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islandness: Vivian Ross-Smith & Jane Walker

A series of community-based workshops and a collaborative exhibition at Eastern Edge Gallery and sites around the Bonavista Peninsula

August 25  – October 11, 2017

Follow islandness on Instagram: @islandnessart

caption: Vivian Ross-Smith, hand cast bronze and copper net needles (left) preserved cod skin (right) 2017.

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 (Newfoundland) 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.

Walker and Ross-Smith 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.

Public Programming (free, all welcome)

Bonavista Peninsula

Artist Workshop (Keels, NL):

Fish skin as art and Craft

w/ Vivian Ross-Smith

in partnership with the Bonavista Biennale

Friday, August 25, 1-4 PM

Keels Hall, Keels, NL

Check out the Facebook event here

St. John’s

Artist Workshop (St. John’s):

New Experiments in rug hooking, fish skins and nets

w/ Jane Walker, Vivian Ross-Smith

in partnership with Island Rooms of Petty Harbour – Fishing for Success

Thursday, September 14th 2017 6-9 PM

Eastern Edge Gallery, St. John’s

Check out the Facebook event here

islandness exhibition (Eastern Edge Gallery)

Opening reception + artist talk

Saturday Sept 16th 2017 6-9 PM

Artist talk at 7 PM

Refreshments served

Check out the Facebook event here

For more information on any events or workshops contact

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

caption: Jane Walker, 35 mm film scans, 2017

islandness aims to bring 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.

an islandness exhibition will take form at Eastern Edge Gallery 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 several local arts and community-based organizations such as Island Rooms of Petty Harbour – Fishing For Success, and For a New Earth — 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. islandness is an ongoing experiment that Walker and Ross-Smith hope to adapt and build upon for future installments — next stop Shetland.

caption: Jane Walker and Vivian Ross-Smith rug hooking process photo (left) and Vivian Ross-Smith, handcast bronze of fish skin, 25 x 10 cm (approx), edition of 7 (right), 2017

Artist Bios

Vivian Ross-Smith (b. Edinburgh, Scotland) is a visual artist living and working in the Shetland Islands. As a child Ross-Smith and her family relocated to Britain’s most remote inhabited island, Fair Isle, a place that greatly influences her artistic practice. Ross-Smith holds a BA (Hons) in Painting from Gray’s School of Art (2013), with her degree being partly awarded by Turku Arts Academy, Finland. Ross-Smith’s process-based practice spans painting, textile and sculpture. With a focus on traditional skills such as preserving fish skins, net making, knitting and metal work, she embeds stories and traditions of island life into the materials and imagery of her works.

Ross-Smith has participated in exhibitions and residencies across Scotland and internationally, and has received grants and awards from Shetland Arts and Creative Scotland. She works closely with rural arts organisations such as Scottish Sculpture Workshop, and co-founded and runs Visual Artist Unit, an artist-led organisation based in Glasgow that supports emerging artists across Scotland. Ross-Smith currently lectures at University of the Highlands and Islands, Shetland College.

Jane Walker (b. St. John’s, NL) is an artist and researcher based in Bonavista, NL.  She holds a BFA in Visual Arts from Memorial University (2015) and a Masters of Research in Creative Practices from The Glasgow School of Art (2016). Within her practice, Walker investigates place-based knowledge(s) and languages. Her rug hooking work engages traditional skills, materiality, site-specificity, and emotional labour in relation to textile practices in northern island and rural regions. Her research focuses on contemporary art access and engagement in rural areas of Scotland and Newfoundland.

Walker has participated in exhibitions and lead workshops in the UK, Ireland, and Canada. Upcoming exhibitions of her work include islandness, a collaborative project that bridges Newfoundland and the Shetland Islands through dialogues about art, islandness, and contemporary rurality, September 16 – October 11 (Eastern Edge Gallery, St. John’s NL) and her first solo exhibition Main Lands and Long Winters, September 24January 7 (The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s NL)


An islandness publication funded by ArtsNL and produced by Nothing New Projects will feature exhibition documentation and an in-depth look at the community supper and workshops through images, critical text, and words from islandness participants. Please contact Eastern Edge Gallery to pre-order a copy.

Follow along with islandness programming and future instalments of the project on Instagram: @islandnessart