THURSO has embraced an artistic legacy stretching back to the 1960s with a vibrant mural in the town centre created last Wednesday by an artist from the Black Isle.
Unlike the earlier work on Tollemache House by Polish artist Caziel Zielenkiewicz – a student of Picasso – the latest piece of public art has so far achieved great praise from the majority of people commenting on social media.
The Facebook page for Caithness Horizons Museum and Art Gallery (CHMAG) – who commissioned the work by Marc Delaye – has attracted many comments about the colourful artwork gracing a wall of their carpark.
Lora Dillon said: “Went down to see it today. We all love it.”
Gill Arrowsmith and Shirley Sinclair both thought the painting was “fantastic” while Annemarie Simpson thought that a similar venture in Wick would help tackle the “town’s eyesore” buildings.
While on that subject, one dissenting voice condemned the piece and said there was a “masterpiece eyesore now in Wilson Street thanks to Caithness Horizons”.
Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.
The mural depicts a portrait of Thurso’s renowned botanist and geologist Robert Dick surrounded by a kaleidoscopic representation of the CHMAG facade and the scientist’s specimen collection.
The bold use of line and colour based on modern urban graffiti cannot fail to be noticed just like the mural on nearby Tollemache House but is sited in a much less conspicuous space – the gallery’s car park.
CHMAG’s curator Merran Gunn, who was instrumental in commissioning Delaye to create the work, said the artist had also spray painted a wall within the building as part of a show running called Graffito.
His earlier piece has an explosive anime style figure punching out of the wall toward the viewer.
“Marc’s work is bold and vibrant, electric colours jostle for dominance, and the new outside mural is no exception with tangerine skies set behind the historic Thurso of Robert Dick,” said Gunn.
Thurso’s illustrious scientist had his herbarium collection feature in an earlier work by the artist Joanne Carr which in turn is featured within Delaye’s mural – a clear case of one artist paying homage to another.
“Graffiti and street art is more relevant than ever whether it be in the art world – with the recent record sale of Banksy’s girl with a balloon – or here in the Highlands where graffiti has made its way onto the syllabus at Farr High School through art teacher Tracy Wilkinson,” she said.
After garnering great positive feedback from the current show Merran decided to “have a moment of spontaneity” and raised funds through a crowdfunding website and the Dounreay Communities Fund to commission Marc Delaye to breath some life into a fairly drab corner of the town.
Tracy Dodson, commercial manager of CHMAG, said that the gallery was “breaking boundaries” with Graffito.
“It questions what actually constitutes art and what gets shown in a gallery. Graffito is an exhibition that celebrates artwork that is available to everyone.
“Traditionally graffiti has been seen as anti-social, fringe or even as criminal vandalism, but with an emphasis on social inclusion, we are celebrating street, pop, comic and zine work as mainstream art for hanging in our gallery.”
Tracy unabashedly declares that Graffito is “aimed at young people and the young at heart, as a way of inviting new and future audiences to a museum and gallery experience”.
“This is a multicoloured on-the-wall exhibition devoted to all manner of graphic mark-making and breaking the boundaries of what art is all about,” she said. “We have also hosted street painting and comic workshops, guided gallery tours, and collaborating with our local schools and council.”
Marc Delaye is an established community projects artist with Freshpaint.org which is based on the Black Isle.
“Murals are as alive now as ever before and an excellent way to introduce art to internal and external spaces, giving individuals and communities something that they can be proud of and enjoy each and every day,” said Marc.
The murals can be privately commissioned and can be an “ideal means of advertising products, services, messages and campaigns”.