Tag Archives: scottish landscape art

Edinburgh in the Snow (and a brief history of Edinburgh!)

Not for sale. Edinburgh Snow (High Street and Arthur’s Seat from Regent Road). Mixed media on 22×16 inch found wood panel. Rose Strang 2018

Today’s finished painting of Edinburgh in the snow. I’ll be submitting this for competition next month, wish it luck!

The view is from Regent Road looking across to Salisbury Crags on Arthur’s Seat. In the foreground you can see buildings of the Royal MIle obscured by snow.

I’ve deliberately kept it vague since that’s how it appears as you walk into a snow blizzard along Regent Road, which is underneath Calton Hill halfway down to the valley of the Royal Mile or High Street (my photo below from a few weeks ago) …

Walking along Regent Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wanted to get across the ‘feel’ of the Old Town, with its medieval buildings and wood timbers, hence the exposed wood in the painting and roughened edges, blurring old and modern buildings. Some close-up details below showing texture …

 

 

 

Edinburgh has just been voted the most popular tourist destination in the UK, and living here can make us a bit blasé about the features that make the city so unique and appealing, but the recent snow seemed to bring everyone out of winter hibernation. Arthur’s Seat was thronging with folks enjoying the snow – kids on sledges, a plethora of snowpeople! I slid about in the snow with my pal Donald, and it was great to see and experience…

 

 

And although I felt thwarted in my plans to get to the Cairngorms this spring due to train cancellations, I ended up appreciating Edinburgh instead. It is truly beautiful in the snow, hence these recent paintings (I’m working on a couple more).

So for those of you who don’t know so much about Edinburgh, and in the spirit of internationalism (and let’s face it, without the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh would be a fairly boring place arts and people-wise, not-with-standing my dear Edinburgh family and friends!) I thought I’d include some brief words about Edinburgh’s history.

Briefly though, today I decided for the first time to check overall blog stats since 2013 and it turns out that visitors to this blog include folks from, in order of most views:

UK, US, Germany, France, Poland, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland, Greece, Japan,  Brazil, Belgium, Russia, India, New Zealand, Denmark, Columbia, Portugal, Dominican Republic, South Korea, Singapore, Quatar,  Hong Kong, Austria, Norway, Mexico, Jordan, Serbia, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, Czech Republic, Finland, Chile, Pakistan,  Hungary, UAE, Croatia, Slovenia, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, ,  Philippines, Malaysia, Luxenburg, Argentina, Taiwan, Georgia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, China, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Malta, Nigeria, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Moldova, Albania, Panama, Vietnam and loads more going into vistor numbers under 50.

So, thank you to folks taking interest in an obscure Scottish painter’s blog!

Anyway, here we go with a condensed Edinburgh history (illustrated with my own photos) …

A condensed Edinburgh history …

Edinburgh Castle from Grassmarket

Edinburgh’s dramatic landscape was formed by volcanic activity that took place between around 358 and 298 million years ago.

The view from Edinburgh in my painting above sits between two of Edinburgh’s extinct volcanos – Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. If my painting panned to the right you’d also see Edinburgh Castle on top of the volcanic plug that forms the base of the castle.

After volcanic activity ceased, the landscape was submerged under sea water. Sedimentary rock (formed by waves of sediment washed over the land by water over millions of years) then began to form the Salisbury Crags (the cliff seen in my painting and in photo to the right), which were gradually tilted up to their current dramatic angle as pressure eased after the ice age.

The ice-age sculpted Edinburgh’s landscape into the shape it retains to this day – for example the ‘spine’ that forms the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood House was formed by retreating glaciers dragging or depositing debris with them to create a trail behind each hill and mountain.

18th cent’ map. ‘Spine’ of the Royal Mile, castle on left, Holyrood Palace at the right, at the bottom of the hill. http://www.royal-mile.com/maps/royalmile18thc.

These rocky promontories must have had immediate appeal to early settlers as look-out spots;  almost all of the summits of Edinburgh’s volcanic hills reveal signs of early bronze age people.

