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Local Artists Express in Black and White

by Alastair Hamilton -

An impressive range of work produced by local artists on the theme of ‘Black and White’ has opened at the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale and runs until 30 October.

For Shetland Arts, it’s a celebration of creativity and diverse talent abundant in Shetland that’s particularly exciting as it brings in a wide range of work from both established and new artists, providing a great opportunity to see work exhibited for the first time. They say that, once again, “the response has been fantastic with a wide variety of entries in both the Adult and Bairns’ shows.”

The public opening was on the evening of Friday 16 September, when prizes were awarded and it was possible to meet many of the artists.

The Black and White theme has both inspired a wide variety of work and brought a coherence and unity to the show that’s immediately apparent. The Shetland Open is exhibited in the Upper Gallery while the Bairns’ Open is displayed in the Lower Gallery.

Jane Matthews, Exhibition Manager at Shetland Arts said, “We have had a brilliant response to this year’s theme and the highest number of entries in the ‘First-time Exhibitor’ category, it’s great to see new talent emerging here in Shetland.” Before the prizes were awarded, she explained that the Open is now run every two years rather than annually, with the intervening years devoted to a group exhibition presented by the category winners, an approach which offered, she said, an excellent developmental opportunity.

One of the three judges, artist Peter Davis, explained that the task of picking winners had been particularly difficult, not least because judging was such a personal thing; and, he added, “Twenty prizes would have been good!”.

Awards were presented on the opening night in four adult categories and there were also two prizes for bairns’ work. The presentations to the bairns came first and Brook Robertson, who is just 6, was successful with her nicely-worked picture of penguins. Evie Napier (13) also won a prize for a dramatic photograph in a cave

In the adult section, the prize for Painting, Sculpture and Drawing was won by Vivian Ross-Smith, for a work entitled ‘Fishing Hands’. It featured a preserved fish skin with hand stitching, creating an interesting, complex form with a striking texture.

The winner in Craft and Design was Gillian Bridle, who had submitted a remarkable paper-cut picture on a fishing theme, clearly the product of many hours of intricate work. The painstaking depiction of the fisherman’s Fair Isle jumper was especially impressive and the composition as a whole was very satisfying.

...many hours of intricate work...

Jeanette Nowak picked up the award in the Photography, Film and New Media category, exhibiting a photograph that depicted two brothers at a turning point in their lives, the day when they moved from their family home to a council house. Jeanette had tried to capture, she said, the “cold, stark emptiness in their faces and surroundings”.

The prize for First-time Exhibitor went to Aimee Labourne for a remarkable pencil depiction of the wings of a Storm Petrel, a species which spends its summers in Shetland and the rest of the year in the southern hemisphere. A friend had found them on the island of Mousa. Aimee explained that drawing the wings had inspired reflections on opposites: north and south, life and death, movement and stillness, and on the creation of new life. Her work demonstrated a keen eye and fine drawing skills.

There were many other examples of excellent work on show. Among the photography, Austin Taylor’s portrayal of a woman with a baby in a sling was a powerful image, the woman’s protective gaze aimed right at the viewer. Jenny Leask’s beautifully-textured shot of seagulls whirling above an inky sea, marking her return to Shetland from a life in Edinburgh, was memorable too. As she explained, “The pull of home was stronger than any doubts I might have had”

Angela Hunt showed a composition entitled ‘Black and White Flock’ combining a portrait of her neighbours’ sheep set in a representation of fabric textures, all of it beautifully rendered in pencil and graphite. Elizabeth Johnson had submitted a small but perfectly-crafted example of cockleshell knitting in shades from white through grey to black. Cheryl Jamieson, a glass artist, exhibited examples of her work that she had entitled “Unpredictable”, a reference to the difficulty – which she had clearly overcome – of working in black and white glass, which apparently behave very differently when heated. Helen Robertson’s “Wake” marked the fishing disaster of 20 July 1881 in which ten boats and 58 men were lost. Lawson Bisset’s first efforts at etching had produced an appealing image of his hen, Maggie.

Those were just a few of the dozens of exhibits on show and a visit is essential to appreciate them all.

Posted in: Creative Scene

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