Snapshots & Sketches – dreams of an industrial wasteland

Diary of a teenage lockdown: post industrial landscapes, returning nature and finding your feet in odd times.

Hope Francis, 13

featured image: Janus interpretation of Hope’s work

Hope started taking photographs with her parents’ camera and with her phone before the Covid 19 lockdown, but when the surreal times began in March 2020 she found herself off school, trying to do schoolwork at home, and going out for a walk each day. Taking photographs of what she saw each day, as well as self portraits, was an activity which kept her going. It also began to emerge as a visual diary of the times she was living through.

She is drawn to ex-industrial landscapes and objects; decaying and rusting machinery, crumbling masonry and blasted land. Inverkeithing’s history contains a large amount of industry, due to its position on the Firth of Forth, proximity to Edinburgh and a northern gateway, and its particular geography of rock formation. It’s a fascinating past, and one which many historians have studied. What is less usual, and it’s tempting to think it could only be truthfully expressed through the eyes of someone with Hope’s youth, is the destruction and mess which has been carelessly abandoned after industrial extraction has occurred.

Her eye is sensitive to the combination of industrial relic and nature thriving in neglected and abandoned spaces.

EDITING AND CHOOSING PROCESS

Hope’s process developed when she began experimenting with editing in colour. Almost by accident, she had discovered a revealing emphasis on the juxtaposition between nature and man-made objects in her chosen subjects.

Hope also included self portraiture in her photography, as she goes through the processes of growing up and finding herself. What’s particularly interesting is the combination of growing up and her environment. Some of these she included in this project, while others will be part of future planned projects.

On the strength of this project, Hope has sold some prints of her photography, and has decided to take art in 3rd year, and perhaps for Nat 5. Many people are impressed by her remarkably mature sensibility.

Snapshots & Sketches – Inner Bay

Searching for the Lazaretto: Inner Bay, Pinkie Well and mud-skating across generations.

Karen Delaney

featured image: the Janus interpretation of Karen’s work

“The muddy surface (of Inner Bay) presents a wretched contrast to the scene when the tide has returned and is at its height. One day soon going home from school with bag on back, I turned up my trousers as far as they could go, and started across from the bottom of the manse garden in the direction of Pinkie well. When nearly halfway over my imagination became possessed by the idea of bogs and the bottomless pit; and it seemed the same if I tried to turn back or proceed. I kept on my way, and got out at ‘Pinkie’, and there washed my little shanks in the pool at which cows were watered, none the worse, and less disposed to repeat the feat.”

‘Reminiscences of childhood at Inverkeithing, or, Life at a Lazaretto’ 1882, by James Simpson, b1826

Karen Delaney ‘Dad skating across Inner Bay with his brother, Inverkeithing 1950s”

Karen was intrigued by ‘the Lazaretto book’ which can be read here , and in particular she explored the topography and geography of Inverkeithing’s bay, and the position of the buildings. She runs the local cafe, situated near the top of The Mill Brae, a pathway from the high street to the bay and harbour. Her work in the community, especially for older Inverkeithingers, is well known and appreciated.

Karen’s family are from the area, and she found a delightful parallel between the story of James’ fearful skate across the mud flats in the 1830s, and her dad and uncle’s stories of skating there in the 1950s.

Karen is also interested in locally produced food and foraging, and has a knowledge about local sites where wild plants can be collected.

Snapshots & Sketches the interpretations

Introduction:

The creation of motifs and wording to be incorporated into the new street furniture in Inverkeithing for the forthcoming heritage regeneration sparked a project for community artists, and was instigated in the spring of 2020. It quickly became evident that trying to follow usual pathways, such as engaging schoolchildren, was going to be extremely challenging as we entered the first Covid 19 lockdown in March. Inverkeithing Arts responded with a counter plan to still engage several members of the community of Inverkeithing, with a good cross section of ages, genders etc, by dipping in to our list of people with whom we have previously done projects and classes over the last few years. They all knew us well, in many cases they are our friends and family, and they have gotten used to the values and methods of Inverkeithing Arts Initiative. Apart from this, we knew them as talented and thoughtful individuals, and we knew they would bring a lot of quality and attention to the project.

The Artists:

We approached several people from our list, and eight agreed to take part, engaging with the brief, and with the historical materials, as much as they could. Difficulties due to lockdown were accepted as part of the project’s limitations, but they were more than willing to proceed, often self-directedly. By October 2020 we were rewarded by our trust in the individuals with a wonderful exhibition of very high quality work across several genres. Some of the artists developed their ideas further into conceptual and site specific work, and others plan to continue to explore the themes they uncovered. The excellence of work, the level of engagement, and the willingness to be open ended in approach, is what led us to two decisions: to incorporate everyone’s work in the motifs for the heritage regeneration, and to plan for the scope of the project to be further developed during 2021.

The difficulties which the group faced in trying to meet face to face, share ideas or work together revealed just how vitally important they are to our sense of community and health. The group continued to feel the project was a communal one, despite the limitations, and we wanted to honour this. It seemed fitting at this present moment in history, to include everyone’s work rather than declare a ‘motif winner’.

Interpretations:

A small and expressive sketch of a Janus head, by Donna Sinclair, inspired by her memory of a statue which used to sit on the Inverkeithing Townhouse roof when she was a young girl, revealed its potential as a key or anchor for the resulting motifs. It has such a ‘complete’ and balanced shape, and the two swirls of hair cry out for the inclusion of imagery. The faces look in opposite directions and bring to mind past and future, west and east, sea and land or any number of dichotomies within which to place our interpretations.

The deciton to use this image as a key motif provided a base on which to create a series of interpretations, incorporating work by all of the artists. Our brief talks about a wish to explore the past, present and future of Inverkeithing, and the artists met this brief through their own lenses of nature, work and play, caring for each other, witch trials, and the industrial and built landscapes, to name just a few.

Over the next few blog entries, we’ll explore each of the interpretations, and through them, each of the artists, in turn.