I am sitting in my eyrie at Sumburgh, insulated from the wildness outside and barely aware of the noise of the wind in the wires behind me.

As expected, there is a lot of weather in Shetland. The morning of my arrival was clear and calm, and if I hadn’t been asleep on the ferry at the relevant time I might have seen the Aurora Borealis.  By mid-morning there was a high wind with torrential rain and sleet.  Followed by two glorious Spring days.  Followed today by a really first rate gale: we have moved from 7 on the Beaufort Scale last night:  “Near Gale – sea heaps up, waves 13-19 feet, white foam streaks off breakers; whole trees moving (not here; there aren’t any), resistance felt walking against wind” to Gale force 8:  “Moderately high waves of greater length, edges of crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks; generally impedes progress”. Or even Strong Gale force 9? “High waves (23-32 feet), sea begins to roll, dense streaks of foam, spray may reduce visibility; slight structural damage occurs.”  Not according to the Man From The RSPB, who is up here even though it’s Sunday: he reckons it isn’t even Force 8.  Shame.

So, today I’m doing a fair bit of looking and thinking, rather than walking. Looking at the changing light, at the unstoppable sea; at the shifting colours of the old enclosure opposite – pale Naples yellow to almost white to yellow ochre and back again. Thinking about how to adapt my practice to accommodate the immensity of the experience. Thinking about looking, and just looking.






The afternoon of my second day here (the bulk of the first day being taken up by travelling, unpacking and catching up on lost sleep), and I am overwhelmed by the simple fact of being here.  I have been looking forward to this for months, although the anticipation has been tempered by slight anxieties about the journey from North Wales to Shetland – principally the risk of oversleeping and missing the 5.52 (a.m.) train.  And then the ferry crossing itself: 12 hours overnight.  No problems, as it turned out: all rail connections went smoothly, and the sea was also smooth – just a gentle rolling swell, and a safe harbour at Lerwick.

And here I am, sitting in the (closed-to-the-public-for-the-winter) Visitor Centre at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. The room has a huge, semicircular window with a 180 degree view taking in Fair Isle to the south west, a glimpse of Foula before passing across the South Mainland and north west to Bressay.  The light changes by the minute; blue, blue sea and sky; sudden squalls and indigo clouds; the waves crash and suck at the cliff bottom, with ice-turquoise depths, and then suddenly all is still – just a gentle, roiling motion and skeins of white foam.

My intentions (mission/aims/objectives/whatever) for this residency are to walk, observe, record, and make work (drawing/printmaking/ whatever) that seems relevant to the experience of being in the most northerly archipelago of the British Isles.  At the moment, sitting here watching the fulmars wheel round the cliffs, I can think of nothing save the sheer privilege of existence.


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