Sumburgh Lighthouse Residency

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I love working with Tony. It has been an ongoing project, that has provided opportunity in Shetland, to develop work creatively.

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It has always been an aspiration of mine to work creatively in response to Shetland, something that Tony is continually doing all of the time.

His work is created from objects he has found in the landscape, and he does as little modifications as possible to them to evolve them into sculptures.

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Our project has focussed on both of our reactions to the land, and to place, with our connections to it. We walk the spaces with intent to acknowledge the space around us, and to connect to it, and to allow it to inspire us.

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Most of our residencies have taken place at Tony’s Open Space studio in Unst, which also happens to be in a lighthouse, the most northernly one in Britain. However we have been incredibly lucky to have this most recent one on Shetland’s most southernly mainland point, in Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse is working, with fog horn, and is a prime location for nesting birds (especially puffins in Summer), and tourists looking for them alike.

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The time and space up here, at the end of the road, has been invaluable. There has been time to think, reflect, create, recognise and develop. I wanted to develop a set solo, in reaction to place, and my long to return home as well as the balance of opportunity on the mainland. I am interested in the migration of birds, and how these relate to human’s. When and why do we leave?

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What encourages us to leave a place / what brings us back?

I am intrigued by the idea of home; what is home, how does it effect who we are, is it home if we no longer live there, does it define us, when is right to leave and what is it that keeps pulling us back? What encourages us to leave a place, and what brings us back? I believe all these questions cross over into identity, and the comings and goings of people worldwide. Some reasons people leave home are political; necessarily. Some are a pull to exploring other, or the unknown. I believe that this is a topical issue.

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I wish to begin by looking at the migration patterns of birds; the reasons why and their migratory patterns. I believe this may answer some of the questions I have when looking at human migration, as well as allowing myself to explore how this works in nature, and how this may/will effect and inspire us. I am intrigued by our nostalgia of what’s been before, and how this effects the current.

The climate around us is forever changing, and I wish to look at the impact that this may have upon us. Sumburgh Head is a RSPB Nature reserve, where studies are being done to determine the reasons behind the decline in nesting sea birds (Kittiwakes, Puffins). As human populations also change, we must look at reasons behind this also. Are opportunities affluent? Must we search elsewhere? Are living conditions hospitable? Do we have human connection to both place and one another? I am intrigued in how policies encourage/discourage people to stay, and what it is that encourages animals alike to move from place to place. These relate to land use, cultural policy and of course, political strategies amongst this.

Arrival / departure / new explorations / seek / nostalgia / connection / disconnect / order / change / opportunity / longing / new / old / repetition / society / policy

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I wish to get inspiration from nature, and the comings and goings of the days. Mindfulness in using the land and it’s journeys as meditation. Movement symbolising reaction to place. How do they change? What needs to change? Departing from there and arriving here.

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I loved being at The Lighthouse to really be able to connect with the land and the nature around it, the swooping birds, the sea below and the buildings themselves. They hold such nostalgia too; a place that has been home to lighthouse keepers and their families, who have lived a life providing guidance for ships out at sea.
The RSPB have an office at the lighthouse buildings, and theres a museum room which provides explanation of surrounding wildlife. There’s a fantastic cafe (Shetlanders’ love a cafe), which was a brilliant place to showcase Tony’s sculptures and play the films that we had made together.

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Tony and I work incredibly well together. It is so encouraging for me to have somebody to bounce ideas off, and who responds to the landscape in a similar way I do. We really hope to expand our practice together, and to make a film

In the meantime, we have made these films here and  here.  lighthouse 13

We had an open studio on the saturday and shared our works to cafe visitors on the Sunday. It was lovely to be able to share what we had been up to, and to connect to people in such a remarkable space. We have been lucky enough to be able to put funding towards this from Creative Scotland.


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