Heriot Toun in summer

Shetland residency

June 2018

WASP's residency space

Situated in Scalloway, on the Shetland mainland, the Booth is administered by WASP's, renting out the live/work space to artists needing space and time to develop projects.

The group of islands known as the Shetland Isles is dominated and arguably defined by the sea. Lying 100km north of mainland Scotland, its northerly latitude and remote situation has the North Sea on one side and the north Atlantic on the other, give it a symbolic and stragically important place in the northern hemisphere.  The sea is powerfully all around and where you can't actually see it, you can still feel its presence. Many a fine boat has been designed and sailed in these challenging waters, its maritime history rich with examples over the centuries. This is a place with a strong sense of itself and its culture. 

I'm here to work on an ongoing project exploring the concept and nature of belonging: what it means, what form it takes, what factors contribute to the feeling or idea of belonging to a space, a place or a community? What factors connect or resonate? I go wandering.

In Scalloway where I'm living for the duration of the residency, I find the site of the Shetland Bus boat slip. This is no ordinary boat slip despite its rust and weed-covered tracks (though I guess every slip has a few good stories to tell) but the starting point of many a treacherous voyage, a place of courage and bravery as well as hope. The Shetland Bus was the nickname given to an undercover operation during the Second World War to assist Norway which had been just been invaded by Hitler. The main objective of the Bus was to transfer agents, refugees, weapons and supplies, consequently aiding the liberation of their country from the Germans. Many small fishing boats, mainly under the cover of winter darkness braved the icy North Sea and the risk of German attack. Some story.  

The boat slip is discreet and half-hidden from the road - you might miss it if you weren't on the lookout. Surrounding it are many homes where generations of families grew up in the slip's presence, where a few will still remember and pass on the memories and stories that won't all make the text books. The slip is part of the backdrop to their daily lives.

I talk to people, I dig and I delve in the landscape and local culture. I film, I draw, I take sound recordings. I question, not looking for answers but hoping to form a loose structure or story that suggests and invites interpretation. I begin drawings with what I find on site; man-made and natural textures, raw 'pigments' and materials. I enquire visually in a variety of ways .

The on-site drawings I create here pick up the boatyard's years of use and history, the decaying timbers, the rusted metal, the eroded stonework, the untold stories. The images below show works in progress, pages from sketch books and preliminary drawings. Links to film will be added in due course.

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