A shed is encrusted with shells in repeated patterns. Scallop shells give bold rectangular frames and a central circular design. In the house's only window hang three tiny lifebelts.

From Hamnavoe to Holyrood

image: Gunnie Moberg, Honeysuckle cottage, A shed in Hamnavoe, Shetland circa 2003

Dave Hammond recently came down from Shetland and made a short documentary about the Gunnie Moberg Archive here in Kirkwall, Orkney. The film can now be seen in the visual arts section on ArtinScotland.tv

Dave was interested in the national significance of Gunnie Moberg’s work and in the film he highlighted that her work is part of collections at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish Parliament.

In 2004 Gunnie was commissioned to produce a series of artworks for the new parliament building in Holyrood.

image: Gunnie Moberg North Ronladsay Lighthouse circa 2003

‘I had the idea of a big space and felt the images had to be simple and bold to draw people to them.’ Gunnie Moberg 2003

Gunnie provided the parliament with an artist statement about the commission. In her papers here at the archive is the handwritten statement that she faxed south.

Hand-written note: Orkney, a farming community, rich in ancient monuments. Shetland, a much wilder landscape with people who have always been connected to the sea. I wanted to show this in my photographs but working on the commission, I kept coming across interesting things I hadn't seen before or thought of photographing, so the final choice includes other aspects of the islands too. - Gunnie Moberg

Art consultants Art in Partnership included Gunnie in their list of artists for the permanent parliament collection. Gunnie took her place alongside Will Maclean, Alison Watt, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Christine Borland, Eduardo Paolozzi, Norma Starszakowna and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

The commission took Gunnie Moberg two and a half years to complete and resulted in eleven pieces which  are now part of the Scottish Parliament Art Collection.

Fishing nets dry in the wind on a washing line. A fishing community's version of sheets drying on the line.

image: Gunnie Moberg Salmon nets, Out Skerries, Shetland circa 2003

A white North Ronaldsay sheep stands on a rock engulfed by rich brown seaweed and begins the task of munching steadily on a tangle blade.

image: Gunnie Moberg Seaweed-eating Sheep North Ronladsay, Orkney circa 2003

The seaweed-eating sheep was a later addition to the original ten.

Hand written list of artworks, bold black script.

Before the work went south to Edinburgh, the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness held an exhibition ‘From Hamnavoe to Holyrood’. The results of the commission were shown and exhibition visitors were invited to help Gunnie decide on which ones should travel from Hamnavoe* to Holyrood.

An article about Gunnie’s Holyrood commission, written for Northings by artist and poet Alistair Peebles, from Valentine’s day a decade ago can be found here.

*Hamnavoe [the haven bay in Old Norse] is the name of the bay beside the town of Stromness. More from Orkneyjar here. The ferry that sails between Scrabster on the Scottish Mainland and Stromness in Orkney bears the name MV Hamnavoe. The name Hamnavoe also appears in Shetland where the shell encrusted house at the top of the page was taken.

4 thoughts on “From Hamnavoe to Holyrood

  1. Fascinating little film. You referred to Gunnie’s work in the Scottish Parliament – I was up there recently, and tried to get access to her work, but I didn’t get very far in my quest. (‘Out of bounds’ was the problem – but I’ll try again later this year. Persistence will pay off).

  2. Pingback: news from here | The Gunnie Moberg Archive

  3. Pingback: A window on the archive | The Gunnie Moberg Archive

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