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Approaching Slains Castle
- Visual Arts
Approaching Slains Castle is a multi-part project from imagery of Slains Castle, located in the northeast of Scotland. I first visited Slains Castle in 1984 with my husband, our twin babies and his parents, who lived nearby. Images from that first visit became the basis for the artist’s book Letters, which I began in 1985. The text is from Rumi’s Masnavi, translated by Zahra Partovi and published by Vincent FitzGerald & Co. in 1986. In 2006 I returned to the images of Slains Castle in a series of drawings; then in 2008 continued with an altered book project, Dracula. Local lore tells that Bram Stoker was inspired by Slains Castle when he visited nearby Cruden Bay.
In 2010 my husband and I returned to Scotland and revisited Slains Castle due to my interest in it as a subject. His parents have passed away and the babies are grown up. We could no longer drive up the rutted dirt road to just outside the castle, but had to walk a long distance from a car park. Walking as an activity and as a theme has long interested me, and as my knees become weaker I become more aware of each step. Approaching Slains Castle, though it expresses many levels of meaning and emotion, is also about the physical act of approaching on foot and moving through the space of the ruined structure.
The first part of the Approaching Slains Castle project will be to create a series of 10 large monotypes in my own studio on my etching press. I started to work in monotypes in 2005, developing an approach to image making, which incorporates both ranges of value and levels of transparency and opacity in the ink based on my experience as a lithographer and intaglio printmaker. The planned series of new monotypes will further develop this approach and increase the scale of the prints, which also refers to earlier large lithographic works, the Assisi series. The scale of the larger work invites the viewer to walk into the ruins. They are meant to be lived with, to create an atmosphere for reverie.
The second part of Approaching Slains Castle is a series of full color oil paintings. These paintings sequence a series of views along the rutted dirt road on the walk to Slains Castle. What in earlier times would have been a relatively easy and pleasant outing on foot has become painful and tiring – an aspect of the act of walking that traditionally evokes a pilgrimage, a penance, which evolves into a third experience of walking, found universally in religious practice – its meditative, spiritual aspect. The act of painting this series is a long and meditative process, which mirrors the meditative experience of the long walk towards Slains Castle. These will be painted in my own studio.
If funds allow, part three of Approaching Slains Castle will be to draw, proof and edition a series of lithographs based on the Slains Castle imagery. Funds will be required to rent a professional lithography studio, possibly the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, which is where Letters was printed in 1986. I plan editions of 20 for each of the images, and I expect that each lithograph will have two or more plates printed in registration. If funds allow I will work with an assistant, or with another master lithographer.
I will document the project photographically and I plan to have professional photographs taken of the completed art work. If funds up to the maximum allow I will create a catalog documenting the project. The catalog will accompany a solo exhibition to be arranged to show the whole Approaching Slains Castle project.
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