ELLIS O’CONNOR: Residency, 2014
January 2014. Slowing down, ongoing thoughts and connecting with nature. My intentions for my Artist’s Residency for the week stay at the Bothy were to build up work that captures the feelings, essence and atmosphere of the place and of being isolated in the wild. Secondly an outlet for my work, to allow it to flourish in the right wild environment and thirdly to document a diary each day focusing on the spirit of place within the forest. I came away with so much more.
I have always been drawn to the remote, sublime and natural areas of Scotland and within my work, put across the feelings of the spirit of the place and panoramic markings. And so within the Bothy I was able to think more clearly, allow myself to slow, connect with nature and truly realise what I wanted to accomplish within my artistic practise.
Driving into the mountains, I am already connected to the wilderness, I already feel my pointless worries slip away.
Stark quietness, the presence in the woods and the back to basics way. Upon arrival at the bothy I was overwhelmed by the stark lonely setting of the Bothy in relation to the outside world.
I already feeling settled within the sublime place.
The only sounds that surround me are the ones of the crackling fire, the howling wind, even the quietness has a sound.
The complete darkness outside, the dark comes in quickly around 4:30pm, I only had a few hours to do some writing before it took over.
Immersing myself into the quiet calming wilderness.
I feel comforted by the surrounding woods and I settle in.
I woke up to a view of trees. I look across and see the first light shining on the mountains captivating me instantly. Cocooned by nature.
‘The Mountains are by their nature immovable. Yet everything else is so changeable, we feel the rhythms of nature yet the mountains steady us.’ Hamish Fulton.
It’s a strange thing that I am already unaware of time here, early morning light turns to early darkness so you really have to make the most of it.
No thoughts of the modern outside world, your worries are based on the basic necessities of fire, light, water and making. It’s refreshing. It’s when you realise that all outside problems become insignificant your vital survival and true human instincts come in.
The Freedom and Simple beauty is too good to pass up.
My first task of my practise is to start working instantly on my large rolls of paper. Letting the elements affect the paper, layer, paint and use natural found materials to become part of the work itself. The way the ink runs down and merges with the washes and rain water lets the work and mark making become uncontrollable like the wild.
I take a walk down to the River Spey in the setting light and it instantly reminds me of the scene in ‘Into the Wild’ when is alone in the wilderness on the banks of an Alaskan River.
Walking wherever through this endless forest, I stop and the rays are focused on my face, all that surrounds me are the trees and the mountain’s, I feel elated I could walk anywhere out here and feel connected to the place. Wide open spaces yet with the security of the trees.
All is possible here.
The remaining sunlight falls dimly through the forest, I catch a plane flying high in the Sky, and I already feel so disconnected from that world.
The darkness of the sky, the fading blue as the backdrop against the branches.
At night, again, I am enveloped by the complete darkness of the woods, yet sheltered by the warming light of the Bothy.
The sounds, the smells of the firewood walking back from the surrounding areas to the Bothy, they have all became familiar to me. It’s this basic human relationship to nature that is of great importance.
The silence, space to think and the unawareness of passive time.
Reflecting in the morning light, I realise I have an increased amount of thinking time, thoughts that are of upmost importance to my practise but often get overlooked due to deadlines.
Is there still true wilderness here?
I wrote this,
Expanses of forestation and land
The land surrounds me
Trees they comfort
Lost in the wild
By the presence of nature
I walk silently,
Forever losing track of time
No significance of outside noises or meanings
I am here
Tread softly through the terrains
Reading in the pathless woods, I am accustomed to this place, showering in the wild, hot water tingles against the coldness of the air.
No – one else treads here for I am completely free.
It is completely humbling to be living in a way that does not ask for the help from modern society. No need for electricity, all work therefore feels more accomplished, no easiness, just you, your thoughts, the very basis core of your spirit and the necessities to get by. You ease into a way that follows the rhythm and flow of nature and the surrounding wilderness. A deeper connection to humanity, the real way of life, no reliance on the often toxic pressures of modernity.
I am secure within the wild.
Later today, amongst the forest, I sit, I listen, I hear the birds echoing in the distance, the Spey splashing down the hill. But here I am sitting writing, lay right down on the wet leaves surrounded by it all.
It is the sounds of the wind or Loch? I don’t know anymore.
I am looking past the landscape, what is beneath it and reading into the true significance. Our connection to these overwhelming landscapes goes a lot deeper than our simple vision of the Mountains.
Mountains from my mind.
