Pier we go for a feast of Orcadian talent
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