Although I’ve been walking around Arthur’s Seat since I was a kid, the fact that I now live so close to it has inspired me to explore more, and I’m beginning to get an ‘eye’ (with the help of my archaeologist friend Sabine!) for Bronze-age remains (shapes or patterns in the land as opposed to actual buildings) not to mention spotting Edinburgh’s early sites of worship, healing or spiritual interest – such as wells; the traces of which can be found alongside later Christian religious buildings and sites (more on this in later blogs).

Edinburgh in twilight from Arthur’s Seat. The castle easily spotable on the horizon

If we’re thinking about a definitive beginning for Edinburgh though, it would clearly be the Castle Rock; easily defendable with its sheer basalt cliffs. It was called Dun Edin (‘dun’ means hill) and we know that there were settlers there from at least 850BC

As more people settled around the dun, or rock, the city would have grown in reputation as a stronghold or well-defended fort.

 

 

The castle itself (or the original building) was built from around the 12th century. To protect the growing city that began to grow along the ‘spine’ of the Royal Mile down to Holyrood Abbey, a wall (the Flodden Wall, remains of which can be seen today) was built around the city, and this was the catalyst for the distinct, tall buildings or tenements that lined the Royal Mile or High Street.

A charming, cleaned up ‘close’ in Edinburgh’s High street today

Builders built upwards, not outwards, because of the restricting wall. As centuries passed this created fairly unsavoury conditions (extremely unsavoury by today’s standards!). Packed into twelve storey tenements, Edinburgh’s effluent had nowhere to go and (readers from Edinburgh will groan with boredom at this point, having heard this story too many times) the oft-heard cry of gardez l’eau (pronounced GARRRDY LOO! with a strong Scottish accent!)  rang in the streets as residents chucked the contents of their chamber pots into the filthy cobbled streets below.

(Edinburgh had long-held connections with France, for many reasons, hence the familiarity with French language)

Old Edinburgh featured narrow closes between the closely packed buildings

Disease was rife, and no matter how posh you might be, you lived cheek-by-jowl with ordinary folks. On top of that, numerous open fires in such a small, over-inhabited space meant that the High Street was black with soot and smoke, hence Edinburgh’s nick-name of ‘auld reekie’ (old stinky).

This issue (for Edinburgh’s rich inhabitants anyway) was finally addressed when an architecture design competition was held in the mid 18th century and a young architect called James Craig won (I think he was in his early to mid-twenties at the time, I’m not fact-checking most of this but do correct me if I’m wrong!).

James Craig’s plan for the New Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

new town splendour

The plan was to create an entirely new area outside the High Street/Royal Mile, across the valley (which now contains Princes Street Gardens and Waverley train station) to the north of the old town, hence why this area of Georgian architecture is called ‘the New Town’ to this day.

All the filth that had accumulated in the Nor Loch (the loch or lake below and to the north of the Castle Rock) was dredged, this, and the detritus from building the new town, was used to form a bridge south to north from old town to new town.

This was called the Mound, and atop of this now sits two of Edinburgh’s most elegant buildings; Edinburgh’s National Art Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy of Arts (Stock photo above right, looking west along Princes Street).

Only the richest inhabitants of Edinburgh could afford this new luxury accommodation, so people in Edinburgh’s Old Town still had to muddle along with their chamber pots, and up to the 1970’s, the High Street was seen as a bit seedy. Nowadays, it’s the most distinct part of historic Edinburgh and the most popular tourist destination. It retains an extraordinary level of historical features, not disimilar to cities such as York, which was similarly ‘neglected’, thankfully, for the sake of history at least.

This brings us pretty close to the present day, but the18a and 1900’s were truly, literally, headier times to say the least. Maybe it was imbibing all that volcanic spring water, but Scotland’s Enlightenment (much of which was born from, or whirred around the hub of Edinburgh)  is rightly perceived as impressive for a wee, chilly country in the north (read more Here)

As a born and bred Edinburgher, thinking about the sheer magnitude, depth and breadth of invention, creativity and brain power of Edinburgh’s Enlightenment days brings a tear to my eye!

Yet, as I wander around the slopes of Arthur’s Seat, the voices I wish I knew more about are those of Edinburgh’s less vocal past; ordinary folks who held sacred vigil at the wells of Arthur’s Seat, long before the hand of organised (politicised) religion silenced their voices and beliefs. We only know what their thoughts and beliefs may have been because of the numerous court cases at the time of the Protestant Reformation …

That will be the subject of my next painting series; the wells and springs of Arthur’s Seat. I know I’ve mentioned it several times, but it’s a bit ambitious, I’ve been researching alot – there is much mystery to reveal (genuinely, I’ve discovered some interesting, possibly new information about those times) and so I have now postponed the exhibition and event to the 21st June.

