Gill Russell: Sorn

23 Jan 2012 in Highland, Showcase, Visual Arts & Crafts

Strathmashie Forest, Laggan, through winter months

WHILE staying in Kingussie at New Year my friends and I visited Sorn – Gill Russell’s sound and light installation in Strathmashie Forest. Eighteen of us made the trip on the evening of New Year’s Day, driving the twelve or so miles to the Wolftrax Centre car park.

On the short walk up through the woods most used torches to light the track – I used mine to scan the trees for owls. Reaching a clearing we gathered round a luminous disc that glowed softly from its resting place amongst a cairn of stones. A nearby button was pressed and the show began…

SORN at Strathmashie Forest (photo Andy Smith)

SORN at Strathmashie Forest (photo Andy Smith)

I’d expected a display of sound and light, but in fact sound is the main element; the disc of gentle off-white remained constant throughout. Like a portal into a place of snow.

From the trees beside us, behind us, all around us, noises came. Sometimes haunting, sometimes uplifting, always intriguing. A group of women sang in Gaelic, children chanted, bells tolled and chimes rang. A buzzard cried its piercing mew and – most impressive to me – a horse galloped swiftly from left to right, as if it were right behind our backs.

In times gone by perhaps a highwayman, or a messenger speeding his important errand through the night. Above all this trees reached up to touch the winter moon.

There were a few comments at first, a laugh here and there, but quickly these silenced as everyone became absorbed. When the sounds had eventually faded away the group headed back towards the car park.

I waited, wanting to experience the performance a second time, on my own – considerably more eerie than when surrounded by 17 friends! I made my return along the track without use of my torch, lit only by the moon. My shadow walked before me and snowflakes began pirouetting gracefully through the air.

So, thank you Gill Russell for a beautiful and inspiring experience and a great excuse to get out and explore a forest at night. If anyone’s in the area this winter – don’t miss it.

Details and directions can be found on the website of ‘Where Long Shadows Fall’.

© Leo du Feu, 2012


Gill Russell

Where Long Shadows Fall

Leo du Feu