River Connections artwork breathes life into riverside
“River Connections” by award winning artist Mary Bourne is a series of inter-related works which was commissioned to highlight the ways the River Ness connects Inverness to other times and other places.
Newly appointed Chair of the Inverness City Arts working group, which commissioned the art work, Councillor Isabelle Mackenzie, took a walk down the river with Mary Bourne to view the art and hear about its meaning.
She said: “I was fascinated to learn about the background and thought which goes into each of the art pieces. I would encourage as many people as possible to go down to the river and look at the art – it is a very relaxing and interesting way to spend an afternoon.”
River Connections is one of a number of commissioned art installations which are being developed around the River Ness as part of the River Ness Art Project. The final art project will be to create a digital trail around the river.
The scheme involved work inlaid and carved into the flood wall and pavement, and sculptural seating. A cycle of specially written poems was commissioned from Ken Cockburn, working to a brief drawn up by Mary. She also worked with George Gunn, a master dyker, to create sculptural seats that represent key points in the river’s progress. These are its headwaters, the point at which the downward flow of the water is held in equilibrium by the upward flow of the incoming tide, and the point at which the river meets the sea.
Local people worked with poet, Ken Cockburn, to respond to the area at the mouth of the River Ness. Mary Bourne then taught them letter cutting, enabling them to carve their poems into stone to be incorporated into a seating area overlooking the mouth of the Ness – the Merkinch Circles
Mary’s work, predominantly in carved natural stone, reflects on man’s relationship with his environment and often deals with themes of subjectivity, the passage of time and change. The physicality of the objects she makes is very important and they are often highly tactile.
She says, “For me art is a medium for reflection and communication. Given the durability of my medium, this means communication not only between contemporaries, but between generations: stone warmed and shaped by my hands will perhaps again be warmed by the hands of someone in some unknowable time to come.”
More about the project can be found at https://www.highland.gov.uk/rivernessart
Chair of the ICARTs working group Councillor Isabelle Mackenzie with artist Mary Bourne
Chair of the ICARTs working group Councillor Isabelle Mackenzie (centre) with artist Mary Bourne (R) and Working Group member Councillor Bet McAllister (L)
Mary Bourne is an artist based in the rural North East of Scotland. Trained at Edinburgh College of Art and a John Kinross Scholar in 1985, her professional experience has included numerous public commissions, including interpretative artworks at Bennachie, Aberdeenshire; Mallerstang, East Cumbria and Mugdock Country Park, Milngavie. She has worked with high profile architects like Page/Park (Eden Court Theatre) and Malcolm Fraser (Scottish Poetry Library), as well as with the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and Historic Environment Scotland on a contemporary carving project for the 16th century Riddle’s Court on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Earlier in her career, Mary taught part time at Edinburgh College of Art and Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen and she has led numerous education projects, including stone carving master classes at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. More recently she devised and managed the award-winning Mortlach Story Walks project in Dufftown in collaboration with the local school and footpath charity.
Mary has exhibited widely in Britain and abroad. She has received a number of prizes and awards including the Meyer Oppenheim Award (1997) and Ireland Alloys Award (1996), both from the Royal Scottish Academy. Internationally, she has been an invited participant at symposia in America and Japan.
Mary has contributed to the Scottish art scene through membership of a number of voluntary committees and organisations. She was involved in the very early stages of setting up Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, was a Trustee of the Scottish Sculpture Trust and Chair of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop during a period of re-visioning and organisational restructuring. She also served on the Exhibitions Panel and Visual Arts Committee for the Scottish Arts Council and has been Chair of Deveron Projects in Huntly for a number of years.