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Sketch and the city revealed at Inverness Museum

By Val Sweeney

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Carl Lavia with his detailed sketch of Inverness at the city's museum.
Carl Lavia with his detailed sketch of Inverness at the city's museum.

An intricate large-scale ink sketch detailing the landmarks and streets of Inverness will be displayed at the city's museum and art gallery for the next year.

It has taken self-taught artist Carl Lavia about five months to create the remarkable artwork which forms part of a larger ambitious project, 69 Cities of The UK, in collaboration with photographer Lorna Le Bredonchel.

The Highland capital is the fifth of Scotland's seven cities to feature in the venture while sketches of Manchester and Birmingham have also been completed.

But visiting the UK's most northerly city for the first time marked a special moment for the London artist.

"I have always been very curious about Inverness with its links with Loch Ness, the Caledonian Sleeper and the dolphins – I used to work for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and talked to people about the Moray Firth but never got the chance to see it," he said.

The 2m by 1m artwork includes familiar places such as the castle, the cathedral, the central library, Victorian Market, the Kessock Bridge and Inverness Caledonian FC stadium plus shops and businesses and the riverscape with its bridges.

Initially, Mr Lavia researched the city using resources such as architectural books and old film clips before undertaking a 12-hour bus journey north.

"I did a lot of walking around and looking at what the significant buildings were," he said. "It is a lot smaller than the other cities I have done so far and it was a bit of a challenge to flesh it out although there is a lot more of the suburbs."

He also used artistic licence to ensure Fort George near Ardersier is included.

"There will always be criticism and I have to accept that," he said.

"Fort George is so significant to Inverness, I wanted to bring it into the piece. It is more about making sure people who are not aware of the city become aware of the hidden gems."

He also chatted to people in places such as Charlie’s Cafe at the bus station in Farraline Park in a bid to get to the heart of the city.

From a distance, the work is a mesmerising map of the city depicting an aerial perspective of streets, buildings and monuments while closer inspection reveals details such as boats passing under the Kessock Bridge, trains pulling out of the station, cars in the city streets and even shop names.

Mr Lavia was struck by the city's heritage.

"I liked the Victorian Market and old Inverness – the heritage side of the city," he reflected.

"There is still a lot of that which is still alive."

Mr Lavia first started sketching fictional cities often on the back of wrapping paper from about the age of five.

"That evolved at school, drawing in exercise books," he said. "It was just this compulsion to create cities."

Three years ago he joined forces with Ms Le Bredonchel to form an ambitious project to create detailed portraits of the UK's 69 cities.

Ms Le Bredonchel, who studied photography at London College of Communications, also works on the sketches as well as documenting the ongoing process through video, still photography and online.

With the Inverness work completed, she said: "We hope that residents as well as visitors will gain a new appreciation for this unique urban environment through this affectionate portrait of the city.”

It is on display in the museum's cafe where exhibitions officer Cathy Shankland was among the first to take a look.

"It's lovely to have it here," she said. "I think it is going to take a long time before it reveals all its secrets."

A buyer is being sought for the artwork and signed limited prints are also available.

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