that’s found on the south coast of the island – the same stone was used for the alter of Iona Abbey.

Adam asked if he could take a small piece from my rock to use for the ring, which he’d designed and had cast in white gold. He polished up the rough cast ring, sawed the tiny piece off the rock, then buffed it down to fit, before sealing the stone in the encricling metal and giving the stone a final burnish.

To say I’m happy is an understatement. I think all those summery whites and greens in my Ardnamurchan paintings are saying something about the way I feel about it all … from the heart and soul.

Video project – a Scottish Gaelic song …

Here it is at last! As mentioned in my previous blogs, I’ve been working with two  talented musicians (my partner Adam Brewster and friend Donald Ferguson) and a translator (Ceit Langhorne) on a Scottish Gaelic song about beautiful Ardnamurchan.

It’s called ‘Nach Falbh thu air an Turas Leam’, which means ‘Won’t you go on a Journey with Me?’. Translation below the video. Hope you enjoy it!

 

The song was written by Donald McColl of Ardnamurchan (1901 – 1978) in 1975. It was re-recorded and arranged by Adam Brewster, Donald Ferguson and myself with kind permission of the McColl family and also thanks to the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh, where I first discovered the song. (Link Here – ‘Nach Falbh thu air an Turas Leam’ )

Without the help of Scottish translator and singer Ceit Langhorne there’s absolutely no way I could have sang the song – it was quite the learning curve, but so rewarding, and fun to work with Ceit!

It was wonderful to hear the sensitive and beautiful arrangement by Adam (harp) and Donald (guitar) taking shape. Adam also produced the song recording, which (despite my voice wavering here and there) sounds so lyrical.

Scottish Gaelic lyrics below, with English translation below each verse …

‘Nach Falbh thu air an Turas Leam.’

By Donald McColl- Ath Tharachail (1901-1977).

Translation and Transcription by Ceit Langhorne.

 

Sèist: Nach falbh thu air an turas leam

Gu Rubha Àird nam Murchan?

Far am bi na h-eòin cho basganta

A’ seinn sa bharraich uaine.

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

Chorus: Won’t you come with me on a journey

To the Point of Ardnamurchan

Where the birds so melodiously

Sing on the tops of the verdant birches

Won’t you come with me on a journey?

 

Bu mhiann leam a bhith nam fhòrichean

Air madainn òg-mhìos driùichdach 

Na h- eòin air gleus sa chamhanaich

A’ seinn le blàs san ùr-choill’

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

I would greatly desire to be alone

On a dewy June morning early

The birds with their reeds tuned on the branches in the gloaming

Singing a song with a fresh voice in the blooming forest

 

Nach bòidheach bheus de bhruaichean

Is beus an duilleach fuasgailt’

S’an t-seòbhrach bhan bhuidh’ spèisealta

A’sgeadachadh gach bruachaig

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

Lovely is the demeanour of the banks

When the leaf is unfurling

And the exceptional dapper-white primrose

Decorating every bank.

 

Na mhòrraichean tha rùnaichean

Le neòinean cùbhraidh fionn-dearg

Is leat-ghaoth tinn (?) na h-oiteagan

Le’m bholtrachas gad ionnsaigh

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

The marvels of the land that are beloved (?)

The fragrant sweet pale-pink daisies

The (?) wind and the breezes

Fragrantly coming towards you

 

Far am bi na fèidh s’ na fireachan

Cho ionmhalta a’ gluasad

Tha a’ dìon na coilltean taitneach

Nuair a thig an gailleann cruaidh orr’ 

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

Where the deer on the rough moorland

So admirable, praiseworthy moving

Making for the pleasant burns for shelter

When the tempest comes upon them

Nach Falbh thu air an Turas Leam

 

Gu Rubha Àird nam Murchan?

Far am bi na h-eòin cho basganta

A’ seinn sa bharraich uaine.

Nach falbh thu air an turas leam?

 

Ardnamurchan complete series

Above – Pine Trees, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Acrylic and oil on 47×47″ canvas. Rose Strang 2022

This last painting completes the series for the upcoming exhibition at the Resipole Gallery, launching 12th June this year.

These give an idea of scale …

All paintings in the series below.

By Monday I’ll hopefully be posting progress on the video I’m editing, it’ll be a busy weekend!

Ardnamurchan series day 4

Above – Sanna Bay 2. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 47×47″ canvas. Rose Strang 2022

A serendipitous painting today – I started sketching in the composition lightly in paint and decided I liked the tranquil simplicity of it. I might add a tiny bit of detail to the clump or rock and seaweed on the left but happily I think I’ve captured something of the luminous stillness of Sanna Bay.

