A new gallery opening at Garenin on Saturday (1 May) will see twins Joe and Ben Kirkman returning to their ancestral roots to lay out a new future for themselves.
The 21-year-old brothers have moved to the island, with parents Helen and Gary, from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, but the landscape and heritage of west Lewis is far from new to them.
Their mum Helen, who now stays in Galson, is the daughter of Calum an-Uigeachd, who grew up in Knock, Carloway and who left the island for the mainland when he was 18.
It was to his family home, built by grandfather Murdo, that Helen and Gary would bring their twins for family holidays, two or three times a year, and that link has now drawn the brothers home to the island to follow their dream.
Joe is a photography graduate, and Ben has worked in retail and business, so they have decided to pool their skills with the opening of a new gallery which will showcase the work of Joe and other artists.
Ben said: “We used to spend our summers here, with trips to the beaches, going crabbing, visiting uncles and cousins. It has always felt like home to us.
“When we moved back we felt the sense of community and now that we live here we feel very welcome and are looking forward to being part of the life of the island.”
It was Joe’s ambition to have his own gallery, and when the crofthouse at 8 Garenin came onto the market he saw it as ideal.
He said: “It’s just a one-bedroom croft-house and we have transformed half of it into the gallery, while the other half remains my flat.
“Doing it up has been a real family effort, with my dad enjoying knocking down walls, relaying floors and all of us painting and making it good, while we go to and fro between Garenin and Galson.
“I have wanted to live here for a long time and, once I had finished my degree, it seemed as if everything aligned. It’s hard to make a living from photography, but here I have the landscapes and the location to make a business from it.
“Our original intention was to open at the end of last summer, but we’re actually grateful for the delay imposed by Covid, because it gave us lots of time to get everything right and to select work by other artists for the gallery.”
The twins’ close relationship and skill-mix will, they hope