An exhibition of photography, paintings and poetry encouraging more and better access to nature for people affected by disability.
Travelling Gallery today (Tuesday 30 July) announced its Autumn 2019 exhibition, Day of Access, which tours from August to December across Scotland.
Inspired by Alec Finlay’s powerful campaign which encourages estates to open their land to allow access for people affected by disability, the new exhibition will showcase a range of photography, paintings and poetry.
The Day of Access campaign passionately believes that everyone should have the opportunity to experience wild nature and by using hill tracks and four-wheel drives, people who have never been able to immerse themselves in wild nature are driven into the heart Scotland’s beautiful wild landscape.
Day of Access promotes inclusion and the intention is for it to become an annual event, by popular demand, making positive use of existing hill tracks.
A pilot Day of Access took place in June this year when Alec brought together a small group of collaborators to test the concept. Driving at walking pace the group ascended Meall Tairneachan (a summit in the Grampian Range), shared views of Schiehallion, studied Gaelic place-names, and discussed woodland remediation – reversing the damage done to the environment.
Alec Finlay, himself an artist and poet, is taking on the role of activist to work with a diverse audience to overcome limitations on access to wild nature, which can be physically and emotionally challenging.
Travelling Gallery will act as the campaign bus touring Day of Access across Scotland; presenting information and artworks and allowing a space for discussions. Documentation from the pilot Day of Access, including work by young photographer Sam McDiarmid, will be exhibited in an art installation created by Alec.
The themes of disability, access and ecological remediation are explored in Alec’s poems and artwork. Pages from books exploring illness, pain, walking and healing, including A View from the Front Line by Maggie Keswick Jencks, are used as paper for thoughtful drawings and commanding words “THERE CAN NEVER BE AN EXCESS OF ACCESS”.
Alongside his own work Alec has invited other artists and poets to exhibit including Hannah Devereaux, Alison Lloyd, Ken Cockburn and Mhairi Law; each bringing their own creativity and experience to the project. The work is collaboratively displayed like a scrap book or diary pinned on a garden trellis, alongside other domestic apparatus and soft furnishings, such as blankets, a clothes horse, and hankies.
At the back of the gallery there’s a bed-like space where the pillows hold audio by Rachel Smith, a dancer who has written dance movements for the bed-bound. Rachel has also collaborated with Alec and photographer Hannah Deveroux to create Counterpane blanket landscapes, which take inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem The Land of Counterpane, remembering childhood illness, where bedding becomes an imaginative landscape. All the artworks in the exhibition ask the viewer to think about the confines of home and how disabilities frustrate, but also can heighten and enhance the imagination.
Speaking of the exhibition, Alec Finlay said: “There can never be an excess of access: that’s the claim this project tests. I’d never fully addressed the ways that chronic illness has shaped my creativity; how closely limit and imagination relate to one another. By placing wounded human realities – my own and other people’s – close to wounded nature, I want to see ways in which we might learn, as a culture, to adapt to limit, sharing it equitably, and how we can nurture a relationship between remediation ecologies and healing as individuals.”
Claire Craig, Curator at the Travelling Gallery, added: “We are passionate about working with Alec Finlay for our Autumn 2019 tour, promoting the important and inclusive project Day of Access which encourages access to wild nature. It’s more than an exhibition and highlights the value and power art and artists can have within our society, not only provoking valuable discussing around disability but actually making something happen and making a difference.”
Councillor Donald Wilson, Convener of Culture and Communities at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Yet again, the Travelling Gallery has devised a fascinating and varied exhibition which I’m sure will appeal across Scotland.
“As a Council we are committed to making art and culture as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. This is the ethos of the gallery itself and this powerful exhibition expands even further on this and I hope it generates conversation and positive action and engagement in Edinburgh and across the country.”