This summer, the Pier Arts Centre’s displays will focus on the influence of Stromness poet and writer George Mackay Brown (1921-96) on artists from Orkney and beyond.

'Orkney and the Artist' opens on Saturday 19 June and will be on display until 6 November 2021.

Pier Arts Centre Curator Andrew Parkinson explained “In 1988 George Mackay Brown wrote the introduction to a book celebrating the Pier Arts Centre’s 10th Anniversary. In the essay, titled Orkney and the Artist, George notes the significant role that art and artists have played in Orkney life and culture over the last few centuries.”

The exhibition 'Orkney and the Artist' features work by Stanley Cursiter, Robert Rendall, Sylvia Wishart, Gunnie Moberg, Ian MacInnes and others, that emphasise George Mackay Brown’s belief that art is critical to the health and well-being of any society.

To help underline the message a changing sequence of exhibitions by contemporary Orkney artists will be on show throughout the summer and autumn months. New work by Stuart Sim, Saoirse Higgins, Ingrid Budge, Jack Whitwell, Boyd & Grogan and Sigurd Smith will offer a glimpse of the breadth and quality of work being produced in the islands today.

The first of these exhibitions is by Orcadian artist Stuart Sim. 'The Toy Box' is a collection of paintings, collage and sculptural work that evoke memories and imagery of childhood. The works are carefully arranged together in a specially decorated room that invites visitors to meander through and contemplate the stories behind the carefully crafted objects.

Stuart Sim The Toy Box © the artist

In an adjoining gallery a sequence of short films, with images and music created by the artist, offer a poetic interpretation of the installation that hint at the joy and mystery that childhood recollections can invoke.

'Stuart Sim – The Toy Box' will be on display from Saturday 19 June until 17 July.

Andrew Parkinson concluded “It’s great to be able to see a selection of work by the best Orkney artists of the twentieth century alongside new work by some of the most interesting and innovative contemporary artists currently working across the islands. When George Mackay Brown was a young man in the 1940’s he had a vision of Orkney as a place full of art, music and literature and by the end of his life this dream, through his own efforts and those of his friends, had largely come true. We hope that by bringing these works together, this exhibition will help illustrate the important role that art and artists play in Orkney life.”

Sylvia Wishart The Double Houses, Stromness 1968 © the estate of the artist

Meanwhile in the gallery, a display of artwork by Orkney school children, selected by their art teachers, taking their inspiration from the work of George Mackay Brown, is on display until 24 July.

The Pier Arts Centre is open 10:30am-5pm, Thursday to Saturday until 26 June, then Tuesday to Saturday 10:30am-5pm from 29 June 2021. Visits can be booked in advance on the website and ‘walk-ins’ also welcome. To book your visit, go to the website, email or telephone 01856 850209.