Fingal’s Cave

Filmed in Fingal’s Cave, a dramatic sea cave almost an hour’s journey by sea from the Island of Mull, over the course of seven separate visits. The towering sculpted columnar walls and roof were long held to be man-made, or created by giants, or held up as proof of a divine creator. One myth suggested that the cave was the abode of a nine-headed sea monster, another that the Devil himself were buried beneath the island. The last inhabitants of Staffa, around 1790, left the island after the pot on their stove shook so violently during a storm one night, that they believed “nothing but the devil could have shook it that way.” It can be a wild, moody and inhospitable place.

The idea of the journey that took me to Fingal’s Cave arose in part out of my friendship with Richard Demarco, who had introduced Joseph Beuys to Scotland back in 1970, taking him on a trip to Rannoch Moor and Loch Awe. Yet the journey they made together was left incomplete, standing as they did, looking across to the mountains of Mull, the departure point for the uninhabited island of Staffa and Fingal’s cave. There was a sense of incompleteness, an idea left hanging on a thread of desire, to connect with Staffa and the mythological meanings held within its sea cave.

Runtime: 14m 9s as a single channel film, or 6m in installation format (3 or more wall projections with surround sound).

See it on Vimeo: Fingal’s Cave (single channel version).

Ultimately, Fingal’s Cave is not a conventionally beautiful or comfortable place to be. It contains a powerful and dramatic sense of desolation that leads most visitors to spend no more than a few minutes within it. After the initial sense of awe, one can sense a growing unease in people as the atmosphere of the cave begins to penetrate. At this point, many people turn away, back toward the bright light outside. In its way, Fingal’s Cave demands that we accept into ourselves a kind of desolate inner pathos.

First shown as a three screen installation at the Foksal Gallery / Galeria Foksal, Warsaw, Poland 2008, alongside Blue Flora Celtica by Alexander Hamilton, both curated by Jaromir Jedlenski. Later shown as a three screen installation at An Tobar, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, from 2nd July to 30th July 2011.

Please also see:
Associations, an essay by Foksal Gallery Curator, Jaromir Jedliński.
Foksal Gallery exhibition statement by Richard Ashrowan.
Fingal’s Cave exhibition catalogue – for An Tobar

A DVD and a selection of printed stills are available from the artist’s studio.

Available screening formats:
HD digital video. Source format: Apple ProRes 422, 1280x720p

Credits: Directed by, camera, editing and sound: Richard Ashrowan