I spent my first day in Montrose, wandering and sleuthing my way around. I surprised a sleeping shag on the beach, and asked the toilet attendant what is the best thing about Montrose ? It felt as if I had asked her a very personal question. The steeple she answered nervously. I left thinking there must be more, and I walked and found interesting street names, dark, narrow closes off the High Street, the abandoned warehouses of a global trading port and a wonderful Victorian museum. These are some of their finds –
An ear bone of a Greenland whale, and Russian birch bark shoes. A man o’war ship made of bone, from French prisoners of war. A message in a bottle -‘We ate the dog, three men left alive, have mercy on our souls, Amen’.
Treasures. I shall return, to draw .
Acrylic on paper.
Had my first accordion lesson last night, hmmm… its harder than it looks. The teacher is a man called Billy Anderson and he wears a waistcoat and tweed jacket and looks and sounds like Ken Stott, the actor. Very patient and jolly with me. The rest of the group were very encouraging, so I will practice my scales, and my first tune, thankful for it not being ‘twinkle twinkle little star’, and I’ll be Jimmy Shand-ing before you can shout ‘Auchtermuchty’.
Charcoal, ink and gesso on brown paper.
Porcelain sky, a brittle cold. Fat waddled dogs, seagulls arc. Fishermen mending, all quiet by the sea.
Bright winter sun in the woods. Pencil drawing.
I sat in the Central Library Dundee today looking for things Montrose, to start my research into the town. I came across some year books from the early 1970’s. This is a snapshot –
Decimalisation means camp site fees are now 40p per tent. The Locarno Ballroom reinvents itself as The Four Seasons a la Sunset Strip. The tobacconists advert runs with the line – “The man who smokes thinks like a Sage and acts like a Samaritan”. ‘In style’ fashions for your jeans, cords and cheesecloths, and you might like to saunter down to the Corner House Hotel and the Zanzi-bar lounge with its distinctive African decor. Mrs. McAlpine runs a tape recording and hi-fi club. Miss Joan Butter is Montrose Rose Queen. Stereograms and Grundig tellies all available on the H.P. and Arbuthnotts for your lifeboat if all else fails.
Tannadice football ground , Dundee.
Mixed media on film poster ‘Insomnia’. 74 x 63 cm
In 1981 Dundee United played Monaco in a European cup match at Tannadice. According to Michael Marra, bard of Dundee, …. ‘Grace Kelly came to Tannadice with her man. She was wearing a white turban and that’s unusual in Dundee……Unfortunately she was sitting behind an advertising hoarding for Taylor Bros. Coal. It was what we called incongruous’.
Ink drawing oak tree. Met a man from the village whose jack russell dog liked to climb the trees to play with the squirrels. He said the dog could only get so high and the squirrels would throw things down at him.
Snow and bass rock. Watercolour and acrylic on wood.30cm x 20cm.
The pillbox on the path to Anstruther. I was talking with someone the other day about the imprinting of the world through drawing, that the act of drawing allows you to deconstruct a reality, to create an altered image. This is why I draw. Looking does not have the same impact as the combination of the eye and the hand. The making of marks allows the imagination to input, and from the present one literally draws on the past, this narrative of muscle memory, personal history, and being firmly in the here and now. It is the same for letters I have written. I can remember the flow of words across the page as my hand writes/marks the important life events. In writing this I am recalling the walk this morning and the heron and the wren and the man on the beach with his cans of Tennents and worrying about him . I was walking to Anstruther to go to the community charity shop in search of 1960’s-1970’s crockery – my latest interest of curiosity. And maybe that too is to do with imprinting – The colours and forms of my childhood, all purples and browns and oranges, and that turquiosey sea green blue. But it was shut, and as I returned along the shore path I had a quick swing on the council park swings – the old style with long rusty iron link chains. I swung up as high as I could go and tried to swallow the sky, much as I did when I was a child.
Solo show with Wall Projects in Montrose confirmed for 4th-25th June this year. Very exciting. The project will culminate in a series of drawings, paintings and texts, that will come about through walking the town. I am calling the piece for now at least ‘The Baltic street notebooks’, after a Montrose street name and its reference to the trade connections with the region which saw the town rise to prominence. The word Baltic connects back to my spoken word performance from the MFA project ‘The Hunting Ground’ which talks of – “Baltic blues the stiffened bones of long dead whalers.” It seems like a good place to return.