A common link between painting and design work has been that of collaboration. Since the early 1980's and the initial creation of Sireadh Bradan Sicir (Seeking Wise Salmon) with poet Aonghas MacNeacail, associations with other writers began. These included George Mackay Brown and photographer Gunnie Moberg, and Traveller and folklorist Stanley Robertson. Many large oils and books grew from these collaborations and, with sculptor Helen Denerley, so did large-scale murals (over 100 x 15 ft) for theatre. Inevitably, such collaboration led to digital form - a vein that has increased ever since.
  • Aonghas MacNeacail
  • George Mackay Brown, Gunnie Moberg and Fr Giles
  • Stanley Robertson
  • Helen Denerley

Aonghas MacNeacail

Around 1982, the chance of a solo show in Edinburgh’s 369 Gallery required the translation of some texts into Gaelic, which led to contact with the poet Aonghas MacNeacail. Most fortunately – a fault which proved a great blessing – the source texts that I supplied him with proved of little worth. Aonghas suggested instead that he respond to the assorted visual wheelbarrow in his own way. This (infinitely better) alternative resulted in a collaborative way of working, which started a chain of events and publication that defined the next thirty years. Although the 'tree alphabet' appears here, it was 'Sireadh bradain sicir/ Seeking Wise Salmon' that was the first of these collaborations and led to so many other books, work in schools, residencies and a long-standing friendship…

George Mackay Brown and Gunnie Moberg

Around about 1987, for a show of Sireadh Bradain Sicir with Aonghas in the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Erlend Brown, then the gallery's curator, suggested that his uncle review the show. George did and thus began a second sequence of collaboration, with both George and Gunnie Moberg, the photographer, on Loom of Light and Celebration for Magnus. For the latter we were joined by the monks of Pluscarden Abbey whom we visited at Pluscarden, where Gunnie and Father Giles sparred as to who had the better system of developing photographs, using their own specially invented systems of memory among kitchen dishes or highly synchronised use of feet on cupboard doors. George's great sense of humour was allowed unusual exposure in Letter to Gypsy, the cat to whom he spoke constantly...

Stanley Robertson

Around 1990, an enthusiastic supporter of paintings, Ian Olson, recommended that I contact a friend of his, the traveller and storyteller Stanley Robertson. Stanley being Stanley, he had already anticipated the event in a dream and already set out to write his remarkable series of stories known as Exodus to Alford. Written in his native doric, these tales of great inspiration and traveller lore were the start of a very active period and great companionship. Stanley was an astonishing ambassador for the Travelling folk, recognised internationally and shortly before he died, given the aptly named M.Univ (Master of the Universe) degree by Aberdeen University for his work

Helen Denerley and Running with Wolves

Around 1999, Helen Denerley suggested the generous idea of collaboration for a piece of theatre at the Highland Festival. We had frequently argued the superiority of 3D or 2D art (sculpture versus painting), yet usually reached agreement that perhaps music had a slight edge over both art forms. To cement such spirit of accord, Helen invited Jonny Hardie to fiddle, Caroline Reagh to dance, Mick Andrew to light and, to keep some form of cohesion, Andi Ross to direct. Caroline and Jonny invented many and varied themes among Helen's metal wolves, enclosed within 100x14 foot of painted canvas, while Mick's lighting cued everything to the focus of the drama. It was billed to be in the spirit of wildness, which convenient term allowed for some leeway of definition as to the successful fusion of such divergent disciplines... I cannot remember what the critics made of it, yet it certainly hit most meanings of 'wild'!