An exhibition by four artists in Scotland and four in Japan opens in Stornoway this month.
Being held at An Lanntair, this is the culmination of a year-long exchange programme between eight artists exploring the idea of ‘North’. Two linked exhibitions will also be held in Japan – one in a rice barn and one in a former school.
Confluence of North is an artist-led exchange project that addresses the idea that ‘North’ is always conditional, a direction rather than a location, and that our ideas about it can be fundamental to how we see and relate to our own life and culture. The exchange programme was fully adapted into an online project after the outbreak of the global pandemic.
The four artists in Scotland – Su Grierson (Perthshire), Gillian McFarland (Fife), Kyra Clegg (Fife) and Inge Panneels (Borders) – have been paired up with artists from the Spirit of North project in Japan: Maruyama Yoshiko, Takizawa Tatsushi, Asai Mariko and Maruyama Tokio. The pairs of artists have been working together for the past year, using video calls, emails and exchanges of work and images to create work.
The exhibitions in Stornoway and Japan this month are the culmination of months of collaboration and work together. They follow an acclaimed exhibition of work by the eight artists at Perth Creative Exchange in June 2021, as well as a research visit by some of the Scottish artists to Shetland in September 2021.
The two exhibitions in Japan will be held at Nishiaizu International Art Village, Nishiaizu Town – a former school – and a former rice barn in Fukushima / Kitakata City.
The four Japanese artists were originally meant to visit their partners in Scotland as part of a planned exchange programme last year. However, the restrictions caused by Covid-19 meant that the eight artists had to adapt the whole project into an online exchange, which in turn prompted a new process and focus for the artists, with exhibitions in both countries.
All the work to be shown at An Lanntair relates to the artists’ environment, where they live, and how that can be connected to ideas of what North really means. The exhibition includes a variety of media including, painting, photography, video, installation, silk-screen banners , stories, text, objects and books.
The seeds for Confluence of North were sown in 2013, when Su Grierson was invited to an artist’s residency in Fukushima, Japan, at the time of the second anniversary of the area’s devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster. This was the same time that the Japanese project Spirit of North, led by Maruyama Yoshiko, began in Japan in response to the same event. Su, who had been to Japan seven times previously, met with refugees there, and made work in response to their ongoing connection with the land. They asked Su to tell their stories back home in Scotland, and her work was later shown at Perth Concert Hall.
Yoshiko’s project has continued to connect a global network of ‘northern’ artists across the world, and to explore the connections and resonances between them. Su and Yoshiko have continued to communicate, and last year Su began to work with Gillian McFarland, developing a specific exchange project between Spirit ofNorth and artists in Scotland.
Su Grierson said: ‘This project has not been without its logistical challenges – from the frustration and sometimes sheer hilarity of using online language translation apps, to often very simple but important cultural misunderstandings, and the time differences to be negotiated when setting up video calls – as well as the intricacies of transferring artwork either digitally or through postal services.
‘Through all of this, collaborative artworks have been made and will expand our exhibition as we bring it to An Lanntair. Bringing artwork made digitally across the world North to Lewis is a significant achievement in our ongoing connections and understanding of what North means to us all.’
Confluence of North: Spirit of North, An Lanntair, Tuesday to Thursdays: 10am-5pm; Friday and Saturday: 10am-late; last Sunday of the month: noon-4pm.