còmhlan bheanntan | a company of mountains | Alec Finlay

Alec Finlay’s còmhlan bheanntan | a company of mountains was an ATLAS Arts commission that saw the artist produce a variety of poems, photos, essays and ‘word-mntn’ drawings which took inspiration from Sorley Maclean’s poem Ceann Loch Aeoineart. This collaborative project saw Alec work with a number of other artists to select fourteen sites, or conspectuses, in the Isle of Skye from which to explore the mountains, history, culture and mythology of the island.

Building on Alec’s the road north journey project with poet Ken Cockburn in 2011, this commission was equally as ritualistic and centered around the passages and routes taken across the island. Looking to educate and familiarise himself with the Isle of Skye, Alec used The Cuillin to navigate the topography of a location he had visited many times but simply passed through on his way to the Outer Hebrides.

Commenting on the views and journeys explored in this project, Alec noted:


‘The views of Skye draw on many specialisms, refining the essentially simple act – or art – of viewing. Most of all, I wanted to learn to see the wilderness better myself. Returning the name-poems to their mountains set Emma and I the task of exploring Skye. She was patient with the slowness of my walking. We gently stirred the waters of what it means to belong in a place like this. The journey had a frisson for Emma, as she had only recently come ‘home’ to the island of her forebears. As we drove past Sconser she pointed out the boggy slope on the far shore where the family croft had been. Back home in Portree she looked out a letter from her relative, Sorley Maclean, who had first encouraged her interest in the culture of the island.’

To produce, develop and encourage the growth of this project and the journeys taken by Alec in exploring this commission, a number of collaborators were brought on board to share their intimate and varied knowledge of the island. These collaborators included: Luke Allan, Meg Bateman, Neal Beggs, Julie Brook, Maoilios Caimbeul, Thomas A. Clark, Ken Cockburn, Caroline Dear, Graham Dolphin, Bill Drummond, Linda France, Malcolm Fraser, Harry Gilonis, J. C. R. Green, Kevin Henderson, Brian Holton, Gavin Jones, George Kozikowski, Pat Law, Peter Levi, Alison Lloyd, Sorley MacLean, J. Maizlish Mole, Momus, Gavin Morrison, Emma Nicolson, John Purser, Jessica Ramm, Geoff Sample, Norman Shaw, David Sherry, Dan Shipsides, Caroline Smith, Iain Crichton Smith, Ian Stephen, Nick Thomson, Susan Tichy, Hanna Tuulikki, Roderick Watson, Ian Whittlesea, Colin Will.

A dedicated project website can be found here.