The Roar O’ Human Shingle – Helen MacAlister


  • Date
  • Event Types Arts, Exhibition, Visual Arts

MacAlister’s new body of work investigates how language defines a culture. Making Gaelic and Scots references from significant writers such as; Sorley MacLean, Burns and MacDiarmid. MacAlister draws a sophisticated analysis of how subtleties of language are intrinsically linked to the social identity of place.

This series of drawings & paintings show a significant development of MacAlister’s work and personal exploration into language. ‘The Roar o’ Human Shingle’ seems a pivotal marker to a potential innovative discovery – exploring the rich subtleties of language and defining Gaelic & Scots within a visual art context.

Artist’s Statement:

[langblock]

[en]

“These drawings and paintings touch on ideas of cultural resilience: the resonance of language and place. Language has a physicality, how it feels in the mouth, carrying or implying the very character of a place through intonation,etc. I regard the visual possibilities as akin to MacDiarmid’s view of the vernacular as, ‘a vast unutilized mass of lapsed observations….a debris of ideas – an inexhaustible quarry.’

The botanical references deal with landscape and therefore place. The plant types relate to the condition & position of language and place. Lichen regarded as a pollution detector – paralleling a description of Gaelic as ‘like the canary down the mineshaft, the fragile thing that means we’re all safe as long as it stays alive.’ Primula Scotica (found only on the far north coast & Orkney), for its rarity and preciousness. The orchid for it’s inferred worth being, as it is on the list of species protected by law. Sphagnum moss for it’s history of being packed as field dressings – the curative. Dock ditto moss – a counteractive remedy. Marram, the belt to hold the land and finally Ligusticum Scoticum (Scots Lovage)said to be a highland cure-all.

The images of (Bowmore) Kilarrow Parish and other church interiors, pews, laird’s-loft etc are not employed for any religious significance. Much like the quotations and botanics used, they have through the work’s own process, somehow come to fit the interests – language and the culture it embodies. I return to MacDiarmid and his point that ‘….the vernacular abounds in terms which short-circuit conceptions that take sentences to express in English’ – and think this should be conceivable in a form of visual translation also.”

[/en]

[gd]

“Tha na dealbhan is na peantaidhean seo a’ coimhead ri beachdan air seasmhachd dualchais: an co-cheangail eadar cànan is àite. Tha cànan stuthail, corporra; fairichear sa bheul e; cuiridh e an cèill le ceòl a’ ghuth an coltas sònraichte a th’ air àite. Gabhaidh sin a mhìneachadh sna meadhanan lèirsinneach, mar a mhìnich MacDiarmid e, is e a-mach air cainnt dhùthchasach a bhith “mar thiùrr sheallaidhean neo-chleachdte… sprùilleach bheachdan – mèinn nach teirig.

Tha na h-ìomhaighean luibheach a’ dèiligeadh ri cruth tìre is, mar sin, ri àite. Tha na seòrsaichean lusan co-cheangailte ri staid is suidheachadh a’ chànain is an àite. Tha Crotal ga fhaicinn mar nì a tha a’ tomhas truailleadh. (Chaidh a’ Ghàidhlig a shamhlachadh uair ris an eun a bhathar a’ toirt sìos dhan mhèinn ghuail: “nì lag, so-leònte a tha a’ comharrachadh gu bheil sinn uile sàbhailte fhad ‘s a bhios esan beò”.) Primula Scotica: an t-seòbhrach nach fhaighear ach air fìor Cheann a Tuath na dùthcha is ann an Arcaibh, air cho gann is prìseil ‘s a tha i. A’ Chailleach Fhuar air sgàth a luachmhorachd is i air àireamh nan lusan air a bheil dìon an lagh. Còinneach Dhearg a bhathar a’ cur ann am bannan-leighis aig amannan cogaidh. A’ Chopag a bha na sàr ìocshlaint. Muran, an crios a cheangaileas an talamh. Mu dheireadh thall, Lus an Liùgaire (Lingusticum Scoticum) a chuireadh gach eucail ma sgaoil.

Chan ann air adhbharan co-cheangailte ri creideamh a tha ìomhaighean de dh’Eaglais Chille an Rubha ann am Bogha Mòr, eaglaisean eile, suidheachain is mar sin air adhart san obair. Mar a tha na luibhean agus briathran dhaoine, tha iad seo, le fàs na h-obrach, air tighinn a rèir a’ chuspair: cànan is an dualchas a tha stèidhichte air. Thuirt MacDiarmid gu bheil “cainnt dhùthchasach làn abairtean a bheir ciall ann am beagan fhaclan far am feumte rosgrannan slàn sa Bheurla”. Bu chòir dha bhith comasach dhuinn an t-aon rud a shealltainn sna meadhanan lèirsinneach!”

[/gd]

[/langblock]

The Roar o’ Human Shingle’ is an extract from Hugh MacDiamid’s poem ‘Pray For a Second Flood’, used with kind permission from Carcanet Press Ltd.