Samhla - about the project

detail from archival photo showing small dogs on Skye shore and image taken onsite at 11 Fàsach
Samhla, Lauren Gault 2023 (detail from archival photo held at Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre, and image taken onsite at 11 Fàsach).

In 2022, Lauren Gault was invited by ATLAS and Tuath – a cultural project exploring land and place relations with James Oliver, at 11 Fàsach, Glendale – to visit Fàsach and to think about the question:​““If the land could speak to you and you were listening to try and understand it, what would you say back?”

With many voices and collaborators, Lauren began a research project in response to this question, thinking with the land at Fàsach, and its historical, cultural, political and folkloric connections with other places.

Samhla is an exhibition of new sculpture and events across a range of indoor and outdoor spaces – at Glendale, Romesdal and Staffin – it brings together objects, texts and materials to be held in the hand, encountered through walking, licked by animals, and expanded through publication and discussion.

Working with many different people whose work tells stories about land – archaeologists, palaeontologists, folklorists, classicists, geologists and soil researchers – the project brings together references that speak about how Skye’s landscape has been controlled, valued, changed or understood across expansive time periods.

Samhla grows from Lauren’s longstanding interest in the stakes of landscape decisions. With issues of how land is accessed and renewed’ of ongoing and huge relevance in Skye, Lauren’s work opens up conversations through materials – using objects as prompts to think about echoes, patterns, and relationships between places, and to tune in to different kinds of voices.

Many of the works explore human-canine histories, with these relationships often being very telling about wider social conditions, and how people connect with the land around them. Exploring records of dogs and wolves in place names, mythology, archival records, and fossil finds – the exhibition includes reworked sheep worrying signs, ghostly images of dogs and owners, locations of wolf pits, and much more.

In Glendale, where 19th Century factors banned dog ownership to manage tenants’ use of the land, Samhla begins with an event at Glendale Community Hall – exploring ways of tuning in to place, time and history. The event includes discussion with specially made objects, analysis of the underlying soil and geology, refreshments, and a walk around nearby Fàsach with archaeologist Giacomo Savani. We’ll also launch a guiding map which collates thanks, references, images and correspondence from many of the Samhla contributors.

Continuing in Romesdal – a series of sculptures and text works weave up the hill to the site of a (possible) old wolf pit near Lòn Madragil. Open for a week thereafter, on Saturday the exhibition will open with discussion on the histories of the area, as well as invitations to listen to the land in different ways.

At Staffin Dinosaur Museum, a new moving image work sits alongside the rich catalogue of museum objects, exploring Skye’s palaeontological history and its close links with crofting knowledge and local mythology. Small voided’ replica fossils are also exhibited, made by 3D printing CT scans of rocks to reveal the hidden artefact within – without extracting it from its source. The film comprises shots from the CT scanning process, accompanied by sound made by members of The School of Plural Futures – who worked with Lauren and Classicist Dr Katharine Earnshaw to explore the myth of echo in Gàidhlig and Classical texts. These works, in these surroundings, pay homage to events and conversations that took place during the research and making of the show – which discussed how materials often leave (or are stolen from) the Highlands for interpretation away from their local and cultural context.

Finally, in Kilmuir and Stenscholl Church in Staffin, an indoor exhibition brings together sculptures exploring different material histories, including mineral lick bucket sculptures, casts of an infamous Raasay agricultural artefact (an upended turtle sandpit blown over to the island 20 years ago and now used for feeding), printed fossil voids and braided dog leash/​ropes.

At the end of the exhibition the works will be gathered back in and variously repurposed, absorbed or returned to the landscape and its users.

The project journeys through a landscape that is living, working, active and storied, finding threads of connection across disciplines, objects, places, and millennia. Lauren’s thoughtful approach to collaborative research, and material practice invites us to explore these threads deeply. We are so grateful to the many people that have contributed to the learning and making of this work, and we can’t wait to share this further through the public programme in July.” – Heather Fulton ATLAS Arts Co-Director

Samhla ultimately examines how land and landscape is quantified and the many ways it is voiced – in signage, through folklore, place name history, through animals, people, fossils and material from different industries. By bringing us together in places we can walk through and experience collectively – and in light of the speculation on land continually happening around us – Lauren’s work opens a space to connect with histories underfoot, revealing places and materials where memories are held, and where voices echo.

Read on to find out more about the various people involved in the sculptural research so far.

SAMHLA. Gàidhlig n. masc. /​sãũLə/​pl. ‑ichean
— English, meaning: 1. figure, sign, symbol 2. shape, form 3. allegory, metaphor 4. likeness, (re)semblance, simile 5. example 6. apparition, vision (spiritual)

Samhla Supporters

With funding support from Henry Moore Foundation and Creative Scotland Open Fund.

In-kind support from:

Rumenco

XCT scanning performed by the National Research Facility for Lab X-ray CT (NXCT) at the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre, University of Southampton, through the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant EP/T02593X/ 1

SEM imaging by Dr. Bianca Cavazzin and PhD student Heloisa Dickinson

Many people have contributed to the learning, making and sharing of Samhla. The ATLAS team; KB, Heather Fulton, Ainslie Roddick, Sebastian Taylor, Robyn Wolsey, and Lauren Gault would like to thank:

A special thank you to:

Dr Elsa Panciroli, Palaeontologist

Dr Giacomo Savani, Archeologist

Dr Katharine Earnshaw, Classicist

James Oliver, Tuath

Dugie, Debbie and Caroline Ross

Staffin Dinosaur Museum team

Catherine MacPhee, Anne Beaton and Katharine MacFarlane at Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

Yvonne White, Chair - Kingsburgh Common Grazings

Dr Fernando Alvarez-Borges, Maria Stagno Navarra, Bethany Harding, Ehsan Nazemi, University of Southampton

James Stephenson, crofter

Cheryl McIntyre, crofter

Chrissie Gillies, crofter (Raasay)

Caroline Dear, artist

Steve Taylor, author

Professor Hugh Cheape, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - UHI

Professor Meg Bateman, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - UHI

Dr Kate Dobson, Philip Salter and Matt Divers, University of Strathclyde

Grace Wright

Calum MacPherson

Iain Cameron

Romesdal Common Grazing Crofters

Angus Ross, Staffin Community Trust

Linda Spence, Clan Donald Lands Trust

Seoras MacPherson, storyteller

Ross Sibbald and Grant Hunter, Rumenco

Emmie McCluskey and The School of Plural Futures 2024

Caleb Wilson and Sel Freund, Musicians

Richy Carey

Glasgow Sculpture Studios

Dr Stig Walsh, National Museums of Scotland,

Dr Neil Clark, University of Glasgow

Jeanette Pearson, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

Dr Bianca Cavassin and Heloisa Dickinson, University of Glasgow

Ewan Thomson

Charles Culbertson

Ruth Clark

Murdo MacGillivray

Iain Campbell, Staffin

Siobhan McKenna

Nat McGowan

Alasdair Campbell

Sandaidh MacPhee

Perri MacKenzie

Joe Morton

Anne Martin

Angus Ross, Idrigil

Lesley Sharpe

ATLAS Arts Board of Trustees

Glasgow Sculpture Studios

Dr Carolyn Alexander