Art as an Expression of Northernness: the Highlands of Scotland
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This paper explores the idea of ‘northernness’ with respect to the Highlands of Scotland, in the process touching on both prehistoric and contemporary art. It is an outcome of the AHRC-funded project ‘Window to the West: Towards a Redefinition of the Visual within Gaelic Scotland’ (PI Macdonald). It is a direct contribution to the development of a research network currently being led by Dr Ysanne Holt of Northumbria University, editor of Visual Culture in Britain. The paper notes a particular moment of European significance which relates both to the indigenous Gaelic culture of Highland Scotland and to external perceptions of it, the publication of James Macpherson’s ‘Ossian’ in the 1760s. That text gave rise to a visual response across Europe from artists such as Runciman, Abildgaard, Runge and Ingres. It continues to be explored today by artists such as Calum Colvin and Norman Shaw. In this paper ‘Ossian’ provides a linking theme. The paper was made possible by the AHRC-funded project ‘Window to the West: towards a redefinition of the visual within Gaelic Scotland’. (PI Macdonald). The paper developed from invitations to present in Paris in 2005 (UNESCO and Université Paris 7: Ossian Then and Now Conference); Stirling University in 2006 (Lie of the Land Conference, Keynote); Ateneum Museum (National Gallery of Finland), Helsinki in 2009 (European Revivals Workshop - Myths, Legends and Dreams of a Nation, Keynote); Canada, 2009 (Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Opening of the exhibition of An Leabhar Mòr / Great Book of Gaelic); Newcastle, 2010, (Northernness Conference, University of Northumbria); and Reykjavik 2010 (University of Iceland, Art in Translation Conference, Keynote).