I’ve never painted at this size (47 by 47 inches – about 4 by 4 feet) but it felt quite free-ing surprisingly. I have one more painting to complete at this larger size then all seven will be finished.

This series is for the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan. The exhibition (a two-person exhibition with artist Jim Wright) launches on Sunday June 12th.

Yesterday I mentioned the song I’m learning by Donald McColl. His family have kindly granted permission for me to record the song and I’m now learning the Scottish Gaelic lyrics phonetically, with a lot of help from Ceit Langhorne who’s a Scottish Gaelic translator and singer who I first met on the isle of Eigg in 2014 at a ceilidh.

I remember asking Ceit if she knew any songs of the sea which she did, so I recorded it under a beautiful full moon on Eigg. Here’s my post from the time! –

Gaelic song on Eigg by Ceit Langhorne

I hope to record the song soon and will post that here when it’s finished.

Ardnamurchan series day 3

Above – Birches, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 31×31 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

Below – Tioram, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 31×31 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

2 Tioram, Silver Walk. Ardnamurchan

Two more paintings for the series of Ardnamurchan, which I’m creating for the Resipole Gallery. Exhibition launches 12th June this year. I’ll be travelling up from Edinburgh for the launch so if you’re planning to drop in I’ll be there to say hello!

I’m also working on recording a song, discovered in the the archives of the School of Scottish Studies. It’s by a singer and songwriter called Donald McColl and it’s about the flora and fauna of Ardnamurchan. I’ll be adding it to a video I’m also making about the series.

More on all of that soon!

Resipole Series day two

Above – Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. Oil on 34 by 24 inch wood. Rose Strang 2022.

Below – Sand Dunes, Sanna Bay. Ardnamurchan. Oil on 30 by 30 inch canvas. Rose Strang 2022

Sand Dunes, Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan

Two more paintings today. The subtle greens and whites of the sand and sea at Sanna Bay, and the dunes as you approach Sanna Bay with a beautiful early summer blue sky on the horizon.

These paintings are a new series for an exhibition at the Resipole Gallery launching 12th June this year.

Ardnamurchan in May. New series …

Above – Silver Walk, Ardnamurchan. Oil on 34 by 24 inch wood. Rose Strang 2022.

This painting is the first in a series I’m creating for an exhibition which launches 12th June at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan. The show will feature work by myself and landscape artist Jim Wright.

It’s such a pleasure to create a series for the Resipole as it means I get the chance to travel up to Ardnamurchan for inspiration. It’s a beautuful part of Scotland, quite remote and unspoiled, though these days there are more visitors than when I first came, in 1992.

I was entranced by the ancient forest of birch and oak growing all the way down to the sea, and of course Castle Tioram, which featured in my Planet Narnia paintings inspired by the book Planet Narnia, and the cosmos as understood in the Medieval imagination.

I  wrote about the forests of Ardnamurch in 2018, exploring the idea of a community of trees and the discovery by scientist Suzanne Simmard that trees ‘talk’ or communicate as an eco-system, through mycelium – a complex root system of fungus that sends ‘signals’ from tree to tree.

Wandering through the forests of Ardnamurchan, you really feel the alive-ness of the forests here, many of which have been left untouched for hundreds of years. In the case of Ariundel oak forest in east Ardnamurchan, thousands of years!

So in this new series, I’m tackling a subject I’ve long wanted to paint – the Silver Walk near Castle Tioram. We went there a couple of weeks ago in early May, a time at which the forest is at its most vibrant I think. It was shimmeringly beautiful, luminous in fresh green leaves and the seas reflecting cerulean blue skies. Sometimes when I’m in a place like this I feel almost overwhelmed – my mind, emotions and senses being flooded with luminous colour. It felt idyllic too that it was warm enough to sit there in a T-shirt and paint some sketches!

I think my painting above is a good start, I want to keep it loose and light in feel to express the feeling of Ardnamurchan in May.

I’ll be posting the paintings as they’re created every couple of days. In the meantime, here are a few photos of us in Ardnamurchan this May! ..

Chancelot Mill

Above – Chancelot Mill, oil on 33×23 inch wood panel.

A change of scene from landscape in today’s painting of Chancelot Mill. Well, it’s urban landscape I suppose. The frustrating thing about photographing blues and greens is that my basic camera can’t pick up the subtleties – the colours don’t balance. I may have this photographed by someone with a better camera and colour recognition software (namely my partner Adam!) Anyway, I wanted to paint that infinite velvety sky and the way the building enhances it. I found that simplifying the buildings helped the composition and brought the sky out more.

Chancelot Mill is a flour mill in Leith. Its predecesor was Chancelot Roller Mill which (if you’re from Edinburgh and find this interesting) used to be near Gosford Place. I’ll be doing a series of three paintings of Leith’s industrial landscape over the next week.

