Abandoned Cottages

I spent a little over a week of my time at MERZ working at a terrace of abandoned farm cottages outside Sanquhar. The cottages are south facing with stunning views of the countryside which presented many interesting formal possibilities for painting. However I also wanted to respond to the cottages as a site of abandonment and decay.

Working here wasn’t easy. Judging from old post left inside, the cottages had been abandoned since the 1990’s and were filthy. Filled with dead birds and insects (including hundreds of butterflies); a dead ewe and lamb blocked the front door.

I started by experimenting on the building itself. Placing stencils and found objects on the windows, using found fragments of mirror in timelapse videos, painting ghost images on the windows. I referenced personal history by using stencils created from photos of my childhood home in Ohio. Adding to the accretion of the cottages was a way to begin to understand this place and its history, to consider the cottages themselves as a kind of collage. Like everything else at the cottage my work here was transitory and part of the process of disintegration. Documenting the removal of objects and paintings on the windows was an important part of the process.


I made small paintings at the cottages working quickly to create sometimes four in a day. I wished to capture the light and form, the atmosphere of this place and experimented with gesture, colour and composition. I also worked large – on A0 sized paper – creating three paintings simultaneously in the yard outside. These paintings were then brought into the cottages where I used different found materials, such as wallpaper, to create collage.

The atmosphere at the cottages was strangely muted. Full of death and decay but also a catalyst for new possibilities, new ideas. Instead of ghosts I found an amazing freedom to experiment and expand my work, a powerful experience that I will take with me.