Landscapes Beneath

With our feet firmly on the ground we can be confident we are in the landscape.  However in some cases where we stand the remains of older landscapes can be found beneath us.  These remains can be buried deep beneath sediments: perhaps sealed beneath wind blown sands, covered by soils which have moved down steep slopes, or hidden by silts carried in waters when rivers flood.

Fragments of other landscapes can also be found preserved beneath waters.  One example is where dams have raised water levels during the creation reservoirs and submerged landscapes and buildings.  During some hot summers, when the water levels recede, a strange landscape is temporarily revealed.

The stone of structures is eerily clean, like bleached bone on a beach…

But it is not long, with the rains of autumn, until the waters reclaim them !


Above Scotland’s Landscapes

Our perception of the world was radically altered when the first images of the green and blue planet were received from space.  Similarly, when we fly (if we are lucky enough to get a window seat !) the views of towns, fields, woodlands, coastlines and mountains reveal patterns we can never see with our feet on the ground.

A fantastic new exhibition Above Scotland has just started at The Lighthouse.  It has been produced jointly between The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Architecture and Design Scotland and explores Scotland’s cultural landscapes from aerial photographic evidence.

The exhibition comprises a wide number of high quality aerial images which show the remarkable diversity and richness of Scotland’s landscapes.  The provision of large interactive magnifiers at each display panel not only gives a sense of viewing the landscape through a plane window but also allows you to explore in more detail the complexity of the landforms, monuments and vegetation from above.

As well as the panels, there are several engaging, and fun short films, produced as part of the project.  These show the responses of local school children to local places as captured through their own aerial photography.  The exhibition is also complemented by the publication of a new book Scotland’s Landscapes.

It runs from 26th October 2012 to 23 January 2013, so plenty of time to go and get a different perspective on Scotland’s Landscapes…!


Past Inspired Sculpture 3

Another great example of past inspired sculpture is located on the University of Strathclyde campus in Glasgow.  The sculpture ‘Callanish (Steel Henge)’ by Gerald Laing was erected in 1974.  It comprises 16 steel pieces each 16 high, arranged in form that evokes the layout of Callanish, Lewis.

Its location and further art in the public realm in Glasgow can be found at University of Strathclyde’s Community Walk.  The monumental scale and nature of material of this piece means it is still a distinctive site in the city, which can be readily found when you look.  However, much art in the public realm does not survive as long as the near forty years of Gerald Laing’s, Callanish.  I wonder how many piece on the Active Art Trails can no longer be found, and are now no more than an archaeology of art…?

Transforming a Place

Walking through a familiar place in Edinburgh, and crossing a busy noisy junction with cars and buses hurtling past, I spotted signs on a building which I had never noticed before…!

One of the signs on the right side of the building says Guse Dub.  It refers to when there was a Goose Pond at this location in 1715, which was mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in an account of his child hood memories.

I paused and realised there was another sign, Transforming a Place, on the left side of the building.  It relates to a project from 2007-2009, as part of the Six Cities Design Festival.  One element of the design festival was a place making process for this location, with a series of design workshops which explored the history of the site and its potential future uses and appearance.  The sign has been set up by The Causey Development Trust who are trying to reclaim from the traffic this small urban historic space in Edinburgh for the people: Transforming a Place.

It will be interesting to see if the work of The Causey Development Trust transforms this place for people as opposed to cars….!

Exploring Landscapes Creativity Works

An interesting art project, Exploring Landscapes, by Creativity Works, has just started with seven artist residencies to creatively explore six parks in Pennine, Lancashire. They will be working with community groups to explore the ways in which people think about their parks, and they ‘hope to unearth stories, myths and memories from the local people who know the area best’.

Interestingly the seventh artist, Lawrence Molloy, will use digital technologies, via the Aleph Project, to engage with the work of the other six artists to create interactive treasure hunts.  It will be fascinating to see the results of a project which actively and creatively explores the tangible and intangible components of a particular type of landscape but links across six different sites.

If you live locally I am sure it would be a great project to get involved in….

Seeing “Sun Tunnels”

5000 Years of Human Creativity and Nancy Holt’s ‘Sun Tunnels’: wow wish I could be there.

UMFA Blog Archive 2009-2017

One of the most significant pieces of land art ever created, Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels”,  sits alone in a vast, barren landscape. Don’t believe me? Check it out here.

