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First exhibition surveying the work of Sylvia Wishart RSA opens at the Royal Scottish Academy
Sylvia Wishart RSA, Reflections II, c. 1987-92. Photo: Courtesy The Royal Scottish Academy.

EDINBURGH.- The Royal Scottish Academy presents their first exhibition surveying the work of Sylvia Wishart RSA, featuring drawings, paintings, printmaking and artefacts from the artist’s studio. The works on display concentrate on Orkney, where Wishart spent her time painting mostly in two locations, on the mainland near Stromness and on the island of Hoy, where she found herself endlessly fascinated by Rackwick Bay.

Born in 1936 in Stromness, Orkney, Wishart decided to wait a few years before taking the encouraging advice of her school art teacher Ian MacInnes, instead opting for a career in the Post Office and painting in her spare time. Eventually she conceded and enrolled as a mature student at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. After this came various teaching posts in Lewis, Orkney and Aberdeenshire before she returned to Gray’s in 1969 to take on a lecturing position, where, over the years, she inspired many of her students.

In Orkney, Wishart created a home and studio from an old shop on the harbour front in Stromness , which later became the Pier Arts Centre, where she was heavily involved. Having made way for the Pier, Wishart took on the challenge of restoring Heatherybraes - a derelict croft on the Island of Hoy. It was here her mature work developed into what has been described as the visual parallel for the poetry of George Mackay Brown, who was also a friend. Her work is held is many collections across the UK and, notably, private homes in Orkney. She died in December 2008, Kirkwall, Orkney.

This exhibition follows on from The Lamp in the Seaward Window: the first-ever comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Wishart’s work at the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, Aug-Sep 2010.

Colin Greenslade, Director of the RSA: “It has been a very great pleasure to work with Pier Arts Centre in hosting this exhibition and a personal journey of wonder to reconnect with Sylvia in this way. She was a painter of terrific ability. Her location in Orkney and subsequent distance from her peers in the ‘art world’ has meant that her career has been somewhat overshadowed. However, her place in the story of Scottish painting is of the utmost importance, as a teacher, aesthete and artist of the highest calibre.”

The exhibition will tour to Gray’s School of Art and the Scott Sutherland Library, Aberdeen (24 March – 20 April) followed by the Highland Council touring circuit, ending September 2012.

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