Have you ever wandered around a museum and been drawn to a specific artefact? Perhaps that object spoke to you from across the ages? You may even have heard its voice in your head?
This is just one of the fascinating questions asked by local artist and storyteller Gordon Maclellan, a.k.a. Creeping Toad, as part of his response to the Arts Council’s Emergency Response Fund, secured by Buxton Museum and Art Gallery during the first lockdown. Gordon is a long-time collaborator with the museum; forever coming up with new and inventive ways to interpret the collections and running workshops for the younger visitors. Like the other artists in the project, Gordon was challenged to produce a piece of work whilst the place was closed to the public. He created several.
The museum artefact Gordon gave a voice to is the Tupilak; a carving of an avenging monster from Greenland made from a sperm whale’s tooth featured in Buxton Museum’s recent Between Two Worlds exhibition. Tupilaks were meant to target a specific enemy. This fuelled Gordon’s imagination: “Made from discarded flesh, bones and skin, original Tupilak have apparently never been seen by people outside of those indigenous cultures and are bound around with stories of anger and revenge. I was captivated”.
Working with film-maker Aidan Rhode and featuring some of the museum staff, the full fury of the Tupilak was realised.
Like many of us during the first lockdown, Gordon found time to stroll through the countryside and reconnect with the natural world, or in his words: “One of the positive things about this strange summer has been a rediscovery of local landscapes, with people taking the time to walk half-forgotten paths, to find lost corners of just down the street or up the road. We have remembered that home territories hold their own delights”.
With the support of the Arts Council, Gordon made four more films. His long-standing love for mystical creatures is explored in Earth Trolls and a reverence of water in As Long As Waters Run and Pond Ripples. There is even a detour into rodents in response to a beautiful carved soapstone lemming in the Museum Collection.
You can find all Gordon’s films and poems on his YouTube channel at:
As Long As Waters Run: youtu.be/sXl8LStyW-o
Earth Trolls: youtu.be/S-XtWbAC3bQ
Pond Ripples: youtu.be/6xLPhiosBfg
Between Two Worlds: Why We Tell Stories: youtu.be/TVO5Z3e7DTg