Morning rise, look out from the Bothy to the Mountains peaked in snow through the gap in the forest. The mountains are very misty today, from far away I can just make out the textures, contours and lines upon their surface.
Working on my drawings again in the early light. Sitting on the ground, allowing nature and the unforgiving elements to set to work on my paper. The heavy rain drops on my drawings and I don’t mind that, it allows the effect to take place.
Everything here engages my attention, the light rain falling on the trees, the crackling of the fire, echoes in the forest.
Here I am without distractions and allowing my mind to think clearly again.
Quietly listening to melodies whilst drawing and contributing to my practise by candlelight, focus is complete.
Awoke today early, so completely used to this place.
Do not want to reconnect with society, the absence of infiltrating sources has left me renewed.
I took some photos in the new light.
I will never get tired of roaming this forest.
The weather is surprisingly still, the forest barely moves above me.
I realise that this way of life is completely achievable, it connects you to nature and the way it’s supposed to be.
Today I took a trip to Loch Eilean today, so close to the Mountains. The dark loch yet the still pure light shining upon it.
I walk to the top of the Hill and all I see around me are the mountains and tree tops, a panoramic view. I forever want to be outside in this environment. A full 360 movement of what the views offers me, ridges of mountains, and the light highlighting the forms, the snow merging with the horizon of the sky, forestations in the South.
I see everything in a new light, all of nature catches my eye.
Smelling the spruce, moss and ferns, taking it all in, closing my eyes on the forest bed.
Closing my eyes, settling into the undergrowth, breathing it all in.
This view never changes, it welcomes you in.
‘Temporary isolation, a kind of deepest concentration on oneself and self – recovery not to avoid temptations, but obligations. Away from the tyranny of stimuli and influences which sentence us to spend our strength in reactions and does not permit us any more to let accumulate to the point of spontaneous activity.’ Nietzsche
There is a clear detachment from the world behind in this remote place.
Being here has allowed me to realise that not only does being alone in an isolated beautiful landscape resonate deeper overwhelming feelings within us, but it lets us connect with our inner selves, the wild is an untamed place where we find clarity in these places as they are untouched, unruly and natural, a complete connection.
The bothy is in a natural place which offers us a lot more diversity than the economic world which has been played and set.
The terrains and elements are a lot more spontaneous here, it ties in with my thoughts, allowing my mind to breathe from interference.
To the West are the peaks
And the east are the lines,
Tower over me, still yet further out the storms are brewing
The sunsets beyond the forest
The calm before the storm
Cocooned within the trees, I wait
Everything is so real, knowing that it’s naturally this way heightens the feelings.
The wide open vast spaces open my vision and my mind. They bring freedom to me.
Because I am here in the forest, I am experiencing time differently, I am experiencing a place that has very little human intervention, and I could be in any period or certain space. I have no awareness of urgency around me.
I have been at the Bothy for 5 days now and it is hard to think outside of the isolated landscape and where I am. I have no inclination to do so, submerged in my practise.
I have been forced to slow down here.
This is my last full day here at the Bothy.
I stood silently outside breathing in the familiar fire air. The sun peaking right over the line of the forest, casting everything in an orange glow.
Looking straight out to the mountains.
I’m not ready to leave, I will leave here with a true realisation of life and my thoughts restored in quiet isolation.
The forest shining after the rain fall.
Photographing my work today in the wild, it works better within the landscape, a true influence. I have worked outside every day in the elements, it has allowed me to fully express myself as an artist, no limits and pure inspiration in the midst of it all.
The darkness creeps in quietly here and quickly, the dark blue of the skies, revealing the mountain forms far out.
Clear mind and clear thoughts.
Folk songs in the background, drawing and reading.
I have to go.
I placed a piece of my work within the land surrounding the Bothy, a clear reminder of always looking out to the Mountains.
Sad to leave the wild.
I will be back.
‘There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.’
George Gordon Byron
The Bothy allows us to escape from the monotonous routine and think about what you really want to do. The thought process and the slow unchanging rhythms of the land.
I realised a few things on departing and from my ongoing contemplation throughout my time spent at the Bothy. The outside world is full of distractions, it is good to be alone and allow yourself to connect with nature, your thoughts become simpler day by day, and no pollution from civilisation and so you truly realise what you want to do and accomplish. I left the residency with a new body of work built from time spent within the cold elements, new drawings, a lot of photographs and also numerous writings from my wanderings in the forest.
I already have an altered and refreshed perspective.
Peaceful and small basic comforts, I go back into the world renewed with a quiet mind.
Long live remote wild and sublime places!