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Ian Kane: Moray art lecturer and renowned Highland sculptor dies aged 70

Ian Kane, photographed by wife, June Bryson.
Ian Kane, photographed by wife, June Bryson.

Critically acclaimed Highland artist and lecturer, Ian Brian Johnstone Kane of Dalcross, has died aged 70.

Born on October 1, 1951 at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, he was the son of Janet and Alexander Kane.

He was raised in Easterton, Dalcross, where his heart for the Highlands only grew stronger throughout his lifetime.

Indeed, Ian spent most of his life in the place where he came from, punctuated only by brief periods living in Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

A labour of love

On leaving school Ian became a painting and decorating apprentice in Inverness before moving to the capital to study sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art.

He’d later go on to complete his post-graduate studies with distinction while working as a hospital porter at Longmore Hospital.

In 1975 Ian met June Bryson at the Cafe Royal Edinburgh.

Sculptor Ian Kane, the man behind the campaign to save the Beauly arts centre.

The couple later married in Inverness and went on to celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary.

In 1986 Ian was selected for the Scottish Art Council Residency in Amsterdam.

This offered him time, space and financial support to produce his artwork and he started exhibiting more regularly in The Netherlands, Belgium, France and London.

Back to their Highland home

In 1988 Ian and June moved back to Easterton.

Ian built his own studio and began teaching art at Inverness College.

Son Jamie was born the following year and Ian later started lecturing at the Moray School of Art, founding the Fine Art degree course.

It was from his same studio that Ian continued working right up until the month before he passed away.

His passion and creativity for his work never waned.

World renown

As his career progressed Ian exhibited internationally including shows in Norway, Japan and Canada.

However, he was also recognised closer to home in the Talbot Rice, Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, and Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts.

Artist Ian Kane at his gallery, Dalcross Project Studios, Easterton, 2010.

To critical acclaim his work has featured in the publications New Art Scotland and Contemporary Sculpture in Scotland by Andrew Patrizio.

Friend and colleague Dr Gina Wall paid tribute to the man she called ‘spiritual, disciplined and full of humour’.

She said: “On December 26, 2021 the world of art lost an artist of significance and an inspirational teacher, Ian Kane.”

Cultural influence

Describing Ian as deeply rooted in the Highlands with a long-standing and intimate knowledge of his locality, Dr Wall said Ian remained intrigued by different cultures.

“The garden that Ian developed latterly at his home in Easterton was a creative labour inspired by the gardens of Japan.

Ian, pictured in his garden, by wife June Bryson.

Ian in his Japanese garden at home in Easterton.”The rocks and boulders were physically rearranged by hand… its lie beautifully shaped by human and nonhuman bodies in space.”

She added that Ian was particularly attentive ‘in and to the present; Zen was his way to serenity.’

Exceptionally engaging

On his teaching career Dr Wall said: “Ian had a long and distinguished career at the University of the Highlands and Islands, firstly at Inverness College and then later at Moray School of Art.

“His fascination with the world made him an exceptionally engaging teacher.

“He always needed to get under the skin of things, to know and experience life differently, and to share these insights with students and colleagues through enriching and creative exchanges.

“Because of this Ian established deep and enduring relationships with his students; he changed lives.”

Cheeky side

However, Ian also had a wilder side.

“He could be mischievous, irreverent, and very funny,” said Dr Wall.

“He understood just what mattered in life. And this wisdom enabled him to question accepted norms and challenge the established order of things.

“It was having someone like Ian on the teaching team that made the development of the Moray School of Art possible.”

Beauty in the everyday

Those who knew Ian now take comfort in the legacy left by his art, which captured his appreciation for the beauty in the everyday.

Dr Wall added: “In his arresting body of visual work, a beautifully rendered slab of resin in the most delicate pastel colour lies beside a fragment of concrete.

“On the wall hang two old enamel mugs with a subtly painted intervention; objects rescued from a midden rest on the floor in varying states of decay.

“These works, and many more besides, remain as gifts to us all.”

We will remember him

Ian’s final exhibition, was in November at Eden Court Chapel, Inverness, where he and his son Jamie, also an artist, worked together.

Jamie said Dr Wall’s final sentiments sum up how the family feel about his sudden death.

“We will remember Ian for a long time to come through his work and through what he has taught us.

“And we will remember Ian for his raw enthusiasm counter balanced by deep stillness and contemplation; his lightness of mind and his expressiveness of bodily gesture.

“We’ll remember the way Ian leaned back in thought, one hand in his pocket, the other gently holding his chin; his smile; his integrity.

Ian, as he’ll be remembered. Picture by June Bryson.

“And to borrow from Roland Barthes, we will remember the grain of his voice. The way he articulated ‘extraordinary’ in the gentle lilt of his East Highland accent expressed his delight and wonder.

“We will remember Ian, for he was extraordinary.”

Dr Wall’s full tribute can be read on Ian’s website, and you can read the family’s announcement here.

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