Capturing the magic of the canals

Gongoozling' exhibition launched by artist Lesley Banks in her studio    Wednesday 12th April 2017. Picture: Alan Rennie.
Gongoozling' exhibition launched by artist Lesley Banks in her studio Wednesday 12th April 2017. Picture: Alan Rennie.

A talented artist is helping spread the word about the joys of Scotland’s canals – having spent the last year walking them herself.

Lesley Banks, Scottish Canals’ artist in residence, is now a confirmed gongoozler – a term for someone who spends their time watching the world pass by on canals – having covered all 137 miles of the Union, Forth and Clyde, Caledonian, Crinan and Monklands Canals.

Not only did the former Denny High School pupil walk the canal towpaths, she captured them forever on canvas and now an exhibition of the 40 paintings – and counting – will be held at the Park Gallery in Callendar House from May 6 to June 25.

Lesley said: “I suppose people will be gongoozling when they come and see my paintings, but I hope this also encourages them to get out to the canals and see the real thing.

“It was like a year in the life of the canals. I would walk along the towpaths and look at things I would want to paint. I came back time and again so I could capture the canals at different times of the year during different seasons.

“The Crinan is beautiful – every step you take along it you just get a gorgeous view along all the nine miles of it. Walking the canals gives you a long time to think about things and take a long slow look around you.”

“I have around 40 paintings, but I will be adding to that – I’m a wee bit behind on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Scottish Canals have been brilliant, organising accommodation for me at lock keepers cottages which are now converted into holiday homes.”

Lesley talked to a lot of people during her “painting location scouting” walks and this has led to another creative project.

She said: “I asked a lot of people for their stories of the canals. I wanted their memories of the canals but also their thoughts about the canals now and why people use them today as well.

“I would quite like to do a book with paintings, photographs and these stories in it. People don’t realise what they got on their doorstep with these canals – did you know you can walk from Falkirk Wheel to the Kelpies along the canal towpath?”

Gillian Smith, of Falkirk Community Trust, said: “This exhibition will appeal to so many people – those who are interested in the canals, landscapes and walking. It will also hopefully inspire people to go and investigate the canals themselves.”

The Gongoozler Project is funded by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding and supported by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals.