Scott Macleod’s: Ancestral Homes
A Scandinavian and Scottish cultural lineage research project dealing with home and ancestry.
Responding to and using images and materials gathered from research on historic sites in Scandinavia and Scotland, notably the Island of Gotland, but a many others sites and sources as well, Scott MacLeod has produced a body of work that explores his own northern Scottish identity and its relation to Viking history. The links between these two northern cultures are well established, as for instance on the Orkney or Shetland Islands, but the same is true for the Outer Hebrides from whence Macleod’s ancestors came to Canada.
From north to north to north - Scandinavia to Scotland to Canada - the natural links of geography and climate build cultural links between northern cultures. This could in part explain the widespread emigration of Scottish peoples to Canada. The Vikings, who traveled so extensively, are a bridge linking Macleod’s ancestral roots in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland with the Nordic races of Scandinavia. The link to Canada is in the early Viking crossings of the Atlantic Ocean by way of Iceland to northernmost Newfoundland a thousand years ago. Interestingly, for a long time our history books failed to recognize the fact that Cabot and Columbus were not the first Europeans to visit North America. Indeed recent evidence of Viking visits in Canada’s north that predate the well known finds in northernmost Newfoundland has led contemporary archaeologists to re-evaluate the history of early Viking travel to North America.
Scott Macleod’s Ancestral Homes Scandinavian and Scottish lineage project has resulted in a series of works exploring such subjects as ancient bronze age sites on the island of Gotland, documentation of a Viking woman’s burial site at Gurness in Scotland, ancient Christian manuscript depictions of Viking ships, and the varied shapes and styles of Viking ships in Scandinavia. While at first Macleod’s work involved recreating these sites and events in watercolour and ink, this evolved into a series of paintings. These works combined painterly style and abstract motifs with the information gathered, but these works go further than the earlier illustrative works. Integrating heritage and history into contemporary art is uncommon. MacLeod does so and provides proof that heritage studies can help us to better understand our contemporary cultural identity.
Scott Macleod’s Ancestral Homes series - some of these are presented as triptychs in which Viking ships form the principal motif - explores the parallels between Scottish and Scandinavian archetypes. Symbolic motifs do surface occasionally to make us aware that the borders between Scottish and Viking history were indeed permeable and porous. When we consider racial or national identity in traditional historic terms we usually conceive of this as pure, or unmixed. What Macleod’s Ancestral Homes series demonstrates, albeit in artistic terms, is that the notion of pure races is without currency. Intercultural mixing was part and parcel of the development of distinct northern European cultures and the nomadism of the Vikings is a perfect example of this. As MacLeod states: “As we enter the new millennium, the question of home strikes me as central to any notion of sustainable living, and is of global concern. The Latin root of the word Ecology means Home. Our cultures have again become transient for different reasons. This is why I have always been interested in history. I think if we understand our past, we may begin to understand our present and future. In this way we become historically accountable and become active agents of positive change. If we choose to make this effort to research the past we can prevent future mistakes.”
Using a variety of archaeological and historical sources, adapting these into a variety of visual and painterly expressions, Scott MacLeod explores themes of Viking and Scottish heritage and ancestry. Artifacts and ancient technology are painted representationally in the early documentary works produced for this series and then evolved into semi-abstract motifs. Viking ships, their design and utility as vessels become painterly abstract compositions. By transforming this into a contemporary expression of identity, he has brought unique visual expressions and configurations of this search for identity into being.
John K. Grande