I’m also excited about my new exhibition coming up in June, for which I’ll be painting a series inspired by the landscape of Ardnamurchan and the west coast of Scotland. The exhibition launches on the 12th June this year at the excellent Resipole Gallery. I’ll be showing as part of a two-artist exhibition with landscape artist Jim Wright. I’m hugely looking forward to a painting trip to Ardnamurchan at the start of May this year!

From Iona to Staffa

Above Iona to Staffa 3. Oil on 12 x 12 inch wood.

This series is inspired by a trip to the islands of Iona and Staffa last year. Although I’ve been visiting Iona since about 1991, I’d never been to Staffa – surely one of the wonders of the world with its astonishing hexagonal basaltic columns and sea caves surging with green water.

At first I wanted to capture something of the feel of the journey, which was in fact quite wild – in a small boat on a tumultuous sea in dazzling sunshine – we even saw dolphins! It was the underlying sense of myth that stayed with me though.

Iona’s spiritual history is well-known – St Columba, an Irish prince said to be exiled because of a violent dispute, travelled to Iona and began a life of spiritual contemplation with a group of monks back in the 6th century. His journeys around Scotland are remembered in history, also in tales of miracles. He was no doubt a complicated human being who’d lived a violent life in Ireland, who changed during his time on Iona – devoting his life to religion.

The island itself was said to have a druidic past. This is part speculation as those times weren’t recorded in written language in the same way as  Christian history was. Place names around the island do suggest this pre-Christian history though. It’s suggested that the Book of Kells was written by monks on Iona some time in the 9th century, but the book is now at Trinity College Dublin. Some believe the book was created in Kells, Ireland, but if you consider the fact that part of north-east Ireland and the west coast of Scotland were essentially one nation at the time, called Dalriada or Dál Riata, then it could make sense that the book might be written in the peace of Iona and taken to Kells when Iona was later attacked by Vikings.

Monks were drawn to such places at this time in the past, in the spirit of the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers’ – a tradition inspired by Jesus’s contemplation in the desert. Basically, anywhere remote and removed from society was seen as ‘desert’ – a place to contemplate God.

Staffa, which is about 7 miles from Iona, has a mythical history stretching far back into the mists of time! It’s other name is Fingal’s Cave – inspired the myth of Fingal (Fin means light and forms part of the name of the port on Mull from where you travel to Iona – Fionphort) from ancient celtic stories. This can be a confusing subject because there was in fact a series of poems called ‘Ossian’s Tale’, created by author James MacPherson, about Fingal, but this series of poems was discovered to be ‘fake’ – not the work of a real person called Fingal from the ancient Celtic past. The stories were gathered from ancient Celtic poems though, and so it is a fascinating work.

I won’t get too detailed here about the confusion of myth, and translations from original Scottish Gaelic myths and stories by McPherson – Ossian’s Tale does mention numerous place names that still exist, and which made up Dalriada in Scotland and north-east Ireland in the third century. The myths probably refer to an ancient warrior, said to be a giant, who created Staffa as a stepping stone from Ireland to Scotland. This refers to ‘The Giant’s Causeway’ on the coast of northern Ireland which shares the same hexagonal basaltic stone features as Staffa.

Well, that’s a lot of info, which may give an idea of why I wanted to capture a sense of myth from my trip to Staffa from Iona! It doesn’t really explain the way I feel about such an experience though. Suffice to say, it stimulates my imagination and despite the numerous tourists that throng the islands these days, I still feel the spiritual pull of these places.

I used to visualise lying in a wooden boat in the crystal clear green water of the Sound of Iona, rocking gently on the waves in the sun. Where Iona feels gentle, Staffa feels almost overwhelmingly dramatic –  you feel you’ve taken part in a real life myth when you travel there.

I’ll end this post with some of my photos of Staffa …

'Through Kintail 2'. Oil on 33x23" wood. Rose Strang 2020

From the Mountains to the Sea

I’m delighted to see that my large painting ‘Through Kintail 2’ (above) has sold in the latest Limetree Gallery exhibition From the Mountains to the Sea. I think it looks considerably better in real life than from a photo, so I was very pleased to see it exhibited ‘in real life’ since most exhibitions during lockdown have been online.

Two of my paintings remain in the exhibition; ‘Through Kintail 3’ and ‘Through Kintail 4’, images below. You can browse these, and the other beautiful works in the exhibition on the gallery website Here

This series was created as part of a wonderful journey to Ardban in Applecross. Getting there takes you through the mountains of Kintail which looked so classicly Highland-y in their autumn colours and misty weather. I love road paintings which always give the sense of a journey.

This year I’ll be exhibiting in an exciting new two-person exhibition at the Resipole Gallery in Ardnamurchan, more details to follow! …