Jules and I have spent the last 24 hours on the Isle of Mull filming Adrian and Jane of ‘Strongarbh House‘ in the picture-perfect town of Tobermory, as part of a series of films on collecting for Own Art.
I am ashamed to admit that despite being a quarter Scottish this the furthest north I have ventured. The landscape is utterly captivating and is home to some of Britain’s most spectacular wildlife including fallow deer, mink, otter and if you are lucky enough to spot them – dolphins (in my case not yet!). The dramatic coastal line beckons you to explore so it’s no surprise that landscape is central to much of the artwork in the area.
Inch Kenneth is a small island off the west coast of Mull, owned by the Barlow family. In June 2011, the Barlow family invited six artists to participate in a week-long residency on the island exploring the histories, ecology and geology of the inner hebredian landscape. The exhibition includes work by artists Veronica Slater, Anne Devine, Mhairi Killin, David Faithfull and curator Alicia Hendrick.
David Faithfull produced large-scale drawings and photographs plotting the landscape from multiple viewpoints. The drawings mark out inaccessible caves along the coastline and feed the imagination with sketches of washed-up whale skeletons in a series suitably entitled ‘Leviathan’.
Mhairi Killin built upon previous work around ecclesiastical landscapes. Killin’s work ‘An Taisdeal II’ caught my eye, a delicate luggage tag made from silver. The piece was suspended in the gallery space and is etched with information on the Neolithic structure of belief and inspired by medieval pilgrims’ badges. Inch Kenneth, I learned, has a number of Neolithic remains along with a medieval chapel and burial ground.
Anne Devine focused on the cyclical nature of the landscape with daily observational drawings. ‘The Metronome of Existence’ is a large-scale drawing on linen with loose circular gestures. The work’s title is taken from the Mitfords’ Inch Kenneth House collection of polyphones. Devine states the metronome of existence is a metaphor which ‘reflect(s) the inner landscape of my explorations on Inch Kenneth’. Gestural marks explore the movement of the sea, the cycle of life and death and the transformational nature of the landscape.
Being somewhere for a short amount of time leaves little time for quiet contemplation and often means it’s a challenge to really get the sense of a place. This exhibition has been a great introduction into the distinctive landscape of Hebrides, opening my eyes to the varied coastline, its fragile ecology, and timelessness. Spend enough time here and you begin to unpick the relationship between land and self.
The exhibition explores both obvious and subtle elements of Inch Kenneth and helps give a better insight into the nature of place. Both the island and the exhibition have inspired me to return for another visit!