Shelter

I’m delighted to have my photography featured in the latest journal by RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) alongside work by Gunnie Moberg and Antonia Thomas. The subject of the Summer issue is ‘Islands’ and Orcadian architect assistants Mirka Borek and Andrew Dennison took the theme of ‘shelter’ to weave a great article about Orkney architecture. Valerie Gillies’ poem Marram from our recent collaboration When the grass dances also features. The Orkney article is on pages 30-38. Well done Mirka and Andrew. See the pdf here.

When the grasses talk

When The Grass Dances – Rebecca Marr and Valerie Gillies in conversation, at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness on Tuesday 10th May at 7:30pm.

Valerie will give readings from this collection of work that celebrates Scotland’s wild grasses, simultaneously Rebecca will project photographs of the grasses. 

During the presentation the artists will share insights into their collaboration When the grass dances including their way of working during a challenging year and will share quotes from some of the nature books they found inspiring. The artists will talk about recognising the grasses, spending time in their living world, coming to know their names. They will explore why it is good for our well-being to be outside watching the grass moving in the breeze, how it has a positive impact on us to see the diversity and variety of the pasture or the moor. They will refer to the way in which earlier generations used the grass in their proverbs and sayings and pose the question ‘how can these be helpful at specific times in our lives?’. 

£5 non-members, £4 members, £1 children

Tickets may be booked online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/orkney-arts-society or on the door.

Flagstones and Flotta

Some book news – three of my photographs have been published in the new Collins book by Pete Irvine Scotland the Best The Islands. Fellow Orkney photographer Ingrid Budge is also featured.

Tim & Jessie at the spoots, Papay / Stanger Head, Flotta / a shy Old Man of Hoy

And now a very different book with a very small area covered, just a few hundred feet but millions of years…

Blurb is offering my book Walking Lake Orcadie at 20% off from April 10-11. Put the code BOOKDEAL20 into the promo code box at checkout and click the “Apply” button to get the discount. If you live in Orkney save yourself the postage fee and support Stromness Books & Prints. You can find out more about the book here.

World Poetry Day

To celebrate World Poetry Day here is Valerie Gillies On Drowsy Brae

On Drowsy Brae

‘Whit are ye daein here, on Drowsy Brae?
Letting the gress grow aneath ye, in amang
this saft brome, weel-kenned as sleepies?’

Forwandert, we’re doverin ower,
takkin a rip o pluff-gress for a pillow
whaur it is nid-nod-nodding.

Oor darg maks us sair forfochten
and taigled wi aa the chainges,
we’ve lain doon, tyke-tired.

We’ll streek oor length on Drowsy Brae
for that’ll keep oor banes green.
We’ll sleep as soond as a peerie.

We’ll mind o this, when we wauken,
oor fowk were aye made o gress,
bairns o the yird an o the universe.

forwandert, weary with wandering

doverin ower, falling asleep

pluff-gress, Yorkshire fog

darg, work

sair forfochten, exhausted

taigled, tired, harassed

tyke-tired, dog-tired

yird, earth

From the collaboration When the grass dances

Artist Samantha Clark asks about the grasses

If you have ever been to Orkney you will know it is a landscape dominated by grassland. With few trees here, it’s the shimmering of grass that marks the movement of wind and sun, and its growth and decay colours the changing seasons.
– Samantha Clark

Valerie and I were delighted when Orkney based artist and writer Samantha Clark invited us to respond to her insightful questions for her blog. Read it here

https://www.samanthaclark.net/when-the-grass-dances/

Today and every day

header image: Bernice Abbot, Behaviour Of Waves 1962

A good day to revisit a post from a couple of years ago, but before we do…a woman whose work is new to me. I can’t stop thinking about it. Argentinian artist Ingrid Weyland’s Topologies of Fragility series working with crumpled prints is beautiful and angry. See more of her work here

Topographies of Fragility XXI Ingrid Weyland

Woman and a camera

First published 08 March 2020

Madame Yevonde 1965 self portrait National Portrait gallery

Today is International Women’s Day – a celebration of women’s cultural achievements and a call for the acceleration of equality for women. Here are some of the photographers I most admire (every day of the year), and they are women.

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) has been a huge influence in my seaweed photogram work. Producing the first ever photographically (photogram) illustrated publication ‘British Algae’, Anna Atkins is a seaweed sister.

Anna Atkins Alaria Esculenta 1849

Anna Atkins, Sargassum Plumosum c.1850

Madame Yevonde (1893-1975) was another pioneer, an early experimenter with colour photography. Everytime I look at this work I am astonished by the dates.

Madame Yevonde, Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa c.1935

Below some of Madame Yevonde’s advertising work 1937-1938

Hannah Hoch (1889-1976) was a Dada artist and an innovator in photomontage.

Hannah Hoch, The Beautiful Girl 1920

Hannah Hoch, Bouquet Of Eyes 1930

Bauhaus photographer Grete Stern (1904-1999) created a wonderful suite of dream photomontages following a commission for an Argentinian magazine’s weekly psychoanalysis feature.

Grete Stern, Eternal Eye 1950

Grete Stern, Dream No.1 Electrical Appliances For The Home 1949

Bernice Abbot (1898-1991) started as Man Ray’s darkroom assistant. She photographed the changing architecture of 1930s New York and used photography to document science concepts.

Bernice Abbot, Behaviour Of Waves 1962

Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was Life Magazine’s first woman photographer.

Margaret Bourke-White, Log Rafts, Canadian International Paper Company 1937

Margaret Bourke-White, Wind Tunnel Construction, Fort Peck Dam, Montana 1936

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) generated a wealth of beautiful images across architecture and portraiture. It is her still life and plant works that I enjoy the most.

Imogen Cunningham, Five Eggs 1951

Imogen Cunningham, Hand and leaves of Voodoo Lily 1972

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) ‘“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

Diane Arbus, Lady Bartender at Home with a Souvenir Dog, New Orleans L.A. 1964 

Cindy Sherman (b.1954) was a favourite of mine at photography college, in particular her Untitled Film Stills.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #58, 1980

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #5, 1977

My Fay Godwin (1931-2005) books of landscapes are usually nearby, but it is her series Glassworks that haunt me.

Fay Godwin, Meall Mor, Glencoe 1989

Fay Godwin, Untitled from NZ Glassworks series, 1990

Gunnie Moberg (1941-2007) the Swedish Orcadian, was a friend of Fay Godwin. I was fortunate to work with the Gunnie Moberg Archive for two years, a very stimulating time.

Gunnie Moberg, Honesty c.1995

Gunnie Moberg, North Ronaldsay Sheep Dyke c.1979


images from

Gunnie Moberg: Gunnie Moberg Archive, Orkney Library & Archive

British Library website

Imogen Cunningham Trust website

MoMA website

ArtBlat blogsite

chewonstyrofoam blogsite

brainpickings website

Grassy greetings

The new grass photogram cards have just arrived home. You can buy a pack of six different designs for £12.50 inc p&p. The cards are 147mm x 106mm on 350gsm card stock and come with white envelopes.

If you would like to order a pack contact me here.
You can follow the grasses and their poems by Valerie Gillies at whenthegrassdances.art

…and the beautiful cat lamp shade? That’s by Diana Leslie.

Pop up grasses

Look what’s popped up in the windows of Northlight Gallery in Stromness. A meadow of mixed grasses. And in January too.

There in the south window False Oat-grass and Pendulous Sedge have sprung up.

Pendulous Sedge
Carex pendula

The wind gaes reeshlin through risp gress
till a wheesht comes at the stillin o the air:
quaiet gies a sough, mair a glisk nor a soond.

Valerie Gillies

risp gress, sedges 
wheesht, silence, hush 
sough, whisper, murmur 
glisk, perception 

In the north, Great wood-rush and Soft Rush. And there in the east most window Tufted Hair-grass.

You can find Valerie Gillies’ poems for Tufted Hair-grass, Great wood-rush and False Oat-grass here.

The grasses will be in the windows of Northlight until Friday, but you can walk further in the sound of the field anytime you like in our new collection When the grass dances.

Thank you to Cary Welling at Northlight.

When the grass dances

Valerie Gillies & I invite you to walk with us among the grasses in our new collection of poetry and photography When the grass dances

The collection is in four parts. The first ‘Approaching the grasses’ is our introduction.

‘Knowing the grasses’ is about coming to recognise the grasses as individual species.

‘Using the grasses’ is concerned with the social history and customs around grass.

‘Living with the grasses’ sees the grasslands populated with the animals and birds of the field.

www.whenthegrassdances.art

This project was supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.