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By Alastair HamiltonMarch 28th 2022
Alastair Hamilton

UHI Shetland has built an enviable reputation in fostering creativity in the islands and developing the talents of those who choose to study here. A new exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale presents work by four third-year students on the BA (Honours) Fine Art degree course. The work on show demonstrates a wealth of imagination and a wide range of creative skills.

The course is designed not only to help students find their individual creative voice but also to equip them to become professional, independent artists. Created as part of a third-year professional practice module, this exhibition allows students to take the lead in all aspects of organisation, curation and publicity, so that they gain experience in some of the key skills of being an artist.

The exhibition title, Lipperin, is a Shetland dialect word meaning to be full to overflowing and what the show illustrates is the ‘lipperin ower’ of creativity and ideas.

Shetland’s landscape, culture and history flow through all four students’ work but each has a distinct intent and style, embracing a variety of media and approaches. However, they all share an exploration of identity and belonging, encouraging us to ask questions and perhaps to see our world in different ways.

Elaine Thomason’s inspiration comes from the hills of North Yell. Looking to the past and present as well as to what the future might hold for the vulnerable, rugged landscape, birds and wildlife.

The use of re-cycled materials is central to her practice and her work covers a range of media including printmaking, painting and found object sculpture.

She is interested in exploring the interrelationship of natural resources, ecology, mythologies and the industry of the hill. She also focuses on the social history of this ever-changing environment.

Cilla Robertson enjoys experimentation and the use of different approaches to create images that suit her chosen medium. She finds inspiration in place, colour, music, sea, land and sound; and a recurring theme is her local history, family and the Shetland dialect.

She would like to help preserve the dialect; when she was at school, the bairns were encouraged to speak English instead of their local tongue. Many beautiful, expressive Shetland words and meanings have been lost.

The exhibition pieces were inspired by an old photo, possibly by the pioneering Shetland photographer, J. D. Ratter, and by the poem People by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, which Cilla has translated into Shetland dialect.

Susan Pearson works instinctively, exploring identity and memory through drawing, painting, print and sculpture. Her inspiration comes from the shapes, colours and forms found in the human body and in nature.

These forms create stories and meanings that merge and change within her art. Susan often uses found objects, like driftwood, wool, seaweed and stone. She also includes such things as worn books, household objects, yarn and clothes.

All of these she brings together, holding meanings, stories and connections to place. She wonders why, over the years, she has never thrown such things away, and muses that doing so might have been like throwing away a memory.

Jane Ridland draws inspiration from everyday experiences and surroundings. She has worked in a variety of media, not valuing one over any other. Instead, she prefers to be guided by whichever material best communicates the idea in spirit and language.

Her artwork she says, begins as ‘faint feelings glimpsed in my mind’s eye’. She allows these glimpses or figments to develop in her thoughts, maturing or fading away, before attempting to translate them into art work.

Her current work is in response to the shapes, colours and textures of lichen clad stones.

UHI Shetland is the northernmost partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands. It was established in August 2021 through the merger of Shetland College UHI, NAFC Marine Centre UHI and Train Shetland. Bringing these institutions together has created a single point of contact for tertiary education, commercial training and research in Shetland, without diluting the well-established services and expertise previously offered. What’s more, there are ambitious plans for expanding provision into new areas in step with Shetland's economic development.

At its campuses in Lerwick and Scalloway, UHI Shetland offers a wide range of courses, ranging from archaeology to criminology, philosophy to social sciences and much more. You can find out more about all of them on their website. Full details can also be found there of the Fine Art BA course. You might also want to explore our own pages on studying in Shetland, which include answers to questions you may have about student life in the islands.

It certainly looks as though these four Fine Arts students are developing very strong sets of creative skills and we wish them well for their future careers.