A artist has been appointed to design a sculpture for Lerwick’s waterfront celebrating the pelagic fishing industry.
Suffolk-based Jo Chapman arrived in Lerwick last week to begin her 10-week residency in the isles. During these next few weeks, Jo will be out and about meeting people with her so-called “Fish Van Collection”, an array of display cases in the back of her car filled with artefacts relating to fishing. These could be anything from objects found on the beach to old photos or items from fishing boats, whether given or loaned.
She will be inviting communities to join her in workshops, capturing images and learning more of Shetland and its rich heritage in the pelagic fishing industry. It is hoped that, through her travels around the islands, Jo will be able to form a group of community advisers who will assist her as she thinks about possible designs for the
Jo was appointed through a competitive selection process to design a sculpture for Lerwick’s harbour front.
The four Shetland business partners, LHD, Shetland Catch, Lerwick Port Authority and the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, who have sponsored and commissioned the Pelagic Sculpture Project, were delighted to appoint Jo, who has over 20 years experience as an artist.
The partners, in association with Shetland Arts, were enabled to support the project with match funding from Arts & Business Scotland through their New Arts Sponsorship grants scheme.
In commissioning the sculpture, the four business strong partnership are keen to avoid the artwork looking
too abstract, with little reference to its surroundings or without input from the community.
Chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority Sandra Laurenson said: “The 10-week artist residency was an important part of the project from its inception. We wanted whoever was appointed to spend time researching the fishing industry, learning what it means to people here and working with communities. We want the design that is selected at the end to reflect those conversations and activities and it is intended that the final sculpture is fabricated in Shetland.”
Working collaboratively with communities is integral to artist Jo Chapman’s practice. She said: “The idea behind the ‘Fish Van Collection’ is that it will be a community project to tour, gather and meet people all over the islands, I will be collecting anecdotes, objects and memories related to fishing as well as running art workshops that explore sculpture.
“For me it is important that public artworks are developed in consultation with the community and that there is a sense of ownership. This project is to celebrate the importance of the fishing heritage to Shetland and how deeply it is woven into the social and economic heritage of the island and the people. I live in Suffolk, close to Lowestoft, and since being here the strong connection between Shetland and Lowestoft keeps arising, I discovered that the herring gutters would often travel down to Lowestoft to work, following the fish, from October until Christmas which is exactly the same period of time that I am here, in Shetland from Suffolk.”
By Christmas, Jo will have created three potential designs, one of which will be chosen as the final design to be constructed. She has previously had public art commissions in the UK, India and France. Her new creation will be placed outside the RNLI building. A memorial bench in this spot will be moved, with the family’s permission.
Chief executive of Arts & Business Scotland’s David Watt said: “The Pelagic Sculpture Project is a fantastic
example of a true community project and encapsulates perfectly the type of activity our New Arts Sponsorship programme supports. We’re delighted the residency is underway and look forward to seeing the results in due course.”