Everything is slower here. “In these crannies of the mountains, the mode of supplying elemental needs is still slow, laborious, personal… There is a deep pervasive satisfaction in these simple acts. Whether you give it conscious thought or not, you are touching life, and something within you knows it.” Nan Shepherd, ‘The Living Mountain’
The walk from the wood store to the axe’s haggar at the chopping block; the careful assembly of a rickle of broken fingers of kindling atop the reeshle of crushed newspaper, brought to fragile life by the flame of a single match, nursed until grown-up into a blaze enough to raise the rationed water from cold, to warm, to boiling. And then its almost ecclesiastical ministry to the coffee grounds, followed by the rich smoky smell, steam rolling over itself in ascension, the heat on the lips and tongue as the cup is drawn to the mouth, and then — finally — the taste.
Everything is slower here. And gratitude comes easily.
Glossary (with thanks to Nan) Haggar – clumsy hacking Rickle – a structure put loosely together, loose heap Reeshle – rustle
There must be many exciting properties of matter that we cannot know because we have no way to know them. Yet, with what we have, what wealth!
Nan Shepherd, ‘The Living Mountain’
Loch an Eilein
Such quality of light I have seldom seen. The Sun dropping behind the Cairngorms casts colours across the sky that bring to mind peaches, gold bullion, candy floss, the aphrodisiac neon of the urban — things that have no place here amidst the timeless Scottish hues of brown earth, of white frost, of mustard yellow and mauve heather.
Standing at the edge of a loch standing like glass, reflection is a natural process. The mind is drawn into reverential silence. Sentinels of the water, we stand as quiet as the venerable Scots Firs rising up from the earth around us. We don’t speak. To utter a sound now is to heave a rock into the stillness, disturbing the way things are: just as they are.
At the far side of the water, the slightest of breezes ripples the surface, trembling the Rorschach reflections of the forest. Its fringes become animated — pixelated, deconstructed, forms dissolving in skittering morse code dashes and dots.
Time doesn’t mean anything here. Each moment extends out fluidly, soundlessly, peacefully, magically.
RIC WARREN & SCOTT BROTHERTON: Self-Directed Residency, 2015
The Bothy Sketchbook. Normally working independently, Scott Brotherton (Lives and works in London) & Ric Warren (lives and works in Glasgow) are both visual artists who predominately exhibit sculptural works and are influenced by the materials, forms and experiences of our urban surroundings, distilled through minimalist artistic sensibilities. Our collaborative residency at Inshraich Bothy (November 2015) focused on the production and processing of research though drawing and initiated a creative dialogue as we developed artworks for our exhibition ‘Greyfield’ at House for an Art Lover. The exhibition for Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2016 presented an installation of new architecturally responsive sculptural works that reflected on the urban environment from the vantage point of the rural landscape, exploring material, spatial and political tensions.
A collaborative collection of sketches, drawings, collages, photographs and experiments produced during the week-long residency were made in to ‘The Bothy Sketchbook’ publication (printed by Newspaper Club), the pages of which can be seen below. We are looking forward to undertaking a residency at Sweeny’s Bothy on Eigg in January 2017 to develop a new publication and bodies of work. More information about our individual practices can be found on our websites.
I’m standing in the night. The Moon is shining and the snow is lying as a blanket over the plants and trees, giving off a warm silent vibe. At first I’m a little bit anxious, standing there alone. I look around me and listen if I hear something. …Nothing… Then I realise there is no reason to be anxious and I feel a calmness come over me.
The Bothy is surrounded by small hills. It feels cosy, I almost forget it’s cold outside. I’m walking back to the cabin, where I can sit by the fire and dream on.
I’m slowing down. Everything is at ease.
-WELTRUSTEN LIEVE SNEEUW-
I’ve collected soil during long walks, looking for the right colour and texture. In the Bothy I dedicated my time to make my own pigments with it. With these pigments I’ve made my own paint. My time in Inshriach gave me the opportunity to be outdoors for long hikes and to collect the mood of the forest.
My idea for my Artist’s Residency at the Bothy was a research into colour. I normally focus on shapes, but since I’ve started using pigments I’ve begun to realize how important colour is. I duplicated some colours of the Scottish nature as accurate as possible and explored different colour combinations at the Bothy location.
My eyes were constantly drawn to the different shades of colours in the faded and dead heather plants. Or fascinated by grass turning into a greenish blue because it’s lying in the water.
