Rachel Mimiec has now explored three National Scenic Areas – which will our NSA Artist in Residence chose to be her base?
I have recently returned from the Ben Nevis/Glencoe NSA. As with all my other research weeks it was spent walking and talking, meeting people and being introduced to new places and spaces. When out on these walks I try to document what I notice, things that draw me in. I mainly take photographs but I am also recording sounds and conversations.
Derrick Warner and Martin Faulkner from the local SNH Fort William office have been my guides on this trip and I also met Shelia MacLennan who lives in Glen Nevis. While walking we discussed landscape, community, caring for space and living in such a special and evocative location. I also reconnected with an old friend who I have not seen since leaving my undergraduate course at Glasgow School of Art, Jayne (Bellwood) Stephen, who lives in the area. Jayne introduced me to the West Highland Museum, which I am sure I will revisit as it is full of potential, supporting research and new lines of inquiry.
I have noticed that as well as taking photographs of landscapes I’m often drawn to what is underfoot or decoratively suspended or attached to trees and stones. Lichens and mosses, to me, are abstract macro landscapes; landscapes within landscapes. At this point I don’t know where my research will lead me but I trust my instincts and am documenting what interests me.
The other things that I am tallying are my birds – I am not a bird enthusiast so much as somebody who is enthusiastic about seeing unusual wildlife. When walking to the Pap of Glencoe I saw a tree creeper up close and personal as it spiraled up a fence post; and a goldcrest, which is perhaps not unusual but I had never seen one before, so it makes it onto my list. The list since the start of this journey also includes sea eagles (at Loch Maree) and a flock of whooper swans seen from the top of the Pap of Glencoe, flying at my eye level but in the distance. That felt pretty special but unfortunately my camera could not do the experience justice, though the memory will always be with me.
I saw something else unusual whilst walking in Glen Etive with Derrick. The atmosphere was wet and cloudy when we saw the uncommon but not unheard of sight of a silver Aston Martin driving up the Glen. The area’s connection with James Bond (Skyfall) and the Fleming family are well known but it was still a tad strange to see this iconic sports car…I suspect Daniel Craig was not driving!
So, to the question of where to base myself over the winter: it has been a very difficult decision to make but with my sensible head on I have selected Ben Nevis/Glencoe. This is partly due to the fact that the area is the most accessible by public transport and as winter begins, the practical issues of getting around and being able to access places and people had to be high on my priority list. The area, with all of its special characteristics, also ticks many of my interests.
The next week or so will be spent making plans to stay in the area for a longer period of time, inviting people I meet to take me on a walk and be my guide. In exchange for giving up their time, knowledge and support I am offering everybody who becomes my guide an artwork, probably a limited addition print that will be generated as a result of the residency. I am hoping it will be a fair exchange.