It has cast its spell over artists and writers such as Turner and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the 17th century, it was dubbed Scotland’s Alcatraz following Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland. Now the Bass Rock is to be the subject of a brand new exhibition.
Around 30 artists have been invited by Fidra Fine Art owner, Alan Rae, to present their unique view of the famous volcanic plug, which is home to 350,000 seabirds, including a large population of gannets. Bass Rock opens at Fidra Fine Art in Gullane on 4th September and among the artists exhibiting in the gallery are husband and wife, Pascale Rentsch and Darren Woodhead. The couple, who live in Haddington with their three sons, have a deep connection to the Rock, having first met 25 years ago during a seabird drawing course based at North Berwick, run by the late John Busby. A renowned wildlife artist and teacher at Edinburgh College of Art, John Busby drew and painted birds on the rock throughout his lifetime.
A highlight of his annual seabird drawing course, which Darren now runs along with his wife as one of the visiting tutors, is a visit to the Bass Rock. Darren explains; “Like everyone who visits the Bass Rock for the first time, both Pascale and I were overwhelmed by the experience. Even as you approach by boat, it literally glows thanks to being covered by both gannets and guano. It’s like entering another world; a real sensory overload with the noise of the birds, the smell and the business of the place. At one point during the visit, I gave Pascale my jumper because she was cold – and that’s how it started for us.”
Pascale continues; “I came to Scotland to study at Edinburgh College of Art and we both became very friendly with John Busby and his wife Joan. John died in 2015 and by then, we had married, had a family and settled in East Lothian. Darren took over the running of his course, which is now called The John Busby Seabird Drawing Course in his honour. So the Bass Rock is very special to us and it’s been wonderful, particularly in the last year or so, to focus our energies on making work inspired by it. The small and quiet things are as important as the obvious things and that is what I try to get across in my paintings. What fascinates me about the Rock is how it sits and feels in the landscape, the sea, the weather and the light within his surroundings. The tiny yellow flowers, the sea grasses, the brown coastline stones sparkling like gems in the evening sun are all part of the small things, but for me they are as important as the mighty Bass Rock.“
Gallery owner Alan adds; “The Bass Rock has long fascinated artists and it is also a sort of talisman for anyone who stands on the shore and looks out to sea. All the artists I have invited to take part have a connection to the Rock in some way, but each and every one of the them looks at it in a different way, and I can’t wait to see all the work as it comes together in the gallery.“