Shetland Arts and Living Lerwick are excited to announce the two winning mural designs for Stage 2 of the upcoming LOCUS Public Art Trail. With over 640 people making their choices in last week’s public vote the results are in and the two most popular designs will be commissioned for painting in the coming months.

Jane Matthews of Shetland Arts explained, “We’re so pleased to have had such positive engagement from the community over the voting process, thank you to everyone that took the time to have their say. I’m delighted that the two chosen designs will add to the LOCUS art trail - an open-air art gallery for all!”

The two winning designs, by Gavin Renshaw and Cobolt Collective, will be painted in July or August. Jane Matthews continues, “Mural painting is an art in itself, requiring a distinct skillset and lots of experience to work at scale in harsh environments. With well-established UK-wide reputations these artists are going to bring such high-quality work to our streets”.

Gavin Renshaw’s work will be painted on two adjacent walls on Commercial Street, on the side wall of Bayes and the side wall of No.88, down Peterson’s Closs. The intention is to create a dialogue between the two. Gavin explains, “I wanted to keep my design quite playful in response to the brief yet still have a deeper undercurrent of meaning hidden within the two walls. The concept behind the work was to look at the intrinsic relationship and historical connection that Shetland has between land and sea in regard to not only livelihood and travel but in the spiritual and primal sense of ancient and future culture.

Objects which are in essence simple things but which hold great value in explaining that dependence upon land/sea and that interconnectivity between the two. I was instantly drawn to the Yoal, a cultural icon of the island. The standing stone looks out to sea, a beacon, an ancestor, a way marker? The Yoal looks for the stone, a reference to land. They are floating amongst two worlds, a way of navigating between them both, anchored to one, released to the other. 

“In this way, maritime themes juxtapose ancient land structures, the proximity of which, allows a mimicry to occur and shapes are echoed between the two walls in a dialogue of colour.

(Gavin Renshaw)

The mural by Cobolt Collective - four Glasgow-based female artists - will be painted on the Shetland Property Lets/Dowry wall on The Esplanade street-level, adjacent to the Peerie Shop & Café. Their work takes the sea as its subject, connecting local references and narratives, making a strong visual link between the busy street and Bressay Sound beyond.

We began the design process by speaking to as many islanders as possible in order to gain a better understanding of what life on the island is like and how this could link to the theme of “Where we were, where we are, and where we’re going". It is these conversations that have influenced our design for the mural.

A consistent visual that recurred in our conversations was the sea and its deep-rooted ties to Shetlandic culture. The island has changed dramatically over the years, yet the sea has remained a constant. At the same time, the sea has been, and continues to be, an integral part of the island’s identity and growth. 

The sea is a place of work and pleasure for Shetlanders, and has been for centuries. It has welcomed new people and said goodbye to others. It is home to a wealth of living things from orcas to otters, and is almost like a living creature of its own. The rhythm of the waves is like the heartbeat of the island, steady and constant, and this has been, and still is, a comforting presence for people during difficult times. 

Continuing with the theme of rhythm, another important element we wanted to depict in the artwork was Shetland dialect, music and poetry. It was apparent from our discussions that it is intrinsic to the local culture and heritage, and so we were keen to include this in the design. 

We chose a line from Discontinuity, by Shetland born poet Christine De Luca - “Only da sea can greet an sing at da sam time". Shetland has strong traditions in appreciating poetry, and we felt this line captures the idea of the sea being a living thing, capable of its own emotions, singing to its own melody and rhythm. We have extended and warped some of the letters to try and mimic how the poem sounds when it is spoken out loud, again tying in with the theme of rhythm and sound.

Overall, we believe that this design captures the independent spirit of the community, celebrates Shetland’s rich heritage and traditions, looks towards a bright future for the community, and injects more colour and positivity onto The Street.

(Cobolt Collective)

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