Margaret moved by the isle of Islay

Artist Margaret Bathgate and poet James Knox Whittet
Artist Margaret Bathgate and poet James Knox Whittet

You could never call her mainstream, but a respected Glenrothes artist is certainly going mainland with her latest collaborative exhibition.

Photographer Margaret Bathgate (71) has teamed up with poet James Knox Whittet to produce Voices and Images of Islay which presents an intimate portrait of the island’s community and landscape.

And the exhibition - which was first shown on the Hebridean island - opens at Cambo Estate on August 3 for a week-long run.

The show represents the first ever collaborative project for the former music teacher who only took up an artistic career after she retired and enrolled at Edinburgh School of Art in 2002.

That pivotal move was also marked by the tragic loss of her husband - making her journey all the harder to embark upon.

Margaret said: “You have to find this spirit within...but it’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Her career in the arts certainly has been.

Just a few months after graduating with a fine arts degree in 2006, Margaret won the Royal Scottish Academy’s prestigious Barns Graham Award.

And, before the year was out, British Airways bought four of her pieces to grace its VIP lounge at Edinburgh Airport.

Her knitted public installations - one of which, Polka Dot, featured at Pittenweem Arts Festival 2007 - are characterised by a bold use of colour and scale.

But it was her passion for poetry that led to her friendship with Cambridge-educated James, who lives in Norfolk, and a desire to produce an exhibition together.

And was that a difficult undertaking after working as a solo artist for almost ten years?

“We are both sympathetic to each other’s work and that’s the main thing,” said Margaret.

An intimate look at the island of Islay

The exhibition, which features photographs of Islay people and places and accompanying sonnets, involved fifteen interviews with islanders.

James Knox Whittet spent his childhood on the island and that experience has inspired much of his poetry.

His anthology 100 Island Poems was nominated by The Scotsman as one of the ‘Books of the Year’ and won a major award from the Arts Council of England.

Voices and Images of Islay runs from August 3-10 at Cambo. Call (01333) 450054 for more information.