Eòghann MacColl: Edges / Oirean

RSA Gallery 9


Eòghann MacColl is the 2005 winner of the prestigious Alastair Salvesen Travel Scholarship. This solo exhibition is the culmination of his trip around the fringe of the North Atlantic, from Shetland to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Nova Scotia. Eoghann’s paintings are developed from the extensive drawings and sketches he made on his travels, documenting and referencing particular places of interest to him. The work is strongly based on the development of primary research drawings and this exhibition highlights this process.


A Gaelic speaker, Eòghann is interested in the influence of migrating peoples across the North Atlantic and looks particularly at issues of identity, place and continuity of culture. He explored the contrasts and clear parallels of the Nordic regions of Shetland, Faroe and Iceland and their relationships to us in Scotland, the shared ancient histories and the modern economic differences and approach to emigration as a necessity. Across the Atlantic in Nova Scotia he found the Gaelic Communities struggling to survive within contemporary Canada, alongside other communities such as the indigenous Mi’K Maq population, often facing similar problems of depopulation and unemployment. Histories separate yet shared.


With young people still leaving the smaller communities and continuing the Scottish diaspora, our focus tends to be drawn south, towards these urban centres. Eòghann’s passion for shared history, language and culture redefines these geographical perceptions in his work, placing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage at the heart of it. Eoghann’s exhibition will be linked with Refugee Week organised by the Scottish Refugee Council.


“I chose the destinations for particular reasons and they are reflected in the drawings that I made throughout my trip. Cultural reasons, historical, political; the languages; the old links with the Nordic Countries and the much newer links with the Americas. There are so many reasons. The parallels for example with Faroe and Scotland. It is a fact that we don’t know very much about these people, who are near neighbours with a lot in common with ourselves. But they live to the North of us and therefore they are off the political map so to speak. It is interesting too that the Canadian Provinces, especially Newfoundland are depopulating just as the British Provinces are. I did however meet Gaelic speakers there and it was fantastic. There are moves to reinstate Gaelic in the schools. Although there is a strong sense of identity through music the language has suffered decline for many years. Hopefully it can survive and flourish.


It was also vital to my Project, to see the way the New Scotlanders assimilated. The Scots who went were most definitely refugees. Predominately Jacobite, Catholic and Gaelic speaking and removed because of who they were and what they stood for. Beside that I learnt about the persecution of the French Acadians, many of whom were forced to leave and went South where they founded the Cajun Communities; and the First Nation People who still live in Nova Scotia.


Bha mi air an rathad ceithir mìosan timcheall oirean Innis Tìle, na h-eileanan Sealtainn agus na h-eileanan Fàrach. Thainig mi dachaigh an uair sin, tha teaghlach òg agam agus chaidh mi thall thairis a’rithist gu Alba Nuadh, gu àraidh Ceap Bhreatainn, Talamh an Èisg agus St.Pierre I Michelon. Abair gur e dùthchannan a th’annta, cho breagha agus uaireannan cho iomallach, mar as àbhaist fàisg air a’ Chuan Atlantaig.


An deidh mo thuras mòr thoiseach mi ag obair anns an stiùideo còmhla ri stùth. Cha robh mi deiseil airson toiseachadh a’dèanamh dealbhan. Chòrd e rium glàn a’dèanamh na pìosan seo. Mheasgaich mi rudan stèidhichte agus chleachd mi tòrr ceàird-eolas, mar collage, dealbh-loidhne is dathan. Tha mi an dòchas gu bheil iad mar seallaidhean"


About the RSA Alastair Salvesen Scholarship
The Alastair Salvesen Art Scholarship is a major initiative intended to encourage and assist young painters who have already made the transition from college to professional practice. The largest of its kind in the country, the award of up to £10,000 enables Scottish painters to embark on a 3-6-month period of research and development. The Scholarship is offered in association with the Royal Scottish Academy and is complimented by a one-person show at the RSA the following year. Alastair Salvesen, from Pathhead, Midlothian, is one of Scotland’s foremost art benefactors and has offered the travel scholarship to artists since 1989.