Frances Scott is a photographer and designer from Orkney. A graduate of Glasgow School of Art, her photographic work often focuses on journeys – including explorations of Toronto’s tangled ravine system, a documentation of Scotland’s A9 road, and most recently a two-year project walking the length of the Orkney Mainland coastline. She predominantly creates her photographs using medium format film, and her projects are often resolved as books which she designs and binds by hand. After graduating in 2014, Frances returned to Orkney where she co-founded the MÓTI Collective. She currently works as a photography technician at Glasgow School of Art, returning home frequently to maintain her connection with Orkney.
After leaving art school, and especially when moving home from the city, graduates can find themselves in a bit of a void. In 2016, a group of art graduates and I created MÓTI to combat this issue, and to raise the profile of Orkney-based graduates who are choosing to make work outside of traditional creative hubs such as London and the central belt. Our name comes from an Old Norse word meaning ‘towards; to meet’, and as such our members intend to provide one another with mutual support and a platform for creative development. We have exhibited together in a series of exhibitions at galleries including Orkney’s Old Library and The Pier Arts Centre, often working to a collective theme or brief.
The piece of work I’m sharing here was created for ‘Of Land and Sea: Contemporary Interpretations of Orkney Folklore’, a group exhibition with MÓTI which was on show at The Old Library in Kirkwall in April 2018.
“Around the time of the vernal equinox, the Sea Mither returns to Orkney to take up her summer residence in the sea. To do so, she must overcome the evil force of Teran. This battle, the ‘Vore Tullye’ (spring struggle) results each year in fierce storms, throughout which can be heard Teran’s screams of fury. Over summer the Sea Mither brings warmth and propagates life, but by the autumn equinox she has spent her energy. One terrible night Teran breaks free from his chains; the islands are gripped in another battle, the ‘Gore Vellye’ (autumn tumult). Teran’s victory unleashes foul creatures, bringing darkness, pestilence and death to Orkney throughout winter. The islanders are left to wait in hope for the Sea Mither’s return.
The sea is ubiquitous in Orkney’s folk history, and my photographs explore the ways in which our ancestors made sense of this entity which can both sustain life, and bring an end to it. I have distilled the opposing forces down to the elements of light and dark; examining the balance and transition between shadow and highlight on the surface of the sea. This image can be read from foreground to distance as Vore Tullye, and in reverse as Gore Vellye, depending on how it is interpreted by the viewer. Either way, I hope to convey a sense of a consciousness — whether malignant or benign — bubbling away beneath the surface of the waves.”