Fantastic Islands – Spring Fling Begins

From a vanished prehistoric island to the Scottish land and seascapes of today 

  • 100 studios open their doors across Dumfries and Galloway  
  • Amazing venues from rural studios to galleries and a tree house 

The “lost landscapes” of an ancient island buried deep beneath Scotland’s Southern Uplands have been created using light, shadow, finger rings and bio-resin sculptures.

They are the work of a young experimental artist taking part in the Spring Fling open studios weekend. The 21st annual event, involving 100 studios across Dumfries and Galloway, takes place from 27-29 May, and features a multitude of artists and makers.

Among them are Denise Zygadlo, who works in a variety of media and Anne Butler, a semi-abstract painter inspired by today’s land and seascapes.

Another is 23-year-old Marly Merle whose wearable, interactive art conjures up an imaginary prehistoric island from before the land masses that formed England and Scotland collided.

Exhibiting at The Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Marly is taking part for the first time through Upland’s new CREATE scheme which offers a platform to an artist working in less commercial, more experimental ways.

Marly’s work uses magnetic finger rings to which the wearer can attach bio-resin sculptures that – when held in front of a projector – cast shadows showing the hills and coastlines of Thestra.

While Thestra is fictional, the setting is fact. Marly takes us back to the world as it was 400 million years ago. Thestra lies in the Lapetus Ocean but vanishes when Laurentia (which included what is now Scotland) and Eastern Avalonia (which included what became England and wales) fuse together.

Marly, who was brought up in Auldgirth and now has a studio in Glasgow, said: “Sadly Thestra was lost and is now beneath the Southern Uplands. This exhibition is an attempt to establish a sense of connection with a place that vanished so long ago – aeons before humans evolved.”

Anne Butler, based at Ferndale Studio, Durisdeer, Thornhill, finds her inspiration in the region as it looks today.

She said: “I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful village of Durisdeer and have a studio which is very much my workspace. I love to spend time outdoors where I paint landscapes and seascapes – mostly working on large canvases. 

“Spring Fling has always been a wonderful opportunity for artists like me to invite visitors in and share what we do – and talk to them about the things that we love and that inspire our art.” 

Densie Zygadlo, who was involved in the first Spring Fling, is based at Glenhead, Auldgirth. Visitors will see prints, drawings and works on canvas in various settings including a treehouse, roundhouse and a balcony area. 

She said: “I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful village of Durisdeer and have a studio in my garden. After studying at Leith School of Art, Spring Fling was my first ever exhibition. That was over ten years ago and I have exhibited in Spring Fling every year since. I now exhibit in lots of galleries in the UK and am grateful to Spring Fling for giving me the initial confidence I needed to approach galleries.

“Spring Fling is more special than exhibiting in galleries because it gives artists like me the opportunity to invite visitors into our studios and share what we do. I have had so many interesting conversations with people about why they buy art, from new extensions to anniversaries and even to celebrate recovering from illness. It would be lovely to welcome new visitors to my studio this weekend.”

Dumfries and Galloway takes time to explore so Upland CIC, Spring Fling’s organisers, have divided it into six suggested colour-coded routes that each allow people to meet a wide variety of artists and makers.

Joanna Jones, Assistant Director of Upland CIC which organises Spring Fling, said: “The variety of artists and makers is quite incredible. 

“We have everything from experimental installations by up-and-coming artists like Marly to landscape painting, original printmaking, ceramics, jewellery and so much more. The whole weekend is a chance to explore one of Scotland’s most beautiful regions and meet members of its incredible creative community.” 

For full details of all the studios see www.spring-fling.co.uk

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