Pier we go for a feast of Or­ca­dian tal­ent

The Herald - Arts - - VISUAL ART - In­no­va­tors – Orkney’s Art Grad­u­ates 2015-2016, Pier Arts Cen­tre, Strom­ness from Fe­bru­ary 25 to April 17 www.pier­arts­cen­tre.com

Parkin­son, who says that, with over a week to go, only a pro­por­tion of the artists’ work has ar­rived at the gallery.

“He has a very evoca­tive, ex­pres­sion­ist style that is very strik­ing. His de­gree show was largely self-por­traits, very in­tro­spec­tive.”

The works he is pro­duc­ing for Pier are “fig­u­ra­tive dream­scapes.”

Many of the grad­u­ates have al­ready had some post-art school suc­cess. Anna Clark, an­other Orkney grad­u­ate and the only artist who is not orig­i­nally from Orkney, will show her large scale 3d pa­per sculp­tures, sim­i­lar to work which was cho­sen for the pres­ti­gious New Con­tem­po­raries ex­hi­bi­tion at Ed­in­burgh’s Royal Scot­tish Academy last year.

An­other artist who is cre­at­ing new work for the show is Bir­say-based Rachel Blair. The jew­eller, who grad­u­ated from the Sil­ver­smithing and Jewellery BA at Glas­gow School of Art, re­turned to Orkney after grad­u­at­ing in 2015.

“I missed the life­style”, she tells me by phone from her Or­ca­dian stu­dio. The peace, too, it tran­spires.

Parkin­son de­scribes Blair’s work as, “not nec­es­sar­ily di­rectly in­spired by na­ture – a lot of work here is in­spired by nat­u­ral forms and land­scape – but there’s a more geo­met­ric, el­e­gant rugged qual­ity to it. It’s fan­tas­tic work.”

In the past year and a half, Blair has, like many of her peers, been busy set­ting her­self up as a work­ing artist. And, like so many oth­ers, has found that the pres­sures of mak­ing a living from art have mod­i­fied what she pro­duces.

“I still make the great big ‘cou­ture’ stuff,” she says, half-gig­gling for want of a bet­ter la­bel, “but I’ve also had to de­velop a more com­mer­cial line that is more wear­able, more ac­ces­si­ble!”

BLAIR, whose work since grad­u­a­tion has been ex­plor­ing the “push and pull” be­tween pre­cious and non-pre­cious ma­te­ri­als, is cre­at­ing a series of pins for the ex­hi­bi­tion, minia­ture rel­a­tives of the strik­ing large-scale pieces she cre­ated for her de­gree show in 2015.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited that lo­cal peo­ple will see it,” she says.

“It’s not re­ally been ex­hib­ited up here, only down south, so I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what the lo­cal re­ac­tion is. And es­pe­cially if they see it as jewellery.”

Blair, like Anna Clark, works partly in pa­per, al­though hers is treated and ink-dyed, the inks al­lowed to bleed into their con­stituent pig­ments, then bound into shape with sil­ver or white me­tal. She has set up a stu­dio in Evie, in the north of Main­land.

“I think it’s been quite dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cially, be­cause art is a “lux­ury in­dus­try”. It’s ex­pen­sive to start up, par­tic­u­larly to buy equip­ment, but there is huge sup­port in Orkney and lo­cal busi­nesses are very keen to back you.

“The gal­leries too are very keen to help as well. There’s a very good com­mu­nity of crafts­peo­ple and artists, here, a very rich his­tory of art and lo­cal peo­ple are very ap­pre­cia­tive of good qual­ity goods and crafts­man­ship.”

In the end, she is “hon­oured”, she tells me, to be in this Pier ex­hi­bi­tion, with all the heavy­weights of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion in close prox­im­ity.

Run­ning in tan­dem, this month, the bril­liantly ti­tled Peedie Pier, an ex­hi­bi­tion of even younger fine artists – pri­mary and secondary age – who may well look at Blair, Gil­more, Clark and their peers with a sim­i­lar mix of awe and hope for the fu­ture.

‘Hon­esty’ neck­piece, white me­tal ink-stained pa­pers, by Rachel Blair

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