Cultural Links Strengthened During Visit To Sardinia

by Alastair Hamilton -

Shetland artists and musicians have returned from a successful visit to Sardinia, where they were special guests of the Municipality of Padru at the twelfth International Biennial of Painting, “Isole” (“Islands”).

The municipality is Sardinia’s youngest, established in 1996, and the event aims to strengthen artistic and cultural links with other island communities. Each Biennial hosts a different island group, and this year the Mayor of Padru invited Shetland to participate.

Eight local artists took part in an intensive competition with their Sardinian counterparts, painting on location and focusing on the culture, history and tradition of the area. There was also a week-long celebration of fashion, music and theatre, and eight musicians from local group Hjaltibonhoga – fresh from their performances at the Edinburgh Tattoo – also went to Sardinia.

The invitation came following discussions with Shetland Islands Council. Prior to the visit, convener Malcolm Bell said: "Shetland has always been an outward-looking community and this is a magnificent opportunity for our talented painters and musicians to experience the culture of another island area and share our culture with them.

“I am very grateful to mayor Antonio Satta for inviting Shetland to be this year’s guest island at what is a major and high profile cultural event for Italy. I think it also demonstrates the high regard in which Shetland's creative industries are held".

Mayor Satta of Padru said: "We are delighted to show our special guests from Shetland our traditions, folklore, fashion, and a special dance, ‘Lu Scottis’ which is performed only in this part of Sardinia and claims to have Scottish origins, as its name recalls.

“I am convinced that the Biennial is a starting point for strong cooperation between our two islands, and are very honoured to have convener Malcolm Bell with us representing Shetland."

Margaret Robertson from Hjaltibonhoga wasn’t able to make the trip herself, but was ‘delighted’ that the Shetland musicians had been invited to the event.

the Biennial is a starting point for strong cooperation between our two islands

Shetland artist Paul Bloomer was one of the judges in the art competition, in a jury chaired by the Director of the Brera Academy of Milan. On his return to Shetland, Paul explained that the 8 painters representing Shetland had been a mixture of students from Shetland college and older, more established artists:

“The brief was to paint – outside, over a three day period – a painting or series of paintings inspired by the town of Padru, whether its history, culture, landscape , identity or heritage. Ten Sardinian painters also took part and the competition involved choosing the three best pictures for prizes.”

Paul reports that the panel of judges, drawn from Sardinia and Shetland, engaged in much fierce debate in the process of choosing the prize-winners. Eventually, they agreed to award first prize to Shetland painter Victor Carlin for his picture, Dappled Light.

A painting from each of the artists involved has since been placed in the collection from all 11 bienales. Paul notes that the collection is an important one and includes the work of internationally-known painters such as Renato Guttuso. The islands previously involved have been diverse, ranging from Cuba and Ireland to Corsica and the Isle of Wight.

He adds that the Shetland artists had found it hard to acclimatise to the intense heat, which was between 30° and 37°C every day. However, “the Shetland and Sardinian artists ate together and many friendships and contacts were forged.” The evening programme, including concerts by the Shetland and Sardinian musicians and a fashion show, was greatly enjoyed by everyone involved.

If you read Italian, you can find a local newspaper’s report of the events here.

many friendships and contacts were forged

Posted in: Creative Scene