This week I have the very great pleasure of sharing with you three image and poem pairings by Janet Lees which were part of the recent annual Lorient Art Exhibition.
Janet told me that the whole festival was incredible – an absolute feast for the senses, with music and dancing on a huge variety of stages throughout the town, as well as ‘wild music’ spontaneously breaking out in cafes and bars.
The art exhibition was held at the Hotel Gabriel, a historic 18th century building which houses a contemporary art gallery. She shared her space with the artist representing Scotland, Pat Kramek. Janet said that their work contrasted really well – Pat’s abstract paintings are big and bold with really bright colours, while Janet’s abstract images are smaller, more poetic in feel, and typically in more dreamlike, ethereal colours.
Each of Janet’s 22 images was paired with a poem. She also had a screen showing a reel of poetry films created both independently and in collaboration with other artists and musicians – the most recent one featuring a soundtrack from the Manx indie band Post War Stories. She also hosted the creation of a giant collaborative multilingual poem in which visitors each contributed a single memory from their lives.
Here is the first image and poem this week – ‘Indelible’. Look out for the others on Wednesday and Friday morning.
The Isle of Man is a pretty special place to be. We are the only whole island nation in the world to be classed as a UNESCO Biosphere. Unsurprisingly, our artists have a wealth of source material to inspire them. Feast you eyes on some of their creations – I think you too will be enchanted by the quality and diversity the island has to offer.
Cover photo Nicola Dixon. Click on the pictures to view in the lightbox.
We have the world’s oldest continuous parliament, Tynwald, which is over 1000 years old and started in 979 although its roots are said to go back even further.
We have some other pretty cool heritage here too. The largest water wheel in the world, the Lady Isabella in Laxey; horse trams, which have been running along Douglas promenade since 1902; our narrow-gauge steam railway dating back to 1870 which still runs from Douglas to Port Erin and the Manx Electric Railway (since 1893) which runs from Douglas to Ramsey via Laxey and from Laxey to the top of Snaefell, our ‘snow’ mountain. It’s a good route if you like hill walking although the Island has loads of fabulous walks to offer including the coastal path which goes all the way around the island.
Our old ruined houses are called ‘tholtans’ and there are many examples to be found tucked away in the hills. They are curiously beautiful and captivating. Ray Kelly has photographed and documented many of them in two books, along with information about the people who lived in them.
In the west of the island Peel Castle dates back to the Vikings. Peel has a wonderful cathedral which is very supportive of the arts. Some of the Island’s best artists live in Peel and with its fabulous sunsets and ancient past it’s not hard to understand why. We have Celtic roots with symbols dating to ancient times. The triskel (three legs) is the emblem on our flag.
Peel is not the only place on the Island with quirky streets and alleyways and artists have plenty of interesting lanes and facades to choose from.
One of the special things about the island is it’s proximity to nature and all creatures great and small. Whilst we do have wild wallabies (which escaped from the Wild Life Park about 30 years ago) we don’t have foxes, toads, newts, deer, badgers or snakes. We do have a special breed of sheep, however, the Loaghtan, which has very impressive horns – and of course the world famous Manx cat.
It’s not just diversity on land. In the seas around the Island we are privileged to have annual visits from majestic basking sharks and dolphins. There’s also a seal colony at the Calf of Man, the small island just to the south separated by the narrow stretch of water at the Calf Sound. The Calf is a wildlife sanctuary and a haven for birdlife. Although puffins have not nested there in recent years they have been seen around the coast this summer, so we are hoping they will return.
I can’t image living away from the sea. Here on the Isle of Man we are never far away. We have miles and miles of amazing beaches and coastline studded with pretty harbours and secluded bays perfect for diving, kayaking, sailing and all kinds of other water sports.
The sea inspires so many here. It is ever changing and a constant source of energy. Artists Claire Pearse (Element.isle) and Nicola Dixon are based at Grenaby Studios in the south of the Island and much of their work takes inspiration from nature and the sea.
We have all kinds of artisan businesses. Nearly 85% of all companies on the Island employ less than 9 people. It really is a great place to live and work if you’re looking for quality of life, a safe environment for your children to grow up in and good tax advantages (we are a low tax jurisdiction and are on the OECD’s ‘white list’). There are government grants available for people establishing business on the Island with new co-working spaces such as The Engine House in Castletown, which is aimed at providing affordable desk rental and business support. Local artist Adam Berry designed this cool logo. We have some fab graphic designers here too, producing logos and posters and all manner of things for businesses both on and off Island.
While you’re shooting for the stars with your business, it’s also the place to come and look at them. Our fabulous dark skies mean that we get some of the most spectacular views of the night sky. There is a map of the best dark skies sites around Island by artist Alice Quayle but for many of us all we need to do is open the door and sit in the garden.
There are loads of gigs and music events featuring local bands and artists. We have festivals such as the Dark Horse Festival, Deep South Festival and this year, the first MannKind Festival which was exclusively for those with disabilities and their families.
To go with the music there are local beverages such as Bushy’s beer, Manx Cider and Fynoderee gin.
As well as the good ale there’s good food to go with it. Being by the sea we have the freshest catches and of course, our famous smoked Manx kippers. We export our produce worldwide including queenies (native to Manx waters – a small type of scallop), beef and speciality cheese.
The Island’s bees are pretty special too. Disease free we have strict rules prohibiting the importation of bees. They seem to be pretty popular with our artists too.
I think perhaps the Isle of Man is best known around the world for the Isle of Man TT. Thousands of bikers flock to the Island each year for the most exciting race on earth. With a new average lap record of 135mph through country roads and villages and vantage points all around the 37.73 miles of the course you could visit for many years and always have a different view or corner to watch from.
But we’re not just leaders in road racing. We are leaders in beach cleaning too. Beach Buddies which was set up around ten years ago by retired journalist Bill Dale, is leading the charge and setting global standards. More than 10% of the Island’s population now regularly collect litter from the beaches, including huge amounts of plastic and fishing gear. We have the cleanest beaches in Europe, if not worldwide. Artist Frauke Watson uses found materials from the beaches to make her artwork.
There’s so much more I could say and show you but I think it is fair to say that Manx people are incredibly proud of their island, and rightly so. I hope you’ve enjoyed this arty view of the Isle of Man.
I was in the south of the island on Saturday, doing a bit of cleaning and organising at The Engine House, and had every intention of going to the Southern Show. The weather, however, was particularly nasty for such escapades and I know the Keird Collective for one couldn’t manage to get set up in the challenging conditions and regrettably decided to pack up and go home. I decided after 4 hours of cleaning (it’s a big old space) that enough was enough and decided on a gentler way to round up the day, so headed to Port St Mary to see how Petrina Kent was enjoying being artist in residence at Studio 42 for a few weeks.
Petrina was in great form and I was delighted to see a few of her gorgeous pics with ‘sold’ dots on them. Unfortunately – or indeed fortunately depending on how you look at it, I didn’t get much chance to chat as the gallery filled up with people wanting to buy things. I left her to it but took a couple of photos to share with you before wending my weary way back to Ramsey. To his credit my lovely hubby had dinner ready for me when I got back, so all in all a pretty good day I’d say, despite not making it to the show.
I get asked to do all kinds of interesting things and last week I got a very nice email from author Susie Heckles, asking if I would like to review her new book “Ffynlo, Patch and a Magical Manx Half Term”. Of course I said yes, and spent a delightful half hour or so reading the story and looking at Julie Roberts’s lovely illustrations.
The story is about two children who come to visit their great uncle during their half term holidays. It’s full of faeries and magical goings on as well as real life things to do for people visiting the Island, a lovely mix which should fire up the imagination of many young people I would think. The story tells how the children become friends with Ffynlo, a Loaghtan sheep, and Patch, a friendly farm dog. With the stories and information Ffynlo tells the children their visit to the Isle of Man becomes all the more special. My copy of the book arrived with its very own rosette and a book mark. Here are a few pictures. The book costs £9.95 and is available at Culture Vannin, The Manx Wildlife Trust Shop, the Lexicon and The Bridge Bookshops in Port Erin and Ramsey.
Good luck to Janet Lees, not that such a talented lady needs it. She’s off to represent the Island at Lorient and is sharing the space with the artist from Scotland. Janet told me she has 22 art photography pieces, each paired with a poem, plus a reel of her poetry films showing on an LCD screen with headphones. She will also be hosting the creation of a collaborative poem, along the same lines as the one she did at the Art Festival three years ago where people write a single memory on a strip of paper, starting with the words ‘I remember’ or ‘Je me Souviens’ (or any other language they would like to use), and so end up with a multicultural collaborative poem of memories. Here are a few of Janet’s beautiful photos I have stashed in my library. I’ve picked a couple of older ones as it’s always nice I think to pick out ones you’ve forgotten about.
Artreach Studios at the Isle Gallery is hosting a collection of new paintings by the fabulous Ellie Baker. Ellie is a landscape artist with a distinct style that draws the viewer in, sets the imagination to work and calls for detailed inspection. She works mainly from memory and imagination, combining remembered elements from the Island’s land and seascapes. I find her choice of colour and the way she expresses her style to be captivating and I certainly rate her among some of the best artists on the Island.
The preview is on Sunday 5th August from 2.00pm to 4.30pm, where you can meet Ellie and discuss the journey of her creations. It will be a fabulous show I am sure so do go to the preview as I think her work will be very well received.
I spotted these lovely pictures by Dawn Kennaugh this week. Dawn is preparing for the Royal Show, 10th and 11th August where you will be able to see and buy more of her work. You can follow Dawn’s art page here.
Phil Kneen reported that he’s just picked up a nice commision from Huck Magazine – shooting ‘gritty, honest portraits of travelling surfers in South-west France’.
However, he says that what he knows about surfing could be written on the back of a postage stamp, so if anyone has contacts on the Atlantic coast between Bordeaux and San Sebastian he would really appreciate a hook-up. He will be there for a couple of weeks in early October. Here’s one of his recent ‘watery’ images that rather caught my eye.
Ongky Wijana is incredibly talented. Whilst he’s based out in Bali he is linked to the Island via his work on the beautiful labyrinth in the grounds of Peel Cathedral. Here is some of his latest work. I saw the mandala first and had no concept of its size – then I saw the second photo of it a bit later and was blown away by the scale of it. Oh and just a stone Komodo dragon too….. it’s so life-like! Awesome work.
Dates for your Diary
On now at the Hodgson Loom Gallery – ‘The Eyes of the House & Other Pictures’ by David Swinton
On now until 7 October at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester – ‘Monumental Rage’ – Michael Sandle, RA
On now at Studio 42 – ‘The Manx Landscape Afresh’ by Petrina Kent – Artist in Residence
On now until 5 August – ‘Have I Got News for Yessir’ by Phil Woodford at the House of Manannan