That holiday on Orkney seems light years ago now, but the Kayaker is home and has been editing the 900 pictures down into something manageable for us, and adding some music ( an exquisite album called Cora by Orkney band Skalder) so that we have a nice DVD to watch in the depths of winter. You know those days when you sometimes need some lovely holiday memories to fall back on, and looking at the pictures again reminded me that I still have more to share on an Orcadian theme here. This is the final week of my summer sabbatical from my online day job, back into the swing of things again next week, so I will squeeze those posts in before then and hope you won't mind if I soak up a bit more of that feel-good holiday factor to see me through.
A bit like Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK, it was a very wet old morning in Stromness back in early June...
and so we were mightily relieved to find a warm welcome in the Pier Arts Centre, where very sensibly they have a place for you to hang up your coats.
It is at this point that the Tinker suggests he might find a nicer one to put on when he leaves... he didn't.
But what a complete surprise this art Collection was. An unassuming street-frontage leads onto an amazing sequence of exhibition spaces that yielded unexpected riches; the building originally used as the offices and stores of The Hudson's Bay Company and now sympathetically and very cleverly converted in 2007 with the help of lottery funding. The back of the building is to the extreme left of this picture, as seen from the ferry..
"The Pier Arts Centre in Orkney was established in 1979 to provide a home for an important collection of British fine art donated to ‘be held in trust for Orkney’ by the author, peace activist and philanthropist Margaret Gardiner (1904 – 2005)."
And goodness me, did Margaret Gardiner have an eye for arrt.
But firstly an exhibition of printmaking (all now fuelling my tiny steps into lino-cutting) which included a wonderful collaboration between George Mackay Brown and local artists and printmakers to produce The Scottish Bestiary. This along with a series of tiny wood carvings by Sister Margaret Tournour sent to George Mackay Brown as part of a correspondence between the two through the 1990s offered delicate and intricate pieces to view, and the magnifying glass supplied with each display allowed the chance to see just how detailed these were.
Also represented, the name of the moment, Anish Kapoor (who can forget the Olympic Orbit tower) and his 2007 portfolio 12 etchings.
But the best was yet to come.
We probably like to think that with Tate Modern down here in St Ives we are sitting pretty with the best collection of Hepworth, Nicolson and Wallis in the country, but now I have seen what is hiding in Stromness I'm not so sure.
Margaret Gardiner was a friend of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicolson and with an astute eye on Modernism gathered together a seminal collection of work from the St Ives artists which she then gave to the people of Orkney.
It was hard to believe what we were looking at, let alone think about its value.
Hepworth sculptures that we could see and touch... and surely these were made to touch, and wind your hands around and follow the smooth curves, and let your eye be deceived by the seemingly impossible shapes, and then notice how the eye is led around and through the holes...
Countless paintings by Ben Nicolson...
and Alfred Wallis...
and many more.
A real jewel in the Orkney crown and after several days of seeing Neolithic and standing stones this all provided a wonderful and modern contrast, as if to prove that Orkney is most certainly capable of delivering surprises at every turn.