Happy birthday to the University of the Highlands and Islands

As the 10th birthday of The University of the Highlands and Islands was being celebrated on February 1, Lews Castle College was showcasing a decade of art alumni success.

By John A. MacInnes
Monday, 15th February 2021, 2:44 pm
A collage of material from former graduates, along with the art school and museum.
A collage of material from former graduates, along with the art school and museum.

The work by staff and alumni is currently on display at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum in North Uist where the Lews Castle College Art and Design courses are delivered from, and is one of the smallest and remotest arts schools in the whole of the UK.

In what must be one of the only arts exhibitions open in Scotland during the pandemic the work on display demonstrates the varied and sophisticated work of the graduates from the BA course, and the rigour and breadth of practice of the contributing lecturers.

Expect to see work in photography, painting, cyanotype, installation, printmaking, ceramics, drawing, art film and documentary film, and art writing.

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As well as the exhibition the contributing artists have also come together to tell their stories of how they came to study art with Lews Castle College UHI, their experiences, how these shaped their work and their lives as artists.

Margaret Cowie who graduated in 2014 said: “I live in Ahmore, North Uist, near Lochmaddy where Art School Hebrides is located. I lived on Harris in the early 2000’s and I found out about the courses run by Lews Castle College UHI at Taigh Chearsabagh.

"It took me until 2005 to commit to the HNC to get me back to art. I rented a caravan on beautiful Berneray and travelled from Harris three days a week with my cat to study on Uist.

"Memories of that time have stayed with me with fondness.

“I was persuaded by Fiona Pearson to try the first year of the degree course and decided to go part time, so I could work and study more easily.

"We also relocated to Uist, because the island had won my heart. Eventually I graduated at Moray College, Elgin in 2014 where I completed my studies. Now students can complete the whole programme at Lochmaddy which is wonderful.

“My work has been about the landscapes of the islands, the moods, the seasons, the flora and the abandoned, broken down homes.

"I examine traces of history and cultural heritage which connects to the physicality of the earth and the findings peculiar to the island locality. I paint in oils, acrylics, and watercolour, incorporating collage. As well as mono printing and alternative photography techniques.

“‘Lost’ is part of the work achieved at a residency in the Blue Mountains of Australia. At the time struggling with grief, I immersed myself in plants and used what media I had with me to explore my finds. Mainly cyanotype enjoying using this skill in a place of intense ultraviolet light was a pleasure.

"The title ‘Lost’, comes from a poem by David Wagoner, which fitted in with the way I felt and was the catalyst I needed to carry on.”

For more student stories visit – https://www.lews.uhi.ac.uk/blog/

For a written ‘Gallery Tour’ with Lews Castle College Course Leader Rosie Blake visit – https://www.lews.uhi.ac.uk/blog/a-guided-tour-of-lews-alumni-art-exhibition.html