St Anthony’s spring, Arthur’s Seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harris paintings day 5

Today’s paintings of the luminous Na Buirgh beach on the west coast of Harris.

I’ve decided to go with the Gaelic place names for most of this series, mostly because it reflects the history of the island. Many of these are Gaelicised Norse due to Norse settlers and rulers in Hebridean history.

Na Buirgh is also written as ‘Borve’. ‘Na’ means ‘the’. Buirgh, roughly translated, means ‘burgers’ or inhabitants. It’s probably pronounced something like Na Beeyuryih.

I can’t speak Gaelic, though I know quite a few words (mostly through singing Gaelic songs and travelling through the west coast where the sign posts are in English and Gaelic). Opinion is divided on maintainance of Gaelic place names, since it costs double the money (same in Wales) but most feel it’s an essential way of keeping a language therefore a history, alive.

Of the (approximately) 26,000 plus inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides, about 50% speak Gaelic (in the 1920s it was around 75%).

There’s a lot of history surrounding survival of the Gaelic language. Since I’m not a historian I can’t do the whole subject justice here (and anyway this is an arts blog with occasional forays into other subjects) but to give a brief picture – the dropping numbers of Gaelic speakers in recent history has much to do with compulsory English taught in schools throughout the UK, but it goes back much farther than that, to the aftermath of the Jacobite wars.

It’s a history well worth exploring if you’re not familiar with it, basically Gaelic and Highland culture in general was suppressed after the final Jacobite rebellion at Culloden. Tartan was banned of course  – much later revived when Queen Victoria, much influenced by the romanticised Highland history as written by Sir Walter Scott, decided to build Balmoral and encourage the wearing of tartan and general symbols of Highland culture in general.

There is a very dark irony around that of course, since many of the more violent aspects of the destruction of Highland culture and society after 1745, in addition to the later Highland clearances, amounted to ethnic cleansing.

Written Gaelic looks unwieldy if you don’t know how to pronounce it, but hearing it spoken or sung is a different matter. Here’s acclaimed Gaelic singer Rachel Walker singing Braighe loch lall. (Braes of Locheil). If you’re interested in the translation I’ve included original Gaelic and translation below..

 

Lyrics: English Translation:
O thèid is gun tèid Oh I’ll go, I’ll surely go
O thèid mi thairis Oh I will go over
Gu innis nam bò To the cattle grazings
Far an ceòlmhòr ainnir Where the young women are tuneful
Sèist: Chorus (after each verse):
Ill ò bha hò Ill ò bha hò
S’na hao ri ri rì o hi S’na hao ri ri rì o hi
Hoireann o gù o hill ò bha hò Hoireann o gù o hill ò bha hò
Gu innis nam bò To the cattle grazings
Far an ceòlmhòr ainnir Where the young women are tuneful
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
Is earbag nan stùc And the little roe of the peaks
Tha lùghmhor eangar So nimble and lightfooted
Is earbag nan stùc And the little roe of the peaks
Tha lùghmhor eangar So nimble and lightfooted
A bhean an fhuilt rèidh Girl with the glossy hair
Guidheam fhèin dhut mo bheannachd I give you my blessing
A bhean an fhuilt rèidh Girl with the glossy hair
Guidheam fhèin dhut mo bheannachd I give you my blessing
Mo beannachd ad dhèidh My blessing go with you
Ged is fheudar bhith dealaicht Though we had to part
O thèid is gun tèid Oh I’ll go, I’ll surely go
O thèid mi dhachaidh Oh I will go home
Gu Bràighe Loch Iall To the Braes of Locheil
Far am bith fiadh s’an langan Where the bellowing stags are
(Sèist 2x) (Chorus 2x)

(from – http://www.celticlyricscorner.net )

Three days to go!

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On the west coast of Eigg last year

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about the upcoming exhibition launch and performances on Thursday!

