Painting in Schaldewage

David Manley Avatar
Our Studio Open Day…painting by Sarah R. Key (left) two of mine on the right

Imagine its around 1420 and a ship is sailing north, away from the leading Hanseatic League port of Bergen, having left Bremen or Hamburg some time ago, and making for Hillswick, its destination to trade goods for salted fish, lamb and skins.  Although on the last leg of its long journey it espies rough weather from the west and puts into the natural harbour of Schaldewage or Scalloway as we now know it. At that time the place is part of the Norse rule of the Islands, in fact it is only a couple miles south of Tingaholm, the Thing, where laws are debated and enforced.  Until a century and a half later when Earl Robert Stewart moves it to the town, where twenty or so years on his son Patrick Stewart (presumably before becoming ‘Professor Charles Xavier’ or Jean Luc Picard – ha ha) builds his spanking new castle in the ‘town’ and the ‘ancient capital’ of the Islands.  The town sits on the bottom end of the Nesting Fault, a splay of the Walls Boundary Fault, itself possibly connected to the great Glen Fault.


So The Booth is situated in an immensely rich and interesting location.  Literally on the edge of the fault, the Castle a few yards away, the water of the harbour right below our window. Do learning about any of these things influence the production of abstract paintings I wonder? I’m just one of many artists who occasionally talk airily about ‘a sense of place’…but what does it actually mean?  I’m ploughing my way, painfully slowly, through Mary Jacobus’s Reading Cy Twombly (its a very rich and rewarding book but requires a great deal of contextual understandings!) and she quotes from Shelley “Naught may endure but mutability” in regard to Twombly’s Letter of Resignation.  The line has resonances for me every time I look up and out into the harbour and the ocean road beyond it…the sea and its ever changing moods and cadences.  And perhaps its that, more than anything, that creates ‘a sense of place’.


4 responses

  1. Guthlac

    We’ll make a historian of you yet! Oh course where you live now is also surrounded in Scandinavian history only that is Danish rather than Norse but the place names are the similar. As for Hanseatic league their fingers can be traced to the medieval towns of Leicester and Nottingham and no doubt Derby as they controlled much of the wool trade between England and the Low Countries. Even the King of the Scots, but not the northern isles, held sway from his manorial centre at Whitwick. It is a small world but as far as these strange islands off of the mainland of Europe are concerned full of comings and goings for thousands of years. Does make a bit of a nonsense of taking back control but that is just the latest chapter. Anyway, great to see you have had a productive time and I look forward to hearing all about it.

  2. David Manley

    Small world indeed. Small local lad kicking a ball about in Fraser Park this afternoon wearing a Leicester City shirt!

  3. nannus

    It looks like this has been an inspiring place for you. I hope you will posts pictures of the paintings shown there.
    And I can realy relate to this post. I have ancestors from Bremen who seem to have been involved in the Bergen trade. And the Robert Stewart you mention is my “4th cousin 12 times removed”, according to the Geni genealogy web site. Not that I heard of him ever before, but thanks to introducing me to another distant relative 🙂

    1. David Manley

      Blimey! I loved Shetland a lot…we are already plotting another spell up there in a year or so…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: