At the very end of August I was pleased to deliver a walk and talk event for the Stirling Photography Festival called Airthrey: A Poetic Journey. I wanted to share with the group my approach to the research I had been undertaking and some of the ideas and influences behind it. As well as introduce the group to some of the fascinating historical features still visible in the Airthrey landscape around Hermitage Woods. As I have repeatedly walked in this landscape I keep discovering more traces and remnants of the past. Because this area of the land hasn’t been redeveloped these features still exist and insert the past into the present, for example: entrance and exits in the perimeter walls, a decaying chimney, the Victorian Well and the Ice House
It is interesting to reflect on what relevance or significance these remnants and traces of the past have for us now if any. They are ruins in the landscape surrounded by the hustle and bustle of contemporary University life yet one day these buildings will themselves be ruins. These historical features reveal the landscape as a palimpsest, layer upon layer and it is wonderful to see! As the German artist Anslem Kiefer (born 1945) said ‘Landscape is the memory of history’.
I also want to share a couple of other quotes about photography and ruins by the British artist Victor Burgin (born 1941): ‘Every photograph is the trace of a previous state of the world, a vestige of how things were.’
The ruin (thus) acts as an archive of the past. Photographs perform a similar action, fixing a living presence into a still image while capable of recalling a life long since ended. So I am exploring these ideas to see how they will influence the creation of my future artworks. More recently I accompanied Murray Cooke, the Stirling Council Archaeologist and Sarah Bromage, Head of University Collections on a visit to another ruin – The Hermitage, built high up in the Hermitage Woods. This is a ruin and a very decaying, although apparently according to Murray parts of it were built (18th Century) to look like a ruin, such was the fashion at the time of the Grand Tour. We are currently working on a plan to explore this incredible ruinous structure to see what more we can find out, to literally dig up some of the layers to see what we might learn about its past activity. I will be looking to respond creatively to this process and experience. More to follow……