ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Thursday, 29 September 2011

To Joanne and Dunnet Head

I've been on the road now for a couple of days; yesterday started with a visit to Wick Heritage Centre and then to see Aileen Grogan, who worked as Producer at Horse + Bamboo until 5 years ago when she left to a plot of land and a new life in Caithness. Then on the Caithness Horizons in Thurso to see the Robert Dick exhibition put together by Joanne B Kaar (above). Joanne has been fascinated by the story of this baker turned botanist, and in partnership with the museum department at Caithness Horizons who had Dick's herbarium collection in their care, catalogued 60 of the beautiful pressed specimens and used these as a basis for an exhibition about Dick's life and studies. The gallery is a really rich and evocative installation full of images of Dicks work and his fascination with phrenology and botanical studies alongside the paraphernalia of a bakers work - flour bags, twine, loaves.  

And then to meet Joanne and Joe, who live close by Dunnet Head - the most northerly part of the British mainland. Joanne is an important collaborator in the Angus production, and has been researching Angus MacPhee's work and the precise manner in which he created his woven garments. Recently she visited Joyce Laing and looked at the originals in the Museum of Art Extraordinary, and has since tried recreating some of Angus's work. The first she showed me was a reproduction of the oddly memorable jacket that dominates Joyce's collection. To me it was exactly as I remembered the original and I felt in awe of Joanne's ability to recreate such a unique piece of work. I had asked Joanne to do this as it's clear that we need, on stage, to show the work Angus produced, but to have such a hauntingly accurate piece at this point is something I hadn't expected. Something about seeing this laid out of Joanne's floor (above) filled me with fresh confidence in the production. Joanne's material all comes from her land - the grasses and plants used in the weaving process pulled from outside her doorstep.

Then at the end of a warm and sticky and it has to be said, untypical, Caithness day, Joanne took me to Dunnet Head, where as the sun set we looked all around - north to Hoy in Orkney, south to the Sutherland hills, and below us her own Brough home.  You can find more about Joanne's woven 'Angus' jacket on her blog here.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! You sound like you had a wonderful time and Joannes work is truely wonderful.