2015 Exhibitions

Seven Simultaneous Exhibitions


including painting, drawing, tapestry, photography, jewellery and installation


1st July – 31st August 2015

Open daily 12 – 5pm

Adults: £3
OAPs: £2
Children, Students, Unwaged: £1


Charles Watts

Charles died in Thurso in 2015 after moving from Cornwall to Caithness in 2006. As he had been a loyal member of this centre, attending many of the events, always supporting musicians and artists by buying recordings and paintings and even celebrating his sixtieth birthday with us, his executors kindly left his picture collection to the centre.

It consists of over fifty paintings, drawings and photographs. Some are art works he bought from galleries in various parts of the country; others are family portraits and favourite Cornish and Scottish views by known and unknown artists. One or two seem to have been valuable things he must have inherited and we have tried to research their history.

Most gallery exhibitions are curated with the object of assembling a body of work to bring a greater understanding and appreciation of the art displayed. But this exhibition invites you to stand back a little and think about why so many of us seem to want to fill our homes with things to look at.

Why have pictures on our walls? How do we go about choosing them? What do they mean to us? Why collect? These pictures, which came here by chance, prompt us to address questions about the act and value of collecting.


Keith Tilley

Keith grew with parents who were art dealers and restorers but chose scientific research as a career. However, after seven years he became disillusioned with science and started to paint. After a spell in Cumbria he discovered Caithness where he now lives and where he has found big skies, open space and light; a constant inspiration for a painter of landscapes.

Caithness is an area of farmland and moorland, bounded on one side by a spectacular coastline, and on the other by a range of mountains and the vast peat bogs of the Flow Country. The county has a distinct character, having more historical connections with the Viking heritage of Orkney, than it has with the rest of Scotland.

Keith has an eye for that special magic to be found in the lesser known corners of our county and is gradually developing his skills with watercolour to produce a legacy of the unique character of the Caithness landscape with its quaint buildings, distant horizons and wide skies.




Jacqui Higgs

Jacqui is an Edinburgh-based, Dublin-born artist with a background in fine art and painting. Having graduated from Edinburgh Art College in 1994, she moved on to study Art Therapy, gaining her Postgraduate Degree in 1996. She became a professional member of the Scottish Society of Artists in the same year. Since then, she has exhibited frequently throughout the UK, in group and solo shows, as well as London Art fairs.

She has won the Peter Potter Award 2004 (V.A.S) and the Lyth Exhibition Award 2015 (S.S.A.). The artist also has an upcoming residency at Studio Berry, in the Loire Valley, where she intends to further focus on urban landscapes.

A glimpse of some boats, perhaps a passing figure or a dog called Blue are just the starting point in Jacqui’s work. Soon, her total attention is taken over by the paint itself and her delight in its texture. This becomes a ritual engagement with muted but richly complex colour. Vestiges of the original subject matter remain but recede and can become reduced to the simplest of shapes. Other elements such as lengths of cord get pulled into the paint to emphasise its plasticity.

These paintings are highly gestural and record the intensity of the artist’s delight in the child-like freedom of expression she has managed to attain while creating them.



Alison Mitchell

Alison Mitchell lives and works in her studio in Stoke Newington, London and near the sea in Norfolk. This body of work represents the consummate skill of an artist who has dedicated many years learning the secrets of the age-old craft of ikat, a traditional technique used to pattern textiles.

Ikat is ancient and common to many world cultures and is likely to be one of the oldest forms of textile decoration. It is most characteristic of Indonesia, though some ikats have also been woven in India, Asia, Japan and Central America. Ikat weaving styles vary widely. Many design motifs may have ethnic, ritual or symbolic meaning or may have been developed for export trade. Traditionally, ikats are symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige. Because of the time and weaving skill involved, some cultures believe the cloth is imbued with magical powers.

Usually ikat is designed to produce patterns but Alison has adapted this craft to produce semi-figurative and abstract images, some suggesting reflections on water and others abstract versions of natural forces or physical characteristics. These works also have the power of some twentieth century American abstract expressionist works like those of the painter Mark Rothko as their minimalist compositions and vibrant colour have a similar mesmerising effect which pulls the viewer in and invites contemplation.



Louise Bichan

Louise is a twenty-three year old artist and musician. She was born in Orphir, Orkney and graduated in 2011 from Glasgow School of Art with an honours degree in Visual Communications, specialising in photography. Recently, she was awarded a place and scholarship from Berklee College of Music, Boston and is looking forward to spending a year in America developing her musical skills.

Louise is a fiddle player who enjoys a wide variety of music, but mostly plays and writes music in a folk or traditional Scottish idiom. She plays with Orcadian folk group Fara and has already written and recorded some of her own compositions. She is currently on a short Scottish tour with her band before setting off for America. She has started to think about how to find ways to combine her visual and musical talents and so far this has centred on her thoughts about how to express her love and appreciation of her native Orkney landscape in music and pictures.

Her photographic project “Out of My Own Light” records her fascination with the life story of her grandmother Margaret Tait. First there were the old photos which immediately give an impression of what Margaret was like, then the diaries discovered later which filled in the picture Louise was forming in her imagination of a grandmother to whom she felt she had a strong resemblance. Then there was the trip to Canada to try to complete the picture.

The exhibition shows an artist combining found historical photos with her own contemporary work to construct a narrative about family history and anecdote. It contrasts the impression of someone’s life as recorded in family snap shots with memories that distant living relatives have retained. The diaries form a bridge between what is recorded, what is remembered and what is imagined.

Louise has created an exhibition which celebrates her excitement about discovering so much about her grandmother and her wonderment about the course of events that determined who was to become her grandfather.




Fjara Jewellery is the name chosen by a group of talented participants in a project called Young Enterprise Scotland. They have created hand-crafted jewellery from sea glass which begins life as pieces of broken glass or tableware that are rolled and tumbled around in the ocean for many years, before ending up with rounded edges and a lovely frosted appearance. It can be found on beaches all over the world but the sea glass used in the Fjara collection was collected from a beach in Orkney.

What’s really impressive about this jewellery is that it was created by a group of teenagers who decided to compete for a Young Enterprise Scotland Award, which is a bit like the TV programme The Apprentice but for school kids. Fjara is the Old Norse word for beach. The group has just recently won ‘Company of the Year’ at Glasgow’s Young Enterprise Scotland Finals, and will go on to represent Scotland in London shortly.



Harry and Mousey

H&M, our very own Gilbert and George, have again invaded our official summer show with their bit of rogue Fringe performance art. These two tiny personages seem to live both inside and outside the imagination of artist Mark Smith and get up to tricks behind his back. Their adventures are recorded in drawings, cards and prints and they even manage to have their own Facebook page.



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