‘untitled fragments in acid green’ and ‘Proceedings Of The Society’ Niall Macdonald and Bobby Niven An ATLAS Arts Broad Reach project Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Art Centre 2015
Press review published in Scottish Art News, 2015 ISBN 1749-7310*
Archaeology and sculpture are most directly linked through their mutual exploration of the material world. One pursues meaning through the material remains of the past, the other utilises material reality to manifest cultural artefacts in the present. This relationship is made explicit in the concluding exhibitions of Atlas Arts’ two-year curatorial residency at Taigh Chearsabahagh Museum and Art Centre in North Uist.
Invited to respond to specific archaeological sites on the Hebridean Islands of North Uist and Skye artists Naill Macdonald and Bobby Niven have each created a body of work that signals a history of human engagement with place through object discovery.
In ‘untitled fragments in acid green’, Macdonald, (a native of Uist himself, now living and working in Glasgow), takes historical evidence of manufacture at Udal, North Uist, as his starting point. More than 6000 years of continuous human occupation, from the mid-Neolithic to the early 1900s is evident at this site. In the midden at Udal, amongst the multitudinous shells, bones and pottery shards Macdonald found and became intrigued by a misshapen lump of iron ore, evidence of smelting. Back in his Glasgow studio, considering this archaeological detritus in relation to discarded fragments from his own creative process, hitherto superfluous waste transformed into curious relics, pregnant with potential meaning. Unified by the use of a cast ‘e-reader’ in each, these twelve plaster relief sculptures invite contemplation of the status of objects in our lives today and what might be inferred from their future fragmentary remains.
Similarly evoking meaning through a combination of disparate elements, a fascinating and playful matrix of objects constitutes Bobby Niven’s installation, ‘Proceedings Of The Society’. Natural, found and bronze cast items work in concert to address the viewers’ imagination. Made in response to the extraordinary archaeological site of Rubh’ an Dunain, Glen Brittle, the Isle of Skye, these contemporary artefacts, biomorphic in appearance, straddle figuration and abstraction, raising questions through their intriguing appearance and odd juxtaposition. Key to their curious presence is the manner of their presentation. Each object sits in the palm of a crudely carved, somewhat comical, wooden, hand-like shape and appears offered forward in a gesture of sharing. Niven explains this derives from the presentation of finds by archaeologist Martin Wildgoose on their site visit to Rubh’ an Dunain. Within the context of the installation, this open hand can perhaps be read as a metaphor for the impulse of curiosity that underpins all archaeological and artistic inquiry.
© Sophie Morrish October, 2015
* in print the last two paragraphs were ordered incorrectly