Cool, bright morning.The sun casts long, sharp shadows, clouds like barges drift southwards. Buzzards circle, calling and the crows in the tall ash respond. Willows creak at the edge of the pond in the swithery wind. I meet an old man who stays with his son but wants to go back to his own house unsure when that might be or the geography of where it might be. His dog sits patiently at his feet. He wishes me well and I walk on to the farm. Nut brown mushrooms in the fields, house martins tumble. The day is set fair and I am to get a longed for ride in a combine harvester. Ali tells me when his grandfather came to the farm he was told it was only good for stock but with improvements to the soil and drainage the soil is now so good Ali won best in Show at the Royal Highland Show a couple of years ago. I squeeze in the combine next to Raymond and we set forth. It is like being on a boat – a sea of wheat is carved as we progress as a bow through water. The machine jostles and bumps throwing up sprays of dust. We have a couple of mechanical hiccups and after the second mishap I begin to feel as if I might be in the way or perhaps, (and I laugh) I am an ill omen similar to the superstition of sailors who thought that women on fishing boats brought bad luck. Resisting the temptation to say this I decide to leave them to it and after my goodbyes walk down the track with the wind in my sails.
sketch – charcoal on paper.
A piece about the exhibition written by Jan Patience in today’s Herald newspaper. You can read the piece on line too. Brilliant !
Exhibition – 1st September – 30th September 2018
Fidra Fine Art.
Shadow of Ian in the sheep pen. Mixed media on paper – 23 x 33cm
Through the window at the back of the tractor cab watching Alistair and Raymond work in the rain.
Charcoal and acrylic on paper – 33 x 25 cm.
Ink and charcoal on paper – 33 x 25 cm.
The farm is a complicated place of movement between birth, growth, death and decay. All of these states exist side by side, regularities of a year bring lambing, sowing, selling, harvesting and ploughing, yet these very constants are neither fixed nor certain. These rhythms are forever altered, sometimes thwarted by outside influences – weather, prices, illness, yield, mechanical failure and the general maintenance of the farm itself. This life is known and bounded by age old parameters but subject to the volatility of markets and of nature itself. The only constant is the land itself upon which all these movements happen. In some ways the land is the manuscript, where the songs are composed and notated, each year a similar tune in a different key with new sections added or redacted. Until now I was only hearing the melody, yet there are other parts integral to the existence of the farm, and they too belong in this composition.
Warm blustery winds from the west bring a breath of autumn over the hillside. Sun, showers, long grass, wet feet. I get a ride in the tractor up to the top field where Alistair and Raymond dismantle a crow trap. There are no crows. Flocks of spuggies (sparrows), reddening berries, plums and conkers. A field mushroom too, the first I’ve seen this year. Raymond tells me about the old drovers roads, now all but lost save for a couple of places that once connected Kingsbarns to the palace of Falkland away to the west. They start to replace rotten fence posts. In the worst of the showers I sit in the workshop and draw the paraphernalia that accompanies farms – cupboards of tools, implements, bit of things….. The sun streams through skylights in the byre giving the scene an almost biblical look as it falls on the straw strewn floor. I walk back to the village following the burn down the hill. Summer is just beginning to fade, the land here is slowing and softening and ripening. I look forward to lighting the fire and blackberry and apple crumble and feel excitement about working outdoors in the coming months. There’s a skip to my step.