This beautifully detailed etching was created by Gail Low & Sian MacFarlane for the River Deep Mountain High exhibition. The plate includes an excerpt of a longer poem, ‘Timefolds’, which addresses absence & presence in the archives & in relation to Dundee’s industrial past.


Tay Vaults by Sian MacFarlane and Gail Low
Etching on zinc 

 “The text on the etched plate is part of a longer poem, Timefolds, which was written as a response to archival photographs of Dundee’s whaling ships, and images of the building of the Tay Rail Bridge (the latter taking by the studio Valentine of Dundee). The poems text addresses absence and presence in the archive, and in relation to Dundee’s past industrial history. Etching as a process manifests some of those characteristics: scratching a metal plate with a sharp instrument, leaving a trace, and then inking those marks to print. Metal gestures toward Victorian engineering; the plate’s decorative style harks back to Victorian advertising. Metal also suggests permanence: yet the 1879 Tay Bridge disaster indicates that those are illusions: ‘old brick stumps’ are all that remain. Images from the archive show the monumentality of Dundee’s whaling enterprise: ‘a floating factory’ at sea. Whales are, of course, also monumental in size. Yet both that industry and the mammals that were hunted have, at some point, disappeared or have been made to disappear.”

The etching is by Sian MacFarlane a graphic designer and a former student of DJCAD inspired by the poem of Gail Low who teaches creative writing and book history in the School of Humanities. The last stanza of Gail’s poem is above. They were inspired by the material relating to the Tay and the whaling collections.

River Deep Mountain High was an exhibition in the University’s Lamb Gallery to mark the Year of Coast and Water curated by Archive Services. Artists, designers and creative writers were invited to respond to the University’s rich archive, museum and rare book collections on the themes of rivers, seas, coasts and mountains. Original photographs, journals, plans, models and specimens relating to whaling, the River Tay, the natural world and mountaineering inspired jewellery, artwork, sculpture, poetry and much more.

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