Am Bratach No. 328
February 2019

Arts magazine with a difference

Tongue-based arts writer Ian McKay is gearing up for the launch of a new magazine dedicated to the arts and crafts scene in northern Europe. The magazine, titled Art North, is expected to be launched in March and has already attracted almost 1,000 advance subscriptions.

Mr McKay, a writer and editor of more than thirty years’ experience, intends Art North to be a quarterly publication. He has lined up an impressive line of writers for the first edition, including such well-known names as George Gunn, Mandy Haggith, Kevin MacNeil and Ian Stephen. Murdo Macdonald, emeritus professor of Scottish art history at the University of Dundee, will also contribute an opening piece. From 2005 to 2011 Professor Macdonald led an innovative research project, Window to the West/Uinneag Dhan Aird an Iar. The exhibition which emerged from it challenged the notion that Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland have historically lacked a tradition of creating visual art.

Art North magazine will be concerned with the north in its widest sense. In a recent interview, Mr McKay outlined its aims for the arts website CuratorSpace: “Increasingly, I was becoming more and more frustrated in seeing the art being made in our urban centres getting ever wider coverage, and the art made in more remote locations simply not being recognised at all by the art press, or very rarely. I began thinking about how to fill that void, and better represent artists who were effectively working in a critical vacuum.

“Art North was conceived as a magazine that would better represent the art of what many think of as the ‘margins’, but the magazine is also about internationalising the work being made, by forging links with Scotland’s neighbours in the far north; countries such as Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and further east to Sweden and Finland, where artists can also be found working without the widespread recognition they deserve.”

Mr McKay, originally from Surrey, has had a wide-ranging career as an arts journalist and university lecturer. In the mid-1980s, he began writing on the arts of Eastern Europe from Eastern- bloc states, prior to the collapse of communism. His books cover challenging political topics, such as the rise of “localism” over recent decades. In Scratch a Hippy, Find a Fascist (published under the Gaelic spelling of his name, Eoin MacAoidh, in 2016) he asks: “Can we detect in the language of localism, the sign of fascism on the march once more? While localism may offer the potential to build strong, inclusive communities, it can also have the opposite effect. Are we already building communities populated only by ‘people like us’?”

Mr McKay re-located to Tongue after leaving mainstream academia and says he wouldn’t wish to live anywhere else. Doing his job is not without geographical challenges, such as a tortuous trip to cover an exhibition at Taigh Chearsabhaigh, the arts centre in Lochmaddy. A special report on North Uist and Berneray is the cover story for the first issue of the magazine. It will also include what McKay refers to as a “thundering piece” by George Gunn on the “misunderstood” landscape of Caithness and Sutherland.

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