My Work

Painting: Ghost Control

It’s difficult to explain fully what this piece of work means to me. It brings together for the first time a series of threads that have been with me for many years and in a language that feels more ‘me’.

‘Ghost Control (Nether Dallachy)’, Oil and acrylic on board, 1400mm x 700mm, 2023.

There is a pre-cursor to this painting and an interesting little bit of synchronicity attached to creation of this work. A little paint sketch exists in a similar vein to this piece with two views of the building superimposed on each other but in a very different colour palette and set of marks. I’ve never posted it anywhere before and you can see it below.

The earlier version of this location that I painted around 2015.

The location is a real one, an abandoned airfield at Nether Dallachy near Fochabers here in Scotland. It’s a location I have a long-standing fascination with, and I’ve taken many photographs of this building and the surrounding area with an intent to create a piece of painted work featuring it.

It’s maybe not so helpful to decode what is happening with the mix of symbolism in this (or any) work, but there are themes emerging in my development work lately that are surfacing here. It’s an imperfect starting point for bringing some new ideas together. It’s far from a definitive painting of these ideas, but it is starting the conversation.

Let’s talk a wee bit about the building itself. RAF Dallachy control tower remnant. It’s a haunting looking structure that looms out of the cornfields near Nether Dallachy and Bogmoor. This airfield contributed significantly to the war effort with Bristol Beaufighters flying from here to engage in dangerous anti-shipping operations. This is, as far as I can see is the only remaining structure of the airfield.

There is a tangible feeling of ‘out-of-time’ here. The same feeling is noticeable in the airfield buildings near where I live down the coast in Banff. I’m fascinated with the nature of time and reality so locations like this are a big draw for me.

The car wreckage has become a recent fascination and I’ll talk more about as it appears in future works. For now I’ll say that there is something in these objects that symbolises transformation to me. How these get transformed in collision from shiny, perfect items into semi-organic shapes I think is quite compelling. Like exo-skeletons they augment our self-image and abilities but are so easily reduced to a stained mass of tangle. There is something in that symbolism that appeals to me.

Synchronicity: Dr. Bill Hossack

Finally, there’s that wee aspect synchronicity to the story of this work. When I was working on the initial sketches back in October of 2022 I visited a posthumous sale of work by local Banff artist and philanthropist Dr. Bill Hossack. The work was beautiful and mostly sold I’m glad to report. In the corner and also for sale were some of Dr. Hossack’s studio and painting equipment that was also for sale.

From this sale I brought home a little sketchbook, picked from among a pile on the table. You know how valuable someone’s sketchbooks are I hope. This one appeared to be empty but just felt nice. The paper seemed to be nice quality and it just felt fine to hold. I don’t think my intention was to use it really but it felt right for me.

When I got in the car I was flicking through the pages and discovered that there were actually a few delicate little pencil sketches that looked like they had been completed on location…the very last page contained a drawing of the control tower at Nether Dallachy.

Reproduced here with kind permission of Dr Hossack’s family.

Shortlisted for Scottish Landscape Awards 2023-24

‘Ghost Control’ has been shortlisted to appear in the inaugural Scottish Landscape Awards exhibtion. This exhibition will open at the City Arts Centre in Edinburgh on Saturday 4 November 2023 until 3rd March 2024. This exhibition will contain 140 works in a range of media selected from over 2800 submissions. Shortlisted and longlisted names can be seen here.

Aberdeenshire is well represented in this, the first of the new Landscape Awards with other shortlisted entries by Bryan Angus and Fiona Michie.