New Gaelic Artist Residency

Gaelic artist Mairi Gillies has begun an arts residency with Tobar an Dualchais (TAD) to explore and create work relating to the oral heritage recordings available on their website. This is the second year that TAD has partnered with the Skye and Lochalsh-based arts organisation, ATLAS Arts to offer this exciting opportunity.

Mairi has an Honours degree in sculpture from Edinburgh College of Art, a qualification in horticulture and has just 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 is in the process of setting up a Gaelic visual arts hub.

Artist Mairi Gillies who has recently begun a residency with Tobar an Dualchais

As a visual artist who works across a range of media, Mairi is 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. Mairi will focus on recordings from the Uig area of Lewis for this residency, in particular personal accounts of the use of local sheilings, crofting practices and other local lore.

Mairi commented: “I’m really excited to have been selected for this residency and to be able to spend time delving into recordings from the Uig area. Although I knew about TAD previously, I had only dipped into it occasionally so it’s a real privilege to research these rich oral accounts. I hope to reconnect some of these wonderful stories, songs and poems back into the community and landscape from which they originate.”

To initiate the residency, Mairi participated in the TAD Creative Connections course which was part of the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig short course summer programme. This three-day course ran on two consecutive weeks and saw 18 participants learn more about the recordings on the website, the tradition-bearers and field workers who made them, and why they are of value today.

TAD Director, Flòraidh Forrest, expressed her delight at Mairi being selected for the residency. She said: “It was great to meet Mairi through our Creative Connections course and it will be exciting to see what she will create over the next few months. Working with creative people in local communities is very important to us and since we’ve started running our Creative Connections courses, we have met lots of people who want to learn more about these precious recordings so they can use them to develop their own creative practice, whether they are musicians, writers, outdoor educators, or visual artists. I’m looking forward to supporting Mairi through this residency in partnership with ATLAS Arts.”

ATLAS Arts Producer Heather Fulton is also pleased to support the residency and is excited to have the opportunity to work with Mairi. She said: “After the success of last year’s residency at Tobar an Dualchais, we are delighted to offer this residency again and this time for a longer period. At ATLAS Arts we’re keen to create opportunities to explore, learn with, preserve, celebrate and imagine the future of Gaelic with many different people across the Gàidhealtachd. We’re so pleased to be working with TaD and Mairi, and can’t wait to see her research and work develop.”

Mairi will be completing the residency on a part-time basis over the coming months and will share her work via blogs and social media posts during that time. You can also keep up to date with Mairi’s residency by following TAD on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.