William Darrell, Swimming in Ophidium

John Kinross Scholar in 2012


How did the experience affect you as an individual?
The John Kinross scholarship had a huge effect on my ability to see myself as a credible artist. It was the first time I had had outside validation of my pursuits as an artist. It was wonderful to be on my first residency with other artists in a similar position across Scotland. We got on like a house on fire!


What was the impact on your practice?
During my residency I became fascinated in the romanticisation of mythology which I found plentiful in the renaissance art of Florence.
These depictions of classical and Christian supernatural happenings
served a human need similar to that of current day superheroes. The
stylisation and framing of these characters were its own language.
It spoke of aspiring to be greater, more beautiful and more powerful,
to become closer to the divine. The intoxicating nature of these
artworks affected me. I came to believe that fate would find me on
the residency and would give me a divine quest.

William Darrell, Neptune’s Bubble, film still, RSA Collection

My project on the residency was called Neptune’s Bubble in which I serendipitously came across a magical giant bubble floating in the river Arno. I fished it out and found it to be part of a streetlamp, so I put it on my head. Following a sense that this had been divinely bestowed upon me I believed I was supposed to use it as a diving suit and return back to the water. I thought that if I added a breathing tube and seal around the neck, I could use it like a snorkel. On completing my makeshift improvement to the bubble including sandbags to compensate for the extra buoyancy I ventured to the nearby coastal town of Livorno. A local fisherman watched me get ready and started to inform me that I had made some grave miscalculation. He told me that the weight of the sea would push all the air out of my lungs as I went under. Unfortunately, I did not understand Italian and proceeded into the water. Luckily for me this was not the only miscalculation I made. The sandbags didn’t weigh me down sufficiently to pull me under. Instead the bubble bobbed around semi submerged. As for my visual experience the water was
impossibly murky. Despite my mission being in some ways a failure the
same divine forces that set me on this endeavour also came to my rescue.
I left this project feeling that the gods had played games with me but
also taught me not to expect unreasonable favour from the universe.


What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
After the residency these divine pursuits raised many problematic questions especially concerning the criteria of greatness. Did superhuman ability always have to be impossible by nature. After all we have normalized once thought divine powers. I can command fire, water, wind and ice all from my kitchen. In many of my works since then I have played with our idea of magic. I have sort to find ways of creating it for real and to do this in plain sight to see if its stays magic or sublimates to ordinary.