Glasgow Painting & Printmaking School of Fine Art

Holly Murphy (she/they)

I am a young artist studying Painting and Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art. I am interested in the intertextual stratigraphy of folklore, fading memory, and the disharmonious relationship between oral tradition and written histories. Much of my work is motivated by the questions: what does it mean to authentically resurrect tradition and lore and how can this be done? My practice investigates what it means to construct a history out of fragments; what it means to tell a story. I am navigating these interests using the mediums of printmaking, bookbinding, drawing, and assemblage, alongside a sustained practice of writing, foraging, birdwatching, and the learning of traditional songs and stories. Central to my work is a fascination with the ritualistic processes of making – giving as much care to the sewing of seeds in the earth and the making of medicine as to the making of pigments and the sewing of a book’s spine.

Scriptorium Archives
Vita Thenogi

Scriptorium Archives

The ‘Scriptorium Archives‘ is a virtual installation which contains an archive of all the materials, tools, and paraphernalia used in the creation of the ‘Vita Thenogi’. This website acts as documentation of the processes involved in making the manuscript and as a space to share knowledge and skills.

Rifle through the drawers, browse the shelves, sit at the desk, open the jars and bottles and peer inside.

Below are some of the photographs featured in the archive, but please click the following link to enter the scriptorium and browse the archive in full.

a sea bean
gilder's knife
cow horn bone folder
goose feather quill
palm frond
lapis lazuli pigment
nettles for natural dye
ram's skull
chicken eggs
egg tempera palette
gold leaf

Vita Thenogi

Saint Kentigern, or Mungo, is the patron saint of Glasgow, yet, though he remains a popular cultural figure, his mother and one time co-patron of the city, Saint Thenog, has been largely forgotten. Saint Thenog has importance as both a folkloric and historical figure; as a woman, single mother, abuse survivor, and religious refugee; as a fading memory, a legend, and as a ghost haunting the roads between the firths of Forth and Clyde. Her story is a vehicle through which we can explore and untangle all the palimpsests of religion, folklore, gender, identity, landscape, language, politics, and history that have woven themselves into our lives over the last fifteen hundred years.

The Vita Thenogi is a hagiography of Saint Thenog, modelled as a pastiche of the 12th century Vita Kentigerni by Jocelyn of Furness; scribed, illuminated, and bound with great care and using historically accurate methods. This life of Thenog has been translated into many different languages by volunteers to explore what can be lost or gained through the process of translation- into different languages (as the monks, nuns, and scholars who originally scribed and illuminated religious texts would have done) and across time. By using these translations, the Vita tells the story of Glasgow’s mother in the mother tongues of its present-day inhabitants and, as such, aims to be representative and inclusive of Glasgow’s diverse, modern-day community.

It is also an attempt to plug a gap in our material history – there are no hagiographies of Saint Thenog (only references to her in hagiographies of her son) nor are there any surviving historical depictions of her in art. By appropriating the methods and aesthetics of the early medieval era, the Vita Thenogi hopes to furnish the unfortunately sparse historical record and invoke the fading memory of Saint Thenog with a work that is both a historical document and a devotional object.

(Cotton rag paper, iron oak gall ink, egg tempera, various pigments, gold leaf, linen thread and cordage, madder dyed silk, nettle dyed cotton. 27 x 17cm)