It wasn’t as cold outside as you would expect it would be in October. The doors opened on time and there was a small queue outside waiting. Faces I recognised and others I didn’t. The photographic paper on the walls was well framed and lit to complement the room.

I had already seen the artists milling around showing me their pictures and I said I liked them more than once. I had wandered round for a little while just taking in the artwork.

Around the room were approximately 20 pictures made from photographic paper, all shapes with all sizes of shadows on them. Images made with a camera-less method of photography used by 18th century botanists.

I had a chance to talk to a few of the artists involved and got to know the process a little bit more. I asked one of them, Celine McIllmun, the arts tutor in Project Ability’s Reconnect programme: ‘How long did it take to do it?’ Her reply was: ‘4 or 5 workshops.’ She went on to tell me: ‘I came across the process by chance, as I’d had this photographic paper for a while and I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s actually really good to see some of these bigger pictures.’

After we had a little talk more about the show, I caught up with another one of the artist Esme McLeod. I asked her: ‘How did you come up with the idea?’. She said: ‘I didn’t have any ideas at all when I started. I just kind of made it up. I had really limited equipment, some foil letters that Celine brought in. It was kind of straight forward and I like how forgiving it is. You don’t have to be quite so accurate. It was good.’

As I moved round the room, I talked to Jonny Kirkwood, another of the participating artists. This is what he had to say on the process: ‘These are wee plants, a thistle and a daisy that I picked up on a trip to Rothesay. Adding more: ‘We were playing about with times. You need to find these out in using certain exposures. It was trial and error. It looked purple at first…and then when you put it in the fix, it just went black.’

‘If you shine light through it onto the paper the picture of the acetate would transfer onto the photographic paper. It was just a case of going around the tables at Project Ability and using pens tracing marks on the tables and making marks also with paint and acrylic. It was just playing around. It’s where the practice comes in.’

These pictures are a few of the 20 or more on show in Project Ability. The artists showing works in the exhibition are: Simon McAuley, Lea Cummings, Esme McLeod, Rainoir Clark, Jonny Kirkwood and Celine McIllmunn.

It’s not hard to find either. It’s the first floor up from the foyer of Trongate 103, Argyle Street. I would recommend you see this exhibition, even if only to bask at the process and see the different styles used. It’s a must for any botanist to acknowledge the utilisation of the theory – and, in this case, its practice.

by Stuart Low


Lumen Essence is exhibiting in Gallery I at Project Ability until 11 Nov. Another exhibition Some Pictures is on display in Gallery II. Entry is free and the galleries are open Tue-Sat 10am-5pm.