Hands up who likes Orkney.
Hands up who likes books
Hands up who likes flowers
Hands up who likes photography
I have the perfect thing for you.
Nicki Gwynn-Jones published her book earlier this year and it really is photography of Orkney flowers in a completely new light. In her own words Nikki writes,
”In the Dreamtime. A Meditation on the Flowers of Orkney.
In the summer of 2016, my husband, our two cats and I packed up our belongings and moved from Cheltenham to Orkney. I was looking for the space in which to create a body of work that would speak to my experience of living in a landscape forged by the elements, and I very quickly realised that an archipelago on the 59th parallel, where everything is fashioned by wind and relentless waves, and whose vast skies cast light and shadow in endless shape-shifting beauty, had been the right choice.
Orkney has woven a spell on me. With interminable winter in grudging retreat and the promise of endless summer days to come, the lapwing – to some a bird of magic and poetry – bewitches with its wild lamenting spirit and tumbling courtship dance, and the sound of the curlew haunts the sodden spring fields, an up-welling of sadness for eternity. The simmer dim, the perpetual twilight of midsummer in the Northern Isles is like a dreamtime, that place between sleeping and waking where lines are blurred but all things become clear.
But I sense something else too – faerie magic. The echoes of mythical creatures from Orkney’s ancient stories are all around me and I want to express this somehow, but do not know where to begin. Then it dawns on me that the answer lies with the flowers; that in their secret hidden realm in the wild places amongst the cotton grass and heather, the buttercups, sorrel and ragged robin, I would find what I was looking for.
I need to work on a scale so small that I have to be at eye level to the flowers and enter their domain through a tiny portal – the viewfinder of my camera. A quiet and open mind and an intimate relationship between subject and artist are needed in order to find those in-between spaces where mystery and imagination collide. I give myself over to the idea that capricious weather, the play of light and shade, and the combination of wind and flowers will have freedom and movement. It is here, in this sense of something fleeting, not quite seen and impossible to hold on to, that the magic happens.
I search, shifting focus millimeter by millimeter, absorbed in a miniature universe so obscured by the open sweep of Orkney’s landscape that it is known 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. Some days I return empty-handed – the faeries will not tell – but some days I am granted a glimpse into their world, a privilege that is only given to those with eyes to see.
Nicki Gwynn-Jones April 2018.
Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
William Shakespeare The Tempest
It’s available to buy at the Orcadian bookshop as well as directly from Nicki. Cost is £27 + p&p and you can email Nicki at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get it now and beat the Christmas rush!
3 thoughts on “In The Dreamtime by Nicki Gwynn-Jones”
Hey SarahGreat to be reading this – I remember telling you about Nicki when she moved to Orkney!Really fascinating to see what she’s doing now with flowers.Â When I met her she was using similar techniques with wading birds (no, it doesn’t sound very interesting but try googling them – gorgeous).Â A friend has this one over her fireplace:
Hope you’re both good and that Elliot and Katie are thriving and having fun! LoveHeather
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Oh Heather! What a small world. I met Nicki through swimming and we progressed from there. I don’t swim outdoors like her though. That’s insanity.