Rhythms of Land and Sea marks thirty years since Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was in Orkney but this exhibition is also a celebration of Orkney itself. To the visitor the charms of the islands are manifold but subtle. There are the verdant fields, which supported the same population in 2,500 bc as they do today, the unforgiving coastline, the ancient sites, the bustle of Kirkwall and quiet charms of Stromness and above all the particular quality of light; at once soft and revealing; of views opening and closing in vales of mist. We have brought together past and present artists from Orkney and elsewhere each of whose contributions is both a response and a contribution to our understanding of the islands’ unique charms and moods.
Stanley Cursiter and Sylvia Wishart represent past Orcadian artists and give us a sense of place in both dramatic landscape paintings and intimate, interior still life paintings. Frances Walker bridges the gap between past and present as she knew both Sylvia Wishart and Barns-Graham. She cuts through to the very bones of the landscape with her detailed drawings and paintings. Diana Leslie lives and works in Orkney, she can be seen in her hometown of Stromness or around the island with her bicycle, souwester outfit and easel. Where she comes from is a never ending source of inspiration. Fred Schley and Peter McLaren are both familiar to Orkney, Fred visited in 1998 and the landscape had a huge impact on him. Peter McLaren lived in Orkney for several years and now returns frequently to paint the incessant drama of the coast. Grace Girvan the jeweller is from Orkney and although she lives and works in Fife, the Orcadian colouring in her seems ever present. James and Tilla Waters worked in Orkney some years ago and we are delighted to include their unique ceramic pieces which have some of the palette and mystery of Orkney. Included in the exhibition are two modern versions of the Orkney chair made by senior furniture maker Edward Teasdale from Cumbria. Frances Priest’s intense architectural ceramic work I am sure would meet with the approval of Barns-Graham, her abstract pattern and intense colour and sense of style makes for a perfect complement.
In 2011, the gallery held an exhibition of glass by the artist Fiaz Elson. We included graphic works by Barns-Graham which enhanced the colour of Fiaz’s kiln formed glass. Geoffrey Bertram happened to visit the gallery and was delighted with the partnership of glass and print. Three years on and Fiaz, who is also celebrating a 10 year anniversary as a studio glass artist, has made a series of new works for this exhibition.