‘Echoes of Existence’ by Helen Acklam: quirky, colourful Scottish landscapes, with an emotional sense of home and heritage.

Helen Acklam is a mixed media artist, working across watercolours, acrylic paintings and sculptures.  Originally from Yorkshire and now living in Dumfries, she is inspired by the Scottish landscape, sea, history, archaeology, geology and myth. 

This on-line exhibition presented by the Dancing Light Gallery, is an evocative series of paintings of rural crofts and cottages located around the Highlands and Islands.

Aird, Helen Acklam

From classic Victorian scenes, “Monarch of the Glen,” Highland lochs, mountains and furry coos, the artistic genre to depict Scotland’s wild, natural landscape has continued over the centuries. 

A Highland Croft, Peter Graham, 1836-1921

Hebridean seascapes and farm Crofts, in particular, have always had a perennial, worldwide appeal, perhaps due to nostalgia, family ancestry, a favourite destination, and simply the timeless, scenic beauty,

Francis Cadell frequently visited the island of Iona to capture this peaceful, spiritual place with their isolated cottages on the seashore.

Clachanach Croft, Iona, Francis Cadell

Helen Acklam brings a unique, modern, “Scottish Colourist,” painterly style to her illustrations of traditional crofts, cottages, bothies and shielings located around the Outer Hebrides.  

Towards Borgastan, Helen Acklam

Borghastan  – Borrowston – with a population of about 50, is a crofting township on the Isle of Lewis, at the northern end of Loch Carloway

This is a charming old But ‘n Ben in Towards Borgastan – which may be in a slight tumbledown condition, with its wind battered corrugated iron roof,  shabby paint on the front door and bent posts in the garden.  The soft, pink-tinted clouds in the sky – maybe a snapshot of Sunset – is most atmospheric.

From the Clearances of the 18th and 19th century, when evicted crofters emigrated to North America, and the ongoing hardship of remote island life, some of these cottages are empty and forgotten.  There’s a glimpse of human history here, a memory of a long lost family and small-holding farming life

From the lone shieling of the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas,
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.
(from the Canadian Boat Song)

Joan Eardley is renowned for her expressionistic land and seascapes around her cottage in Catterline, Kincardinshire.  

Winter Day, Catterline, Joan Eardley

From these higgledy piggledy cottages in Winter Day, to cornfields and seashore, Eardley expressed her emotional affection for the colour and light of the coastal village. Painting outdoors in wild, stormy weather, she incorporated grasses, grain and seeds into the oil paint to bring the feel of the land on to the canvas.

Helen Acklam has also visited this iconic village with its curving row of cottages along the sheer cliff edge.  Cottages, Catterline is beautifully composed with the layered, blocked structure – the midnight blue inky sky, white washed houses with red roofs and the flourishing green meadow of tall grasses and red poppies. 

Cottages, Catterline, Helen Acklam

Acklam often mixes acrylic paint with inks, gouache, graphite and metal leaf for a richer texture, tone and visual effect. A sprinkle of sand from Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, would certainly add an authentic fragment of the actual terrain and topography.  

At first glance, Leurbost Loch, (Isle of Lewis), depicts a rather sad, wee house.  But look closer. This is a mini masterpiece of minimalism to evoke the remote setting, the shimmer of a mountain beyond the loch and what seems like a swirl of winter snow in the sky. 

Leurbost Loch, Helen Acklam

A collage using scraps of paper from local old books are imbedded in some works, to represent the strong Religious faith and beliefs of the Islanders. More than just a sketch of a cottage, these illustrate the heritage, culture and tradition of their Gaelic way of life.

Blue Cottage, Labost, Helen Acklam

Blue Cottage, Labost (Isle of Lewis) is another magical “portrait” of two country crofts, the garden sloping down a hill with the remnants of what could be an ancient drystone wall and an old fence.

With a light sketchy method, there is a real character here, as if the tiny windows are like eyes and the red door, a long nose – enchanting, quirky and comical illustrations which would be ideal for children’s picture books and traditional fairy tales.  

These are all real crofts and cottages which you could visit on a tour of these islands, just enhanced with vivid and vivacious colour, humour and imagination.  Moreover, there is an underlying, tangible, emotional sense of place, reflecting the communities today, as well as preserving the heritage of derelict, deserted homes.  The Echoes of Existence indeed, blowing in the cool, sea breeze.

Echoes of Existance by Helen Acklam

Dancing Light Gallery – a new on-line exhibition

View the paintings here: https://www.dancinglightgallery.co.uk/product-category/current-exhibition/

Visualise a painting on your wallA Croft for Christmas!

Download the app ‘Art Visualiser’ onto your phone or iPad via the app store.   https://artvisualiser.com/

Go to the painting of your choice and click the grey button ‘Visualise on your Wall’ below the painting details. Follow the instructions on your phone or ipad. Please note this app works best in daylight or with all the lights on. It is easy to use and lets you see what a painting would look like, in your own home, before you buy.

All paintings can be delivered Nationwide, Free of Charge.

For more information and enquires, Email: info@dancinglightgallery.co.uk

N.B An exhibition of Helen Acklam’s paintings is being planned to take place at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh in March 2021
 

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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