Three Inverness College UHI alumni are spreading their wings in an airport art project -with their work the first thing visitors see when they arrive in the Highlands.
Yelena Visemirska, Louise Innes and Evija Laivina are the first featured artists at the Highland Creatives exhibition.
Their airport art is displayed so locals preparing for take-off and newcomers touching down can see first hand what the Highlands has to offer artistically.
The project launched in late April in partnership with Inverness College UHI, Inverness Airport and Wasps (Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland).
Wasps is a national charitable organization that works to support local artists with affordable studio spaces, including the Inverness Creative Academy.
Located in the Midmills Building in Inverness, the academy provides resources, studio space and collaborative opportunities for local artists, including Louise, Yelena and Evija.
Meet the Artists
Evija Laivina was born in Latvia and moved to the Highlands in 2009.
In 2019, she graduated from Inverness College UHI with a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Art and Contextualised Practice. She began her tenancy at the Creative Academy that same year.
Evija’s photo series and accompanying video ‘The Hoarder’ is on display as part of the airport art. Her pieces illustrate what she called the ‘survival mode’ mentality that led people to hoard toilet paper and other resources during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns in 2019.
“It was very interesting during the first lockdown to notice a new way of behaviour that I hadn’t seen before, so I had the idea: What if I exaggerated a lot and made an absurd situation?”
Such as, for instance, a short film featuring a man methodically wheeling a toilet paper-laden trolley through the scenic Highlands. Fully garbed in PPE, he pauses to ‘sanitize’ the streets and a few roadside stones along his way.
Evija said that she takes a lot of inspiration from the countryside around Inverness. As she showed in ‘The Hoarder,’ it gives her opportunities to contrast contemporary art with the rawness of nature.
“With such a beautiful landscape and such a completely everyday item: toilet paper. It was such a contrast. And it made me think, what are we worrying about when there’s so much that’s beautiful and amazing.”
Yelena Visemirska is another Latvia-born visual artist who moved to Scotland in 2003. She arrived in Inverness in 2009 and earned her BA in Fine Arts from Inverness College UHI in 2014.
After graduating, she became a tenant at Inverness Creative Academy when it first opened in 2018. She said called her years of study at UHI the best time of her life and a decision she would repeat many times over if given the chance.
“I always wanted to do art and it was one of those things in Latvia that I never managed,” she said.
“I enrolled myself into UHI and that was the best thing I ever did, because this is something I’m supposed to do I feel like.”
The feeling of empowerment that she gets on her regular hill walks and climbing expeditions are what she tries to recreate in her paintings. When she thinks of Latvia, she imagines flat, urban scenes and so she still makes space in her work to take inspiration from back home.
“I often start with industrial, geometric shapes,” she said. “It was very interesting to see how Scotland fed me with the environment. I feel like I belong here.”
Louise Innes is a Scottish artist with a BA in Fine Art Textiles from Moray College UHI and a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Contemporary and Contextualised Art Practice from Inverness College UHI. She graduated and moved into the Creative Academy in 2020.
Louise loves to make art that is rooted in memories. Either by using specific mementos or by creating something unique, she said she always tries to evoke the right emotion.
“Since my mum and my gran passed a few years ago, memories became more important for me. My granny had these amazing photo albums. But because my granny had dementia, if my mum didn’t write down who all these lovely people were then we would never know. And I thought that’s such a shame.
“So my work takes family memories and tries to depict them in a sort of contemporary manner. Things that will trigger memories, so that when you see that bit of art you think about the memories from your childhood and happy memories.”
Louise’s airport contribution features scenes of places around Scotland where she likes to visit.
“It’s really just to encourage people to take time, step back and remember memories for themselves and future generations.”
‘In Plane Sight’
Over the course of the year, more students and alumni will be featured at the Highland Creative airport art exhibit, which is expected to run through October. Travel opportunities are opening up across Scotland as the nation moves into lower levels of coronavirus restrictions.
Airport manager Graeme Bell said that the artists’ audience should only continue to grow in the coming months as traffic hopefully increases.
“We are only too pleased to be able to help local artists and the wider creative community during such challenging times,” he said.
“As travel restrictions ease, visitors can appreciate our region’s unique culture and visual identity through the artwork being exhibited. And, of course, it can be enjoyed by the Inverness Airport team too.”