Ash Blooms in the Blackwater
A new series of artworks by Alistair Brown.
This project came about as a response to the death of my father in August 2017. The title of the project is born from the process of scattering his ashes in the Blackwater a river that runs out into the Clyde Estuary through the small village Blackwaterfoot on the Isle of Arran.
It was here my father would moor his boat Cloudy Bay and would often land his catch of lobster, crab, pollock and mackerel. My mum would say the sea was his spiritual home, so it seemed fitting that this would be the place to scatter his ashes.
The water was calm and the air still as we gathered on the small dock to board a small dinghy that would get us to the middle of the river. The water in the river is a Guinness black and was flowing well. The family settled into the boat and positioned the small dinghy in the centre of the river.
I opened the bag as family and close friends lined the shore in a collective silence of respect. It was time to say goodbye to my dad. I opened the bag containing his ashes. The wind, though not strong, could gust and to avoid covering the others in the boat I kept the bag close to the water and released the ashes gently into the blackwater. I was hoping that releasing the ashes this way would appear solemn and reverential. Although in reality, I was scared of dropping the whole damn lot into the river.
Caught by the current each pour of the ashes sank and swirled and seemed to bloom, expanding, dancing on the current taking form against the dark of the water and sinking, elegantly from view. I remember being surprised how beautiful it looked, then guilty that something that appeared to me as beautiful had extracted a heavy price. Maybe that was the only way I could balance the loss of my father by finding a beauty and elegance in the random ash blooms in the water.
When it was over I was haunted by the “blooms” as I came to call them now and weeks later I started to think how I could translate them into my work. So I scoured google and after going down various rabbit holes I came upon some resin artists on youtube. Here was a randomness with the elegance I was looking for, it wasn’t exactly representing what I saw, but the resin offered me the lack of control and unpredictability the ash executed within the waters. Also, it offered me the chance to expand my lexicon in using a new medium with which I could express myself. And after having been using digital tools for so long it was exciting to be getting my hands dirty once again.