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Scotland’s first canal artist-in-residence invites public to go ‘gongoozling’

Published: 03 May 2017

Lesley Banks, Gongoozler

Scotland’s first-ever canal artist-in-residence has captured the spectacular sights of the nation’s inland waterways on canvas and is inviting the public to go ‘gongoozling’ as the first exhibition of her work opens on 6 May at the Park Gallery in Falkirk.  

Entitled ‘Gongoozler’ – a term for someone who takes joy from watching the world, and one or two boats, pass by on canals – the exhibition marks the culmination of a 15-month residency that saw artist Lesley Banks travel the Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan Canals creating paintings that celebrate the environments and stories of Scotland’s 250-year-old waterways. The exhibition will run until 25 June.

The residency, funded by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding and supported by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals, has resulted in the creation of more than 40 paintings of the nation’s canals, covering everything from The Falkirk Wheel to Neptune’s Staircase, The Kelpies, and even the few remaining sections of the Monkland Canal.

Lesley Banks, Scottish Canals’ artist-in-residence, said: "From the water to the banks and beyond, Scotland’s canals are unique environments with over two centuries of stories to tell and I feel very lucky to be Scottish Canals’ first artist-in-residence. I’ve spent the past year gongoozling, using the towpaths as a studio and capturing some incredible sights on the waterways throughout changing seasons, weather and times of day.

“The Gongoozler exhibition is the culmination of that experience and celebrates the unique character of each canal, from the majestic Caledonian to the post-industrial Forth & Clyde, in a sequential form that will allow people to explore the waterways on canvas as if they were walking the towpath with me.”

Claire Byers, Interim Director, Arts & Engagement at Creative Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have supported this residency which celebrates the rich resource of Scotland’s canals and what they mean to the communities they connect. Lesley’s art captures the spirit and stories of the evocative pace of life demanded by these slow-moving arteries – and her exhibition will rekindle the enjoyment of all those that have contributed as well as sparking the imagination of new audiences for her work and the canals themselves.”

Once bustling transport arteries that stoked the fires of the industrial revolution, today the character of Scotland’s canals is very different, with the waterways home to cyclists and social enterprises rather than coal scows and Clydesdale Horses. Passing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes, rural villages and the bustling cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, the 250-year-old waterways remain vital venues for business, leisure and tourism that attract more than 22 million visits a year.

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals, said: “From Neptune’s Staircase to The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies, Scotland’s canals have been associated with innovative art and engineering for more than 200 years. Lesley’s project has helped celebrate that rich heritage and the vital role the waterways play in the communities that line their banks by committing their iconic sights and stories to canvas – many for the first time.

“We’re delighted with the results of the residency and hope that seeing the incredible scenery of Scotland’s canals during the exhibition will encourage even more to people to explore the waterways by boot, boat and bike and experience them in person.”

Maureen Campbell, Chief Executive of Falkirk Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to have supported Lesley in the development of the exhibition. We look forward to welcoming visitors to Callendar House to see the wonderful interpretation of key heritage assets. We are particularly pleased to see Falkirk presented in a number of the works.”

The Gongoozler exhibition will take place from Saturday 6 May until Sunday 25 June at the Park Gallery at Callendar House, Callendar Park, Falkirk. More information is available at www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org/venues/park-gallery

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Chris McDonald at Scottish Canals on 07917217608 or email Chris.McDonald@scottishcanals.co.uk

Gillian Smith at Falkirk Community Trust on 01324 503 788 or email Gillian.Smith@falkirkcommunitytrust.org

Notes to the editor

About Scottish Canals
Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles. The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year

For more information, visit www.scottishcanals.co.uk or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter

About Falkirk Community Trust

Falkirk Community Trust is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and was established by Falkirk Council.

As a not-for-profit organisation we strive to support community aspirations, deliver inspiring services and ensure that the experiences we offer provide equality of opportunity and access for all.

We deliver Arts, Heritage, Libraries, Fitness, Sport, Parks, Outdoors and are operators of The Helix and The Kelpies.

Falkirk Community Trust gratefully acknowledges the support and funding from Falkirk Council

About Creative Scotland
Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit www.creativescotland.com. Follow us @creativescots and www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland

About Lesley Banks
Born in 1962, Lesley Banks grew up in Denny, Stirlingshire. In 1980 she began a four year Degree course at Glasgow School of Art specialising in Drawing and Painting.

After graduating she travelled and painted throughout Europe funded by an Elizabeth Greenshields Scholarship.

In 1988 she became a gallery assistant in the Compass Gallery, Glasgow. Here, encouraged by Cyril and Jill Gerber, Lesley began to exhibit more of her artworks winning various prizes and awards, such as The 1991 Scottish Prize, Royal Overseas League London. This gave her the confidence to concentrate on painting full-time.

In 1999 Lesley was appointed 'Artist in Residence' at Edinburgh Zoo where her popular "Urban Zoo" exhibition gained funding from the Scottish Arts Council.

Since this time Lesley has exhibited throughout the U.K. and even as far afield as Singapore and the U.S.A. Lesley had a very successful 2009 Park Gallery exhibition called 25 years of Painting, which was part of the year of Homecoming programme.

In spite of a lifelong love of Italy, a country reflected in some of her more recent works, Lesley continues to live and work in Glasgow with her partner and three sons.

See www.lesleybanks.com/ for more information on Lesley and her work.