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islandness is a living experiment. An open platform spanning the North Atlantic, this project explores life on two northern islands through the art practices of two islanders: Jane Walker (NL) and Vivian Ross-Smith (Shetland Islands). In a series of community-based workshops, a community seafood meal, and a collaborative exhibition, Walker and Ross-Smith come together to engage in dialogues about art, islandness and contemporary rurality in the Shetland Islands and in Newfoundland. Both artists use traditional processes and adapted materials of northern island culture such as fish skin and rug hooking in their individual practices. Following several weeks of collaboration,  experimentation, and community engagement in Newfoundland an exhibition in St. John’s will feature new and recent works by Walker and Ross-Smith involving alternative textiles, bronzes, fish skin preservation and project documentation.

islandness explores:

  • Broadening audiences both within and outwith northern island arts communities
  • New gateways of arts engagement that extend beyond the contemporary art community in St. John’s
  • Place-specificity
  • Experiences of ‘islander’ and ‘islandness’ in Newfoundland and in Shetland
  • Familiar textures, processes, and materials within new art contexts

islandness emerges out of ongoing research by Walker comparing the experiences of artists living and working in rural contexts in Scotland and in Newfoundland. Ross-Smith became a research participant after following Walker’s Instagram documentation of her time spent living and working on Fogo Island in 2015. After connecting on Instagram, Walker and Ross-Smith met in person in July 2016 at Mareel in Lerwick. It quickly became obvious that there was potential for further collaboration between the two young artists. Their mutual ideas about art, island life, tradition and making, inclusivity in rural contemporary art discourse are presented together as the first instalment of islandness.

Project framework
islandness aims to be a mode of bringing people and place together, forging new bonds among individuals, artists and communities beyond the framework of a single artwork or contemporary art exhibition. Ross-Smith will travel to Newfoundland from Shetland in mid-August 2017. She will be travelling with her artworks, taking them on a journey, feeling their weight as she carries them to share her island, skills and culture. Public programming begins on Newfoundland’s Bonavista peninsula where Walker lives and works. In early September, an islandness exhibition will take form at Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, as Walker and Ross-Smith work together over a course of weeks on the peninsula. Artworks created as part of the project are site specific, relating to conversations surrounding experiences of islandness, traditions, and knowledge. People living in the communities in the Bonavista peninsula and St. John’s — as well as local arts and community-based organisations such as Island Rooms of Petty Harbour – Fishing For Success,  and Shirley Ryan and Diane Cuff of Susie’s Cafe — are central to the project and will shape and give meaning to Walker and Ross-Smith’s shared creative production.
The project is experiential and personal for the artists and the communities involved.  Everyday life, rhythms, gathering places and local experiences will become central to the project, whether that is through participation in a workshop, attending the community supper, or taking the time to consider what it means to be an islander in shared conversations.

To keep up to date with the latest in this project please follow our Instagram account  @islandnessart

For more information:

Vivian + Jane’s website:



2 thoughts on “islandness

  1. Pingback: islandness – Vivian Ross-Smith

  2. Pingback: islandness casts – Vivian Ross-Smith

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