Co-curator James Lumsden tells us about how new collaborative Exhibition ‘Palimpsest’ was developed between the Society of Scottish Artist and An Lanntair.
The exhibition Palimpsest, and the partnership between the Society of Scottish Artists (SSA) and An Lanntair has its origin in a café in Edinburgh over 3 years ago. I had been invited to join the SSA Council at roughly the same time as my wife began working in Stornoway (and I started living and working between Lewis and Edinburgh). Over a coffee with Sharon Quigley (SSA President and Palimpsest co-curator) we talked about the perception of the Society as an Edinburgh or central belt institution, and our aim to see art from all parts of Scotland represented in the programme. Run by artists for artists the Society is a not-for-profit organisation. Members support each other to organise, present and promote a programme of exhibitions, events and international residencies.
The Annual Exhibition is held at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh, where we showcase the best of contemporary art. (Further info and membership details at: www.s-s-a.org )
During my first few months living in Lewis I became aware of the high quality of work being created on the islands, and discussed with Sharon the possibility of presenting a showcase of Hebrides artists at the RSA. I approached An Lanntair with the idea and we soon drew up a longlist of artists. To fully do justice to the visual arts in the Hebrides would be a massive undertaking and could possibly be a major survey exhibition somewhere and sometime in the future. The scale of the room available at the RSA meant we decided to focus on Lewis and Harris, with an emphasis on photography, which we felt was particularly strong on the islands. The resulting exhibition, ‘Larach’ (A Hebrides showcase) featured 9 artists and was shown as part of SSA/VAS Open 2018 at the RSA in early 2018. The exhibition was incredibly popular with over 35000 visitors during its 6 week run.
Palimpsest will see a selection from the SSA membership come to Lewis. What had originally been an An Lanntair call for proposals was put to the membership and 24 artists were selected from over 350 entries – the final selection offering a range of responses to the theme, and in a variety of media. The idea of palimpsest opens up a huge range of possibilities for artists, and can be taken as literally or as metaphorically as each artist wished to respond. We hope that the resuting exhibition will present a snaphot of the membership and might encourage artists from the islands to join the society and participate in future projects.
As for my own work I look forward to showing a couple of new paintings in the exhibition. I work 50/50 between my studio in Edinburgh –where I work on larger works for exhibitions or specific projects – and in a traditional byre in Lower Bayble which I have turned into a small studio. Whilst on the island I try and experiment with smaller scale work, playing around with studies and possibilities which in the future I hope will develop in to a larger new series. My paintings are built from multiple (sometimes 30 to 40 or more) layers of paint – each layer an action and reaction to the previous layers – paintings which very much reflect the theme of palimpsest.
As I write I am in the Edinburgh studio where artists are dropping their work off from throughout the country and from as far away as Devon. The van leaves for the ferry on Sunday evening, and I am looking forward to getting back to Bayble to collect my own work before we begin the installation of the exhibition.
‘Palimpsest’ opens to the general public on 18 May 2019. Join us for the opening on the Friday 17th at 5pm.