Lèirsinn nan Gàidheal: Gaelic Visual Arts

Lèirsinn nan Gàidheal: Gaelic Visual Arts


Start the new year with a new online course from 19 January to 16 February 2022. This five-week exploration into Gàidhlig aims to deepen your understanding of Gaelic language, its cultural context and visual representations.


This course is for anyone with an interest in Gaelic! Those wishing to broaden their knowledge around Gaelic culture and artists who already use Gaelic within their practice. 

Week by week we will seek to explore and unpick the following questions: Does the Gàidhealtachd have its own art history? Are there Gaelic ways of seeing? How does an understanding of Gaelic shape our reading of the landscapes of Scotland? How are contemporary artists engaging in a Gaelic context today? Why is the history of the Gàidhealtachd important today? What is our relationship with Gaelic language and culture as artists living and working in contemporary Scotland? 


Meg Bateman: A Gaelic ‘way of seeing’?

Wednesday 19th January, 10:30am - 12noon, Online via Zoom

In this session Meg asks whether there is such a thing as a Gaelic way of seeing. She will ask how sight – and the lack of it – is valued in Gaelic culture. How is colour represented and how has shape generated vocabulary? What stances are embedded in Gaelic grammar and idiom and how are they made explicit in folklore, poetry and the thinking of Gaelic theologians?

The recurrence of certain features is noted in the artefacts of the Gaels, for instance in buildings, metal-work, stone carving and MSS. The aesthetic tends towards abstraction, circularity, number symbolism, dynamism and interweave. The same aesthetic may also be seen to underlie forms of poetry, dance and ceòl-mòr. Can such structures be seen to relate to the cultural attitudes expressed in the language? This lecture proposes a remarkably tenacious ‘way of seeing’ among the Gaels, which shaped and in turn was shaped by fundamentals of understanding such as man’s position in the environment, the shape of time, and the relationship between spirit and the material. 

Meg Bateman has taught Gaelic at the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen and at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig since 1986. She has co-edited and translated five anthologies of Gaelic poetry. Her PhD was on Classical Gaelic religious poetry and she has written articles of an ecological and philosophical bent, about theology and religious expression in Gaelic, about the autobiography and the symbolism of landscape. An AHRC-funded project, ‘Window to the West’ (2005-2010), on the visual in Gaelic culture, gave rise to a book which she wrote with John Purser in which they describe a Gaelic ‘world view’: Window to the West: Culture and Environment in the Scottish GàidhealtachdShe is interested in the arts in general and has published four volumes of her own poetry.


Murdo Macdonald: Rethinking the Art of the Gàidhealtachd

Wednesday 26th January, 10:30am - 12noon, Online via Zoom

The art of the Gàidhealtachd includes both Celtic illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, and the work of the painter who prepared the way for modern art in Scotland, namely William McTaggart (1835-1910). In this session Murdo will discuss why this key aspect of the culture of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd has been ignored, and how it can be rethought.

Murdo Macdonald is Emeritus Professor of History of Scottish Art at the University of Dundee. He is author of Scottish Art in Thames and Hudson’s World of Art series. He is a former editor of Edinburgh Review. His research interests include Robert Burns and art, the art of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd, and the cultural milieu of the Celtic Revivalist and ecologist Patrick Geddes (not least with respect to cognate revivals in India and Japan). He has a longstanding interest in James Macpherson’s Ossian as a point of origin of the Celtic Revival. With Eric Shanes in 2013 he identified J M W Turner’s lost Ossian work from 1802. He was appointed honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture in 2009, and honorary fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies in 2016. Murdo's website.


Mairi McFadyen: Tobar an Dualchais - Working Creatively with Archive Material 

Wednesday 2nd February, 10:30am - 12noon, Online via Zoom

In this session, Mairi will give an introduction to the online archive resource Tobar an Dualchais, Scotland’s largest online collection of sound recordings. The majority of material was collected in Gaelic Scotland from the 1930s onwards and includes songs, stories, music, oral history, cultural traditions, custom, belief and ways of life. As a repository of cultural memory, the collection has inspired many contemporary musicians, scholars, writers and visual artists. We encourage you to explore the potential and possibility of engaging creatively with archives in your own work. www.tobarandualchais.co.uk

Mairi McFadyen is an independent creative freelancer working across the connected roles of educator, researcher, writer and facilitator. Her creative practice is informed by her background in ethnology, cultural anthropology and human ecology. She works as a tutor for the online archive resource Tobar an Dualchais – Kist O Riches on their ‘Creative Connections’ course and has worked extensively with the material in the School of Scottish Studies ArchivesMairi's website.


Raghnaid Sandilands: A storied landscape – mapping, place names and what accrues

Wednesday 9th February, 10:30am - 12noon, Online via Zoom

Raghnaid will share her own practice of local creative projects in Strathnairn, South Loch Ness - exploring creative map making, art, stop-motion film, comic books, live performance and community events. What is a citizen fieldworker? We will explore the relationship between socially-engaged art and folklore, introducing tips and tools for fieldwork; ‘digging where we stand’ in action!

Raghnaid Sandilands is a creative ethnologist and a Gaelic speaker working in Strathairn, on the south side of Loch Ness. She worked on Sorley MacLean’s archive and as a Gaelic Manuscripts curator at the National Library and a Gaelic teacher before coming north again. She is a freelance translator and animateur of lively gatherings in the local hall and allotments, hopefully to be revived again soon! Raghnaid's website.

Mairi NicGilliosa: Contemporary Gàidhlig visual art 

Wednesday 16th February, 10:30am - 12noon, Online via Zoom

In this session Mairi will bring us right up to date by exploring Gaelic within the context of contemporary visual art. In her arts practice Gàidhlig forms a key part of the aperture through which she experiences the world. Màiri is interested in the overlapping layers through time of peoples, language, material cultures, relationships with the environment and how these connect and relate to one another. 

Màiri NicGilliosa is a Gaelic visual artist and tutor based on Lewis. She is currently Artist in Residence in the West Lewis community, funded by Bord na Ghaidhlig, to build a ‘model for learning’ through Gaelic Arts in the Community. In 2020 she completed her Gaelic Arts MA; her thesis 'Ealain Àite – The Art of Place' explored the Creative Development Potential of a Gaelic Visual Arts Hub. Mairi's website.


To Book:

No previous knowledge of Gaelic is required. We would recommend that you attend all 5 sessions in order to build the conversation over the course. Each session will include an element of discussion and reflection. Participants will receive additional resources/reading material and optional homework for each session. This course is funded by Scottish Union Learning and FREE to all SAU members; to register for a place we need you to complete two forms in advance. Members can access these via the last newsletter or email [email protected] 


Image Credit: Baile an Truiseil, Màiri NicGilliosa, 2021, Ⓒ courtesy of the artist


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