Ness to Ness Workshop 2019, Orkney

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have once again teamed up with Orkney College UHI Art Department to offer the popular summer Art & Archaeology workshop for 2019.

  • Dates: 2nd – 5th July 2019
  • Time: 9.00-5.00 each day
  • Cost £250 per person (limited number of concessions at £225)
  • Accommodation and food is not included
  • Material and transport to and from Kirkwall during the workshop is included

Join us for a four-day workshop exploring the synergies between Art & Archaeology through an exciting combination of field visits and studio time. Accompanied by artists and archaeologists, you will explore the themes of mark-making, materiality and the landscape in the beautiful setting of Orkney’s West Mainland and the island of Hoy.

There will be exclusive tours of the Ness of Brodgar, Pier Arts Centre and the Ness Battery as well as expert printmaking tuition in Orkney College’s Art Studio from Charles Shearer

Tuesday 2nd July 2019 Field Day Ness of Brodgar and Ness Battery

The Ness of Brodgar excavation

After an introduction to the workshop, we will visit the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a bespoke tour with Site Director Nick Card and see its unique art with Neolithic art researcher Dr Antonia Thomas. In the afternoon we will have a tour of the remarkable buildings at the Ness Battery and its unique WW2 painted murals with archaeologist Andrew Hollinrake.

The Ness Battery looking across to the Island of Hoy

Wednesday 3rd July 2019 Pier Arts Centre and Hoy

For today’s session, we will study the internationally significant collection of modern and contemporary art through an exclusive tour of the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness. We will then travel by the MV Graemsay ferry to the island of Hoy and then onwards to the beautiful beach at Rackwick via the Dwarfie Stane….a Neolithic rock cut tomb made famous by Sir Walter Scott in The Pirate. Following a day on the island we then travel back to Stromness on the ferry.

The Dwarfie Stane

Thursday 4th July Studio Day One

You will develop your sketches and ideas from the previous two days into collagraph prints, guided by the internationally renowned printmaker and artist Charles Shearer. A lunchtime lecture will discuss art and artefacts from Neolithic sites in Orkney. You will also have an opportunity to handle finds from recent excavations.

Friday 5th July Studio Day Two

You will be able to develop your ideas from the previous three days further, and continue to work on collagraph printmaking with Charles Shearer. A lunchtime lecture will explore overlaps between archaeology and art as disciplines and processes.

Formal qualifications are not required for this course.

Cost: £250 for 4 days. Limited number of concessions available at 10% discount (£225) Cost includes teaching, transport and materials, but not accommodation or food.To book, contact orkney.college@uhi.ac.uk or telephone 01856 569000

Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney – Book Review

thomas-2016-front-cover

Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney: Process, Temporality and Context. Antonia Thomas. Archaeopress. 2016

Caroline Wickham-Jones kindly wrote a detailed review of Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney, which was subsequently published in The Orcadian newspaper this week. Caroline writes….

We are all used to reading media snippets about amazing structures and spectacular artefacts from Orkney’s Neolithic past. How refreshing therefore to have a whole book devoted to one aspect in detail. Even more exciting: a book that takes information from our newest and most enigmatic site at Ness of Brodgar, and puts it into context with information from two of our oldest sites: Skara Brae and Maeshowe. Finally, and the icing on the cake, it is readable.

img_1444Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney is a handsome volume; it is well illustrated and clearly set out. It is designed to be read from cover to cover but in fact there is a lot of detail here and it also makes for an excellent ‘dipping’ book. The main thrust, as you might guess, is to provide an overview of the amazing suite of decorated stones found within the structures of Neolithic Orkney through detailed studies of these three key sites. Within each site, particular case studies are set out.

It is a comprehensive piece of work, taking us first through a history of the archaeological study of art, and then providing a brief guide to the Neolithic art of Britain and Ireland. This helps to put Orkney art into context, though one cannot help wondering, given the thoroughness of the present research and the ephemeral nature of many of the pieces recorded, whether decorated stones might be under represented outside of Orkney. Many of the pieces here were unknown before Thomas’ research.

We are led deeper into a fascinating detailed consideration of the individual sites. With regard to Skara Brae and Ness of Brodgar a wealth of useful material is provided, including up-to-date breakdowns of the architectural remains and stratigraphy. Even for Maeshowe, a site which you might think had been well published in all its glory, Thomas finds angles and information that have not been presented before.

After this is it time for some serious discussion and analysis. In common with archaeological thought today, Thomas has moved far beyond the old-fashioned ‘Art Historical’ approach and even beyond the ‘Technological/Functional’ approach that was all the rage when I graduated. You won’t find an explanation of ‘meaning’, nor detailed discussions of manufacture, but hopefully any disappointment will be assuaged by learning new ways of thinking about the pieces. Rather than focusing on possible interpretations of Neolithic Art as a sort of code from the past, Thomas teaches us to consider the ways in which it was used and how it may have functioned as part of everyday life.

This is done through three different examinations: first, the processes of incorporating material into Neolithic structures; second, the lifespan (often brief) of art as a visible element; and third the wider context of community and identity in Neolithic Orkney. We are never going to know exactly what the makers of the ‘Brodgar Butterfly’ or the Skara Brae Lozenges meant by them, just as we don’t know what Leonardo intended to convey in the Mona Lisa’s smile, or Banksy with his graffiti. But we can start to think about the roles that these pieces of art played in relationship to their surroundings and those who frequented them.

In this way, Thomas has identified very specific and differing forms of creation and deposition. For me perhaps the most surprising elements are the ways in which design appears to be less important than creation, and existence more important than visibility. Is this indeed ‘art’ as we understand it? Only in the way in which a hidden tattoo or plasterer’s doodle might be so defined.

There is a lot to take in. There is a lot to think about. It is a book that will linger and enrich any exploration of the remains of Neolithic Orkney. The ‘art’ itself is just wonderful, it was clearly an integral part of the lives of our Neolithic ancestors. I can’t help a slight regret that I’m still so far from ‘reading’ it, but I now know so much more about those who tramped the passages and halls of the past. I’m happy.

The book is based on Antonia Thomas’ PhD thesis (itself an exemplary piece of work I am told), and she has done an impressive job, not just in completing the thesis but in producing a publication less than a year after attaining her doctorate. It marks the inauguration of the Archaeology Institute’s Research Publications, judging by the ongoing projects in the Institute one can only wait with excitement for the next volumes in the series. Meanwhile, if you have an interest in the lives of those who lived and farmed in Orkney five thousand years ago, I urge you to go out and buy it.

Caroline Wickham-Jones

For more things archaeology see Caroline’s brilliant blog at http://www.mesolithic.co.uk/


Published by Archaeopress, this publication forms the first in a series by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and it is available in print and e-format from www.archaeopress.com and is priced at £45 for the paperback and £19 for the eBook.