Scottish Canals’ first ever artist-in-residence encourages public to go gongoozling

Lesley Banks at the Falkirk Wheel

Scotland’s first ever canal artist-in-residence is set to capture the beauty of the nation’s waterways on canvas – and the public’s stories and memories of them – as a 15 month project gets underway.

Entitled ‘Gongoozler’ – a term for someone who takes joy from watching the world, and one or two boats, pass by on canals – the residency will see artist Lesley Banks travel the Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan Canals creating paintings that celebrate the environments and stories of Scotland’s 250-year-old waterways. The project, funded by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding and supported by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals, will see Lesley showcase her work at various venues around Scotland and will culminate in an exhibition in May 2017 at The Park Gallery in Falkirk.

As part of the project, Lesley is appealing to people to channel their inner gongoozler to share their stories and memories of Scotland’s canals and what they mean to them. Whether it’s tales of following in the footsteps of the Gods on the Caledonian Canal’s iconic Neptune’s Staircase, soaring through the sky on The Falkirk Wheel, watching Clyde Puffers chug along the Forth & Clyde Canal or reminiscences of the Monkland Canal’s glory days, gongoozlers are encourage to share their experiences, stories and memories by emailing Lesley.The stories will be used to inform and accompany Lesley’s work.

Lesley Banks, Scottish Canals’ artist-in-residence, said: "I’m very excited to be Scottish Canals’ first artist-in-residence. From the water to the banks and beyond, Scotland’s canals are incredible environments with over two centuries of stories to tell and I can’t wait to capture some of them as part of the project.

“Using the towpaths as a studio, I’m in the process of walking the 137 miles of the Scottish canals network. That experience, and the stories submitted by the public, will allow me to create five unfolding sequential visual journeys depicting the unique character of each canal. I’d encourage everyone to share their gongoozling experiences and play a part in the project.”

Leonie Bell, Director, Arts and Engagement at Creative Scotland said: “We are delighted to be supporting this residency which will provide the opportunity for the public to come together and share their memories of Scotland’s canals. The project will create an historic record of Scotland’s canals shaped by the memories collected throughout Scotland and further afield.”

Once bustling transport arteries that stoked the fires of the industrial revolution, today the character of Scotland’s canals is very different, with the waterways home to cyclists and social enterprises rather than coal scows and Clydesdale Horses. Passing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes, rural villages and the bustling cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, the 250-year-old waterways remain vital venues for business, leisure and tourism that attract more than 22 million visits a year.

Richard Millar, Director of Heritage, Enterprise & Sustainability at Scottish Canals, said: “From Neptune’s Staircase to The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies, Scotland’s canals have been associated with innovative art and engineering for more than 200 years. Lesley’s project will celebrate that rich heritage and the vital role the waterways play in the communities that line their banks by capturing their iconic sights and stories. We can’t wait to see the results.”

For those looking to catch an early glimpse of the Gongoozler project, Lesley will be taking part in Forth Valley Art Beat’s Open Studio Afternoons during June, with her work available to view in The Old Teashop at Callendar Park in Falkirk. More information is available here

Lesley O’Hare, Culture and Libraries Manager at Falkirk Community Trust, added: “Falkirk Community Trust is delighted to be able to support Lesley’s research by providing a studio space and we are looking forward to hosting her exhibition next year. Open Studio Afternoons will give people the opportunity to view Lesley’s work in progress and share their stories of Scotland’s canals.”

Published on Thursday, 16th June 2016

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