JOANNE B. KAAR AND LYNN TAYLOR: PAPERBOATS / WESTLAND (Caithness Horizons, Thurso, until 24 September 2009)
GEORGE GUNN welcomes a creative collaboration that is an eloquent testimony to survival.
ARTISTS working together always is inspiring. Sometimes it can be fraught with danger but the results of the collaboration of Joanne B. Kaar, a Caithness artist, and Lynn Taylor, an artist from New Zealand, is truly uplifting.
They have a common theme, and on the face of it, it is Mary Anne’s Cottage in the Westside of Dunnet, but in fact it is the sea. It is the sea that connects Otago in New Zealand with the far north coast of Caithness. But it is imagination, pure and simple, which makes sense of this jumble of history. Yet this is a very precise jumble.
From the beautiful drawings of chairs which greet you as you enter, the viewer encounters three aprons, a row of bottles, a row of twine of various texture and shape, and strange but familiar objects like a painted oar and other things too numerous to mention.
The central image is the seaman’s chest, his kist, which, like Pandora’s box, has liberated the visual flair and humour of these artists. For Joanne this is obviously home territory, and hers is the dominant personality of this exhibition – her tone, her colour sense, and above all her love of paper as a material and boats as a subject, is prevalent. This is no bad thing as she is an artist of the highest calibre and knows how to lay stuff out, because the jumble is an intriguing and structured jumble.
The sea is one of the few elements that, like humans, can dream. This exhibition has a dream-like quality to it; it is extremely sensuous, tactile and full of memories. Not content with painting, or with making paper objects, the artists insist that viewer becomes a listener as Mary Anne’s voice comes from beneath an almost religious assembly of chairs.
This is an important point, as we, however poor we are, are drawn together, to talk, to remember, to dream, to thank God we are still alive no matter the distances between each other, be that New Zealand or Scotland, each country the other side of the planet.
But in many ways this represents the two halves of the North Highlander, which is a tragedy of emigration, survival and hanging onto life even if you have to dig it out of the earth with your bare hands or build the boats which carry you across the planet yourself.
This exhibition is an eloquent testament to that survival. I urge all of you who care about this county, its people and their history to go and see it. This is art with a purpose and it is rare.
Caithness Horizons are to be congratulated in hosting this timely and important exhibition and I sincerely wish that they continue to mix the international with the local as talent is talent in any continent.
Exhibition opening hours are 10am – 6pm.
© George Gunn, 2009