Artist's Statement: Neville Gabie on AFLOAT, his film about a Scottish Highlands community

| 08 September 2014

Artist’s Statement: Neville Gabie on the premiere of AFLOAT, a touring film work following a Scottish Highlands community as they created a rowing boat and competed in the Skiff World Championships

A photo of a boat on a vast river
Neville Gabie's new film work is about to receive its London premiere© Courtesy Neville Gabie
“I am a sculptor. As far back as I can remember I always liked making things, especially with wood.

Fashioning something was my refuge, something I could control, manage and do well. So more than anything else I would have liked to help make the boat, to help put it into the water, to row it.

A photo of a man in profile
The artist calls sculpture his refuge© Photo: Peter Haring
Instead I just watched. I watched as the planks were cut, shaped and bent into place.

I watched as each was first glued, planed, sanded and finally painted. I watched as winter became summer and the skiff was carefully carried down to the sea.

I stood on the shore among a crowd, as five people became one, stretching, bending and pulling on the oars to drive the boat forward

While the boat is central, filming its construction was perhaps an indulgence for thinking about something much more personal.

I am fascinated by this tiny community, not all indigenous, or even Scottish, living on the margins between land and sea.

I saw a bond there that I envied and was terrified of in equal measure. I encountered my own ghosts and rootlessness starkly reflected in this odd mix of people drawn together in the embrace of a very unique landscape.

In Coigach I stumbled on a community of people with a real sense of who they are and why they are there. I wanted to know it, understand it, to imagine if I could become part of such a place.

Coigach is very beautiful. Most tourists who want an escape could fall in love with such a place.

And yet for those who live there it is also a hard choice to have made. The nearest larger town or hospital is two hours away, the isolation can be intense, the primary school has 17 children in total, the community about 300.

Generating an income is always a challenge and the need to be self-reliant and play your part within the larger community essential. Living here is a specific life choice and one which comes at a cost.

In making this film I became a passive observer, obscured behind a lens, which is slightly out of character.

But at the heart of this film are concerns which permeate everything I do; a yearning to understand my own relationship to place.”

  • AFLOAT screens at The Floating Cinema, St Katharine’s Dock, London on September 13 2014, 11am, 12pm and 1pm (artist talk 2pm), then Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, September 24; Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, September 27.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of ripples on the water of a river
© Courtesy Neville Gabie
A photo of a boat on a beach
Coigach can be an intensely isolated place© Courtesy Neville Gabie
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We would be interested in showing this movie at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Connecticut, USA
Herman Blanke
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