(Above: Among Elementals. The Living Mountain Series. Oil on 60x42cm wood. Rose Strang 2020.)
“A stunning series of images – a symphony of subtle essences, distilled experiences, fleeting memory fragments and deep, heart-felt lingering impressions.” *****
Giles Sutherland, the Times, 21st February 2023
It was an absolute delight to read Giles Sutherland’s sensitive, insightful review (link below) in The Times today. Not simply the understanding of intention and inspiration behind the paintings, but because it so succinctly gets to the core of why Nan Shepherd’s beautiful book The Living Mountain inspires artists and creative thinkers everywhere, especially in our contemporary times.
Here’s a link to the article (if you can’t access the article the text is copied in full below):
Rose Strang Review – Symphony of Subtle Essences and Impressions
Visual Art: Giles Sutherland
The Living Mountain – Dreaming a Response
Scottish Poetry Library
Until 31 March
STAR RATING: ***** (FIVE)
Not that long ago, in the mid 80s, in response to a question from a brave, young, female north American student, my Scottish literature lecturer opined that the reason there were no women writers on the syllabus was there that there were ‘no Scottish women writers of substance’.
How shocking that such nonsense was then so deeply imbedded in academe. The hapless lecturer had clearly not heard of Nan Shepherd, born in 1893, a native of Deeside and contemporary of literary luminaries such as Neil Gunn, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Marion Angus, Helen B. Cruickshank, and Agnes Mure Mackenzie.
Shepherd – whose literary ability was at least equal to that of her male peers – is currently undergoing a reappraisal and revival, supported by such talents as the writer Robert Macfarlane, and the artist Rose Strang. Strang’s paintings, which form the basis of this show, were commissioned to illustrate a new edition of Shepherd’s classic of nature writing, The Living Mountain, first published in 1977.
Following in Shepherd’s footsteps, Strang travelled to the Cairngorms, to places such as Càrn Bàn Mòr. Her journey provided inspiration for a series of nine oil paintings, inspired by the mountains’ genus loci and the fluid poeticism of Shepherd’s prose.
The result is a stunning series of images – a symphony of subtle essences, distilled experiences, fleeting memory fragments and deep, heart-felt lingering impressions.
Strang’s painting makes us ask deep questions about what painting is, how it functions and gives us answers to its ultimate purpose. Like Shepherd’s words, and indeed the Cairngorms themselves, these paintings work slowly, generatively taking hold of our senses and our imagination, striking deeply at our core or, if you like, our souls.
‘One cannot know the rivers till one has seen them in their sources but this journey…is not to be undertaken lightly. One walks among elementals and elementals are not governable…’ wrote Shepherd in the first chapter.
Strang’s ‘Among elementals’ deals with the idea of seeking the source of things, for like Gunn, Shepherd’s thinking was infused with the power of symbolism, so important in Eastern and Celtic culture. Here, as in the other paintings, there is a sense of wonder and the fragility of the human presence among the mountains’ deep geological time.
A wonderful film by Strang, with atmospheric music by Atzi Muramatsu, provides yet another accompaniment to Strang’s imagery and Shepherd’s words.
See this small but perfectly formed show if you can.
*The exhibition runs at the Heriot Gallery, Edinburgh, 17-23 April.