Because of a mutual fascination for nature and the use of natural paints a spontaneous cooperation developed between Lisa and Marloes.
Fascinated by organic forms, Lisa is seeking details that are reflections of the overall.
In search for emptiness, away from turbulence, Marloes is searching for the essence of raw landscapes. What keeps her busy is the question of how nature provides calm and refuge in a stressed society.
One week after our return to the Netherlands we were selected to take part in a artist in residence in Amsterdam, in which we were interviewed and filmed by the national art and music radio program ‘Opiumop4’. During this week we had the opportunity to develop our projects started in the Bothy. In the following link you can see our process.
Stilled life with moving trees. I arrived during a week of gales. The Cairngorms are windy at the best of times, yet I’m accustomed to being on the brittle granite plateau where the combination of altitude and the persistence of the wind creates a sub arctic landscape, a place where plants hug the land tightly. However because of the wind’s excessive force and unpredictable cloud level, the snow covered plateau became, in essence, out of bounds.
I found myself walking in the lower areas of the Cairngorms, along the passes, up into the more modest hills adjacent to the plateau, to hidden lochans, and into the forests – Inshriach and Rothiemurchus, generally less familiar territory for me since I usually seek out high places.
The trees became the most dominant part of my experience. Sat in an elevated hollow, surrounded by a wood of silver birch interspersed with dwarf juniper, the bothy is quite protected and sheltered. Unless you know it’s there, or happen to walk close along the trail, you’d probably be oblivious to its very existence. I spent a good deal of time watching the trees and their movement, and listening to their sound, mixed in with the white noise of the River Spey which flowed in spate and flood nearby.
I came with a loose idea of some work I could make, thinking that a plan would be wise, but soon abandoned it, and learned to leave preconceived notions well alone, and simply be with the place. Nan Shepherd’s short text, the living mountain guided me well in this sense, (and, struck by it’s notable absence on the bothy’s bookshelves, I popped out to Aviemore to buy a copy to leave as a gift).
The work didn’t come, but the time to think, and reassess aspects of my life and practice did, and I felt the repercussions of the trip perhaps more clearly once I returned home. I needed the time away, the space to be undisturbed by modern distractions such as the compulsion to check email. Technology has become particularly invasive and guilty of imposing a syncopated rhythm to lives that could be led more simply.
As someone who has always loved solitude, I don’t think I’d appreciated how difficult complete solitude really is however, (thank goodness for a battery powered radio playing Radio 4!). Inshriach can be a quiet place, but on reading the bothy book, it’s clear that for most people, residencies here are anything but solitary, and spur on collaboration.
But the motion of walking is an antidote to too much solitary sitting and thinking, and a journey to the Lochan Uaine, an outrageously bright green lochan nestled amongst the Caledonian pine trees of the Ryvoan Pass, became like a visit to an old, dear friend. Onwards to Ryvoan, and some shelter from the wind for lunch, I made a spur of the moment decision to climb Meall a’ Bhuachaille, and despite ferocious winds which made standing near the summit difficult, the addictive lure of a vista, of expansiveness, and of physical exertion made it worth while.
Back in the environs of the bothy, life settles into a regular rhythm.
Wake up, go to the loo (a composting loo a hundred yards from the bothy), light wood stove, place large urn of water on stove to heat, go back to bed and read or listen to radio until bothy warms up, put the kettle on the trangia (I cheated and cooked on a combination of the wood stove and my trusty Trangia 27), have breakfast, shower (deliciously) outside with the water previously heated on the stove, dress, collect wood from the bottom of the hill in rucksack, re-fill the tea urn with water from the Spey, rest of day is for leisure – reading, writing, drawing, walking, eating,.. At nightfall, light candles, last wood on the stove at 6pm(ish) so that the bed platform isn’t too warm later, retire to bed around 9 or 10, …etc.
On my last morning, I wake up to snow, the landscape again transformed. After a hot outdoor shower, with the snow still falling, I pack my things, then make the couple of trips back to the car parked almost a mile down the trail, food supplies diminished, and my load lighter than when I arrived. The weight of the city had also been lifted, and I’m reminded (if I ever really need such a thing) that part of me needs to be in the wild. I anticipate being reunited with my 3 year old son, so the departure isn’t unwelcome in the way it would have been years ago, but the bothy, a perfectly formed small space packed with all the essentials for good living, sends me on my way, nourished, and replete.