It could be said that a new collaboration between artists in the Uists and Germany started with a wheelbarrow – and is now taking the form of an exhibition in Germany.
Back in 2014, Edinburgh-based artist, Hans Clausen, visited Uist as part of a programme entitled Nil By Mouth, which invited artists to explore the topic of food sustainability through residencies and workshops.
Around 15 Uist artists, including Margaret Cowie, were challenged to create a piece of art involving a wheelbarrow. The collection was entitled “So Much Depends Upon…” with the title taken from a William Carlos Williams poem named “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
The project resulted in an exciting trip to Holyrood to display their works. After returning to the islands, an exhibition was held in Nunton Steadings, Benbecula so that locals could also enjoy the work.
But the story does not end there! Margaret explains: “We thought it was a shame to fold up and go our separate ways, so with Hans’ blessing we kept the title ‘So Much Depends Upon...’ in the shape of a collective.
“Corinna Krause of Sollas Bookbinding is a friend of the artists. She was trained by a German bookbinder whose partner, Klaus, was very interested in the possibility of an exchange between German and Scottish artists. They have an artists collective called umKunst based in Angermünde, about 40 miles northeast of the capital Berlin.
“In July 2016, they all came over to the Uists and had their work on show at Nunton Steadings, pictured above and below. The exhibition was called Weit Genug, meaning Far Enough. It was a fantastic exhibition and their work was stunning."
And now it is the turn of the Uist artists to visit Germany and hold an exciting exhibition there! Opening on September 3rd, the display of artwork will take place in Kulturzentrum Klosterkirche, a moody and historic, former Franciscan Church in Angermünde, which is in the state of Brandenburg in north-eastern Germany.
“It's so exciting that all this is taking place just through someone showing an interest in what we do as artists on the island,” Margaret says. “Hopefully the two collaborations will raise the profile of the artists in our group. We are so grateful to our three main funders, as we couldn't do it without them – Storas Uibhist Community Fund, Lews Castle College and Focal at Taigh Chearsabhagh.”
The exhibition will last for a month and will also be entitled Far Enough. It promises to showcase a range of art forms, including photography, drawings, performance and installation.
Margaret herself will be showing work made with the process called Anthotype, which uses the photosensitive liquid juice from mashed up brassica leaves. “It needs sunlight for it to expose the sensitised fabric which was covered with pressed foraged plants,” she explains. “We have only had one sunny day recently – so I chased the sun all round the house to get enough light! It then fades away to nothing away to nothing and when you take away the plants, you have a very subtle and beautiful impression left. It's a reflection on how simply things can fade."
The whole exhibition is a testimony to how a collaboration can be rich in possibilities, enable those involved to broaden their horizons and take them on an adventure they never knew was possible. William Carlos Williams poem stated “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow...”. For the Uist artists, this has certainly proved true!
(Geographical locations have been corrected since this article was first published.)