islandness is a living experiment. An open platform spanning the North Atlantic, this project explores life on two northern islands through the art practices of two islanders: Jane Walker (Newfoundland) and Vivian Ross-Smith (Shetland). In a series of community-based workshops, a community supper meal, and a collaborative exhibition, Walker and Ross-Smith come together to engage in dialogues about art, islandness and contemporary rurality in the Shetland Islands and in Newfoundland. Both artists use traditional processes and adapted materials of northern island culture such as fish skin and rug hooking in their individual practices. Following several weeks of collaboration, experimentation, and community engagement in Newfoundland an exhibition in St. John’s showed new and recent works by Walker and Ross-Smith involving alternative textiles, bronzes, fish skin preservation and project documentation.

islandness explores:

  • Broadening audiences both within and outwith northern island arts communities
  • New gateways of arts engagement that extend beyond the contemporary art community in St. John’s
  • Place-specificity
  • Experiences of ‘islander’ and ‘islandness’ in Newfoundland and in Shetland
  • Familiar textures, processes, and materials within new art contexts

islandness emerges out of ongoing research by Walker comparing the experiences of artists living and working in rural contexts in Scotland and in Newfoundland. Ross-Smith became a research participant after following Walker’s Instagram documentation of her time spent living and working on Fogo Island in 2015. After connecting on Instagram, Walker and Ross-Smith met in person in July 2016 at Mareel in Lerwick. It quickly became obvious that there was potential for further collaboration between the two young artists. Their mutual ideas about art, island life, tradition and making, inclusivity in rural contemporary art discourse are presented together as the first instalment of islandness.

Jane and Vivian will take the islandness framework to Shetland in October and November 2018.

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Connect with the project on Instagram and Twitter: @islandnessart