Artist in Residence 2021

Artist in Residence 2021

Mairi Gillies

In 2021 Mairi Gillies was selected for the TAD/ATLAS Arts residency. Mairi has an Honours degree in sculpture from Edinburgh College of Art, a qualification in horticulture and has completed her Masters in 'Learning and teaching Gaelic Arts' with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her work has been exhibited widely and she was the 2019 'Critics' Choice' award winner for her Grinneas nan Eilean' exhibition. Originally from Edinburgh, Mairi is a Gaelic speaker who currently lives on the Isle of Lewis where she has set up a Gaelic visual arts hub, 'Reothart nan Eilean'.

As a visual artist who works across a range of media, Mairi was interested in the overlapping layers through time, of peoples, languages, material culture, and their relationships with the environment and how they connect and relate to one another. During the residency Mairi focused on recordings from the Uig area of Lewis, in particular personal accounts of the use of local sheilings, crofting practices and other local lore.

She chose to develop a piece of work relating to a recording of John Norman MacDonald discussing a local piper called Iain Gobha. Instead of burning or breaking his pipes when Calvinism became the prevailing religion, he hid them from the minister and took to playing them away from the village, in a cove.

This track brought to mind the motific story of 'Uamh an Òir' (Cave of Gold) in which a piper goes into a cave playing a tune but never returns. With John Norman's son, Iain, Mairi set out to locate where Iain Godha might have played his pipes. When they found the cove, Mairi took casts of some of the rocks around the cove which she used to create her final piece. She arranged each plaster square to represent the pipe tune, 'Cha Till MacCruimein' ('MacCrimmon Will Never Return'), which relates to the 'Uamh an Òir' legend.

Uamh an Oir- plaster, oils, peat soot, peat ash, spring water and gold. 92 x 122cm / Mairi Gillies