Tanera Mor suite
The Summer Isles
I made these in the summer of 2014. They came out of what became a pilgrimage of sorts to Tanera Mor after reading Frank Fraser Darling’s Island Years, Island Farm.
I stayed in one of the cottages on the island for a week and made this set of four drawings over that time, three sitting on the shoreline and one from the cottage garden. The dates on the drawings refer to the time the drawing was finished, they were each worked on over several days.
Tanera Mor is a very small place. It does not take long to walk from one side to the other. The sense of it existing as an island first and foremost, surrounded by water, with an ever-present shoreline became the defining impression for me. Its beauty and poetry lie significantly in it being an island, cut-off, isolated, even though the mainland is only a mile or so away. I wanted the drawings to be a meditation in some way on this idea. This feeling is brilliantly presented in Darling’s Island Years, Island Farm in which he describes his family’s time on the island bringing back an abandoned croft to make into their home, to farm it, and to care for it. I was enthralled by the story.
The liminal space between foreshore and water became my working strip. On the shoreline the sounds of the water lapping against the rocks and the varying wind constantly agitating water and land provided me with a gentle soundscape. The meter of the sounds tapping out near-discernible rhythms with repeat patterns, a measuring of time of sorts whilst simultaneously blurring its length as I found time passing unnoticeably. I sensed the age of this rhythm: repeating itself daily, yearly, for centuries and millennia – my presence here, making the drawings, was, I was only too aware, a mere moment. I look back at the drawings now and see an attempt to express this rhythm through the structures and patterns of the line.
I perched on rocks to work with an essential midge coil burning constantly by my side. I was surrounded by grasses and lichens rich in variety of hues and shapes. These tough plants, clinging to and nestling into the textured, cracked surfaces of the boulders, belong totally to this landscape; battered by wind, rain, and salt spray with thin acidic peaty soils, their ability to survive and thrive put them, for me, at the heart of this place’s identity.
Sharing the shoreline with the rocks and flora was the equally complex and changing form of the flattened surface of the water, constantly re-setting its pattern, responding instantly to the fluctuations of the gusting wind: tensing, relaxing, darting, shimmering.
This contrast in form and movement of this shoreline environment, the land and sea defining each other through their differences and unavoidably expressing the idea of an island, became my motif for this series.