I hope there will be a good audience, that everything’s just right for Atzi and Jennifer’s performances, but mostly I hope that people feel inspired, and feel some of the magic that I have while working with Atzi and Jennifer in the past year.

 

We’ve had a few collaborations over the past year, but Thursday represents the culmination of the Eigg project. We’ve all worked hard on this one, and it’s going to be truly special.

Yesterday I also received three very moving poems that Jennifer L Williams has written in response to the paintings and themes, which she’ll read aloud at the launch. I’ve attended many of Jennifer’s readings, so I know this is something that she has an outstanding talent for; expressing mood, atmosphere and meaning beautifully.

This video from last year is a reading of ‘Stormy Sky’ which Jennifer wrote  in response to my painting ‘Stormy Sky, Lindisfarne’

As mentioned in the previous blog, I’m also very happy indeed that Atzi Muramatsu will be performing ‘Gaea Metempsychosis’ (  inspired by his experience of the cliffs at the north end of the Isle of Eigg) with string quartet at the launch.

Atzi’s talent as a musician extends in many different directions; as part of the band he leads – Lypsync for a Lullaby – also as a cellist in traditional orchestra concerts and as a composer of contemporary music. I remember listening to one of his shorter compositions ‘5 Seconds Left’ a year ago, and thinking that I’d love to collaborate with him on art projects.

Last year I overlaid ‘5 Seconds Left’ onto a slowed down video I took of ferry waves on my first trip to Eigg in April last year, I love the mesmerising, gradually deepening thrum, echoing the movement of deep sea, and the inter-layering of voice (all Atzi’s voice as far as I know!)

As Atzi and Jennifer rehearse, and I get together the final details for the exhibition, I just want to say again what a pleasure and an inspiration it is to work with such talented and great people!

If you’re coming to the exhibition on Thursday (details Here) I look forward to saying hello!

Lastly, here’s a video which features my paintings from last year’s Eigg exhibition, Jennifer’s poetry, and Atzi’s improvised music piece to ‘Moonlight on Eigg’

‘Eigg Island’ Trilogy

Rose Strang 'West', 'North' and 'East'

Rose Strang ‘West’, ‘North’ and ‘East’. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panels

Rose Strang and artworks.(Photography Eleni Laparidou)

Rose Strang and artworks.(Photography Eleni Laparidou)

The trilogy of ‘West’, ‘North’ and ‘East’ were painted over two months as the culmination of a year-long project in response to the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, which included collaborations between myself, composer/cellist Atzi Muramatsu and poet JL Williams

 

 

West – Singing Sands

'West - Singing Sands'. Mixed media on 40x40" redwood panel

‘West – Singing Sands’. Mixed media on 40×40″ redwood panel

West – Singing Sands. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel
‘West’ is about imagining an island;  what we project onto an island
in our imagination before arriving. The painting could be viewed as an old map, or a faded
painting of a view across the sea. We bring our own and others’ history to a new place.
‘Singing Sands’ refers to the name of the bay on the west coast of the island,
whose sands are said to ‘sing’ when dry (which intrigued me before I first visited Eigg!).

This painting was a very gradual process of building up then scraping back layers of paint, crackle glaze and varnish.

North – Transmigration

'North - Transmigration'. Mixed media on 40x40" redwood panel

‘North – Transmigration’. Mixed media on 40×40″ redwood panel

North – Transmigration. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel
‘North’ is about the reality of nature on a Hebridean island, the toughness,
grittiness of weather and atmosphere – also fear of nature and how
it can feel impersonal. We observe it and wonder if we’re really a
part of it, though of course we are.

North (detail)

North (detail)

The small figure on top of the cliff is Atzi Muramatsu, a composer/cellist who I collaborated with on the project.
Sitting on these cliffs on the north end of the island (as part of a geology tour we joined) he began to compose a piece for string quartet called ‘Gaea Metemphsychosis’.

Metempsychosis is about transmigration of the soul and ‘Gaea’ of course means earth.
His piece was about fossils in these cliffs, formed 47 million years ago, slipping into the sea, also being there in a moment of time and the fact that we too eventually become part of the landscape again.

This is a very free-style painting, the basic composition was over-laid with washes and splashes of salt, glaze and paint to build atmosphere, before finally adding the figure.

East – Harbour

'East - Harbour'. Mixed media on 40x40" redwood panel

‘East – Harbour’. Mixed media on 40×40″ redwood panel

East – Harbour. Mixed media on 40×40″ wood panel
‘East’ is a view of the harbour bay from the island, looking out to
sea. There is the sense of a haven, which has a lot to
do with people met there, but also the fact of physically having being on
most parts of the island. You find your place, then leaving to
return to the mainland brings mixed feelings. Islands can seem an oasis from
a troubled world, which is no doubt why religious or spiritual centres are often
founded on islands.

East (detail)

East (detail)

The painting process was in itself very peaceful; simple layering of colours and glazes, allowing drips to form, then adding the small boat.

 

 

 

After the exhibition launch I’ll be sure to post videos/photos of JL Williams and Atzi Muramatsu’s performances, which I’m really looking forward to seeing next Thursday!

A magical evening at the Whitespace Gallery..

P1130836To spend several months painting a subject can be quite a solitary challenge,  though meaningful. Then when you share your efforts with the public, it’s a vulnerable moment to see your paintings (which seemed such large swathes of blank canvas) for the first time in the gallery, where they appear to be swallowed up in public space!

 

P1130803The journey from personal to public was borne along on a tide of good feeling, thanks to the help of family and friends! But also by two very moving performances by Jennifer L Williams and Atzi Muramatsu, who responded to the paintings in poetry and music.

 

 

 

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Jennifer recited three poems, one of which was written in response to ‘Mountains of Rum from Laig Bay’, and Atzi improvised on cello to several paintings in the exhibition.

I was so very moved by their artistic responses, I found them quite magical, and I’ve included two videos here, along with the text of Jennifer’s poem.

The videos below (taken with my little digital camera!) show part of Atzi’s performance (mostly in response to ‘Moonlight on Eigg’). Followed by the poetry recital by Jennifer (also the poem text, and paintings – ‘Moonlight on Eigg’ and ‘Mountains of Rum from Laig Bay’ below the video links) …

Link: Cello performance, Atzi Muramatsu

Link: Poetry recital, Jennifer L Williams

Poem by Jennifer Williams:

Who lived in a country place as we do

The dead call out to the dead. David Harsent

Looking in from outside where the fire is burning
Looking in from outside so our hair seems to be on fire
Looking into the empty house whose only
People are the forgotten memories of ourselves

Looking in at the tides of dust and the peeling of mirrors
The peeling whose iridescence is reminiscent of shells
The pealing of bells signalling a memory about to appear
Long-buried because of its too-great pleasure

Silent as the witches whose innocence welds the tongue
Outside where we belong with the fire and the sea’s glass
Its waves of green astonishment lavishing the sand
The creatures of the deep and the wild salt

Looking in at our own reflection with sleep-heavy eyes
As if a spell has been cast from which we cannot wake
Our hands forever wet with the birth milk of the milkweed
Our breath, our image in the painting, fading

'Mountains of Rum from Laig Bay'. Acrylic on 40x30" canvas

‘Mountains of Rum from Laig Bay’. Acrylic on 40×30″ canvas

 

 

 

 

 

'Moonlight on Eigg'. Acrylic on 20x16" canvas

‘Moonlight on Eigg’. Acrylic on 20×16″ canvas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I felt so uplifted and inspired by the preview night, and I really look forward to future collaborations with Jennifer and Atzi. Also, many thanks to mum, dad, Alicia and Lucrezia for their help!

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(resting weary toes!) Rose, Alicia and Lucretzia

WEST; the west coast and beyond

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I really enjoyed the Gallery Ten exhibition ‘WEST the west coast and beyond’ today. Beautifully curated by gallery owner Paul Musgrave – I thought the pieces went very well together.

 

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I’ve added a images and links to the participating artists below. (two didn’t have links/websites though)

Sam Bain

8607485

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Faithful

image[120]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna King

721

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Laing

Val Menon

 

Norman McBeath

McBeathNorman-UntB1A71_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graham Muir

Waveform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilian Murray

GillianMurray-GrimsayOuterHebrides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Musgrove

Screen-Shot-2013-05-16-at-15.56.28

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shirley Smith

square rings

 

 

 

 

 

Gill Tyson

images

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Gallery Ten for putting together a really lovely show!