Or, if you’re a true seeker, you can do more than just point and click: join the artist Nancy Holt for a viewing of Sun Tunnels. (Find directions here). This incredible (and free) event will be happening on Saturday October 20 at 6:00pm.

The UMFA is so thrilled to have Nancy Holt, and we invite you to take full advantage of all the incredible upcoming opportunities to see her work and hear her speak. These are some good bets:

Thursday October 18 at 5:00pm  Nancy Holt Sightlines Opening Celebration (FREE)

Saturday October 20 at 6:00pm  “Sun Tunnels” viewing with artist Nancy Holt (FREE)

Tuesday October 23 at 4:00pm  Art Talk: Sun Tunnels Construction/Reconstruction (FREE)

And, in the mean time, track down

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Into The Earth: The Archaeology of Darkness

Landscape is experienced in a range of variable conditions, such as different weather and temperatures, changing light conditions and degrees of illumination.  Most of our contemporary experience of landscapes is during daylight, or if not, in urban contexts under harsh street lighting.

Moving through a landscape at night can be in remarkable contrast to daytime.  It can also be a highly variable experience: from traveling in what at first seems complete darkness through woodland on a cloudy moonless night, to walking along mountain paths on the night of a full moon.  The senses respond differently…

And nothing can compare to being in the true darkness of a deep cave with no illumination…!

At the end of the month, there is going to be what look to be a very interesting a conference, Into the Earth: The Archaeology of Darkness, at the Institute of Technology, Sligo.

One theme which will be explored is the ways in which individuals and darkness interacted in the past, and how this may have transformed places in the landscape in due course.

Seats of Seas Past

Oak seats shaped like boats could be found over looking the River Nith, at Glencaple, Dumfries and Galloway.  Created some years ago they were already aged and weathered when I last saw them.

They had been inlaid with names and dates commemorating local shipbuilding, travel and trade: a reminder of the rich heritage which relates to historic seascapes.

The landscape here is also marked by another dynamic, with the occurrence of a tidal bore up the River Nith.  I hope the seats, a perfect spot to watch the bore, are still there…?


Forests of the Future

I visited Loch Katrine recently and was inspired to see a 200 year vision for the future of the landscape through the creation of The Great Trossachs Forest.  The Trossachs is a part of Scotland with a rich heritage and a highly scenic landscape.  This landscape has inspired artists and writers from at least the 19th century onwards, and their work in turn has influenced the ways in which we perceive the landscapes of Scotland today.

A network of footpaths and interpretative material open up the landscape to visitors to explore and learn about the artistic and literary heritage of the woodlands.  At the mouth of Glen Finglas, is interpretation which is powered by the visitor…

Turn the handle and the voice of the past will fill the air…

The Art of Stonehenge

Further insights into art and creativity in the past have recently been revealed at Stonehenge. Analysis of a laser scan of Stonehenge, commissioned by English Heritage, has discovered many more prehistoric rock carvings on the surface of the stones. It has also revealed that the surfaces of the stones were finished differently.  Those stones on the north-east side of the monument have a finer surface finish, perhaps emphasising the importance of viewing the monument from this direction during the mid winter solstice.

More details can be found in the report.

Stonehenge Laser Scan Repor cover

A great example of the application of modern technology in helping understand creativity in the past.

The Art Of Urban Prehistory

A recent edition of Urban Realm has an interesting piece on urban sculpture by John Glenday with views from Andy Scott and David Harding.  In the piece, Great Outdoors, the legacy of public art in the new town of Glenrothes, Fife, is highlighted: something mentioned in a comment on an earlier post by Sheltering Memory.  Not least as four pieces of public art have apparently been Listed, which now affords them some protection in the planning system.  Of these David Harding’s pieces ‘Henge’ and ‘Industry, Past and Present’ perhaps most explicitly reference the past before the New Town.


More information can be found about the public art of Glenrothes in a recent publication by Historic Scotland ‘Places – Glenrothes Town Art’.  This details several trails in the town, so its certainly worth some time exploring the public art of Glenrothes.