Crannghal Opening at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig took a giant step forward this week in setting down an imprint for the Visual Arts, as an important part of the national centre’s cultural life and an integral part of the wider regeneration of the Gaelic Language and Culture.

The unveiling, by Dr Richard Holloway FRSE, of the major new sculptural work, Crannghal , by artists, Prof Will MacLean, MBE and Arthur Watson, was the first official engagement undertaken in his capacity as newly appointed Chair of Creative Scotland.
In unveiling the bronze sculpture, which is based around the concept of the traditional willow construction of a Curragh , Dr Holloway said,

“Will MacLean and Arthur Watson have captured both the daring and the fragility of the Columban adventure, what St Paul would have described as a strength that was made perfect through weakness. Those ribs and struts speak of the determination and defiance of the men who pitted themselves against the huge sea. Finally, it calls us all to the building of bridges: what are boats if not bridges that float, objects that bring together what is separated either by sea or by prejudice. Each us of will see different things in this work. For me, supremely, it speaks of the indomitable fragility of human hope: and I am honoured now to unveil it.”
The wide representation from the world of the visual arts was testimony to the national significance which has been attached to the work. Art Historian and writer, Prof Duncan Macmillan, made the trip to Skye to celebrate the unveiling as did many other artists and arts administrators, including the Directors of the prestigious London Arts First Gallery.
Artist, Will MacLean said,
“Taking early written descriptions of the sea-going curraghs that carried Columba and his monks from Ireland to Iona, the sculpture reflects the framework of one of these early vessels under construction or reconstruction.

The nature of the commission gave us the freedom to intuitively develop the sculpture, initially as a full-sized pattern made from withies(willow stems) shaped with hand tools and bound together with twine. This was then cast in bronze and mounted on a granite base, polished to reflect the changing light.

The tools used in making the pattern were also cast and lie on the base as if work has momentarily stopped and can be seen as a metaphor for the ongoing work that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is undertaking in leading the revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture.”

Sabhal Mòr Director of Development, Donnie Munro, himself a visual arts graduate of Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, said today,
“This work is an important symbol on the journey towards recognising the place of the visual within the culture of the Gael. In the past, it has tended to have been left outside the equation, despite our visual culture having a powerful place in our history, finding expression through the work of contemporary artists like Will MacLean, Arthur Watson, Francis Walker ,Helen MacAllister, Calum Colvin, Donald Urquhart and many others, down a line through Cadell and the Colourists, the Gaelic speaking MacTaggart, Horatio MacCulloch, Turner, the West Highland School of Sculpture, the Book of Kells and beyond to the monolithic interventions of our early ancestors.”

There is a very strong academic rationale for the visual arts developing at Sabhal Mòr, due, in a large part, to the innovative interdisciplinary research programme, Window to the West .This partnership programme, between SMO and Dundee University Visual Research Centre, received a £500,000 AHRC award, over 5 years, to examine the relationship between language and visual culture.

Prof Norman Gillies, Director of SMO further added,
“This is a very exciting research programme, bringing together, writers, visual artists ,historians and academics working as an interdisciplinary team and will, I am sure, act as a catalyst for further developments.”
Munro further added,
“The highly visionary PNE project, Leabhar Mòr na Gàidhlig significantly signposted the way to exploring and developing this rich seam of our cultural inheritance. Window to the West and the development of Fàs, SMO’s new centre for creative and cultural industries, with its provision for visual arts practise, research and archive, will further strengthen the position and the role of the visual arts in the Gaelic language and culture”

Follow this link to read "A ’ Chrannghail" which was written by Meg Bateman from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Lecture from Richard Holloway

Artist’s Statement