Hello and welcome to my Sunday Review. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, see engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music – this is my chance to bring you all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.
If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney, I may love it, and so may you.
This week I’ve been enjoying leafing through In The Dreamtime, a photographic book by Nicki Gwynn-Jones and listening to Live at the Fruitmarket by Rura.
In The Dreamtime – Nicki Gwynn-Jones
How do you feel when you buy a new book? Do you wait for the perfect moment to open it? Do you keep it until you’re in just the right mood? Do you stop yourself from opening it for fear of spoiling the real pleasure when you have the time? Or is that just me?
I bought a copy of Nicki Gwynn-Jones‘s book In The Dreamtime from The Orcadian Bookshop in Kirkwall and went through a full range of those thoughts and emotions until today, when I sat down and relaxed, with a nice hot drink, to feast my eyes upon her photographic collection. Subtitled ‘A meditation on the flowers of Orkney’, it is a collection of semi-abstract photographs. Many use techniques such as large areas of out of focus blurring, slow shutter speeds, high-key and close-up to give an impressionistic vision. Nicki’s photos act as illustrations without a text for untold stories of your own imagination. Some of the chapter headings contain different crops of photographs appearing later, while some are unique.
The idiosyncratic layout, where my favourite photographs are often reproduced small and large photographs are split across a double-page spread, without needing to be, adds to the atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. It’s a book you could flip through in five minutes and not see a single thing of interest if you didn’t engage your own imagination with it. However, it’s also a book by a careful craftsperson who has consciously chosen the images and the layout to convey her personal vision. As you spend time discovering the rhythms and melodies within the images it rewards your persistence as bountifully as Orkney’s meadows on simmer dim days.
‘I search, shifting focus millimetre by millimetre, absorbed in a miniature universe so obscured by the open sweep of Orkney’s landscape that it is know only to insects and, yes, faeries. What am I looking for? I really don’t know, except that I will know it when I see it, the unseen landscape that holds its secrets close.’
The reaction to impressionistic and abstract work always fascinates me. I started an arts charity in a hospital and ran it very successfully for several years. We showed art from all genres in constantly changing exhibitions in one of the busiest art spaces in the south west of England. We had one show of abstract work which caused great interest. The Director of Finance of the hospital stopped me in the corridor and said that he had a five year old nephew who could do as well. I replied that if he was so talented then we’d definitely want to show his work and gave him an application form to pass on. The best abstract and impressionistic art and photography can only be done by people who have mastered the techniques. It’s also merely the end result of the process of someone experimenting and enjoying themselves. Nicki has been living her life full of engagement with nature, experimentation and joy. This book is the result of a small part of that.
Bring your own imagination and storytelling and you too can inhabit Nicki’s dreamlike images. There are at least a dozen images in the book that I love and will revisit; that’s enough for me. It’s well worth investigating. You can find Nicki’s work at http://nickigwynnjones.zenfolio.com and buy the book at The Orcadian Bookshop.
Live at the Old Fruitmarket – Rura
Rura‘s new CD, Live at the Old Fruitmarket is an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. As I’ve been listening to it this week it’s become a familiar friend. Passionate, melodic, dramatic and endearing, it’s an album which rewards repeated listening. With a thoughtful mix of fiddle, Highland pipes, flute, bodhran and guitar, it’s easy to see why very few people in England have ever heard of them. As well as being beautifully poetic, with ‘heartfelt yearning’ being one of the key emotional notes sounded, they are also exceptionally exciting. Live at the Old Fruitmarket is a heart-stirring fusion of modern attitude and traditional folk with spirit enough to move your soul and your feet.
Here’s the opening track, Catriona’s, recorded in Glasgow in 2018.
Rura are playing out of their skins on this album. They’re a band increasing in confidence, writing their own material and producing a sound which both complex and anthemic. The whole album is a delight. I can’t wait to see them live, Until then, I’ll have to make do with ‘Live at the Old Fruitmarket’.
I was sent a copy of Rura’s album Live at the Old Fruitmarket to review. I’d have happily bought it. It’s been a great companion all week.
You can visit Rura here: https://www.rura.co.uk. They also have a shop.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more reviews of things you might adore next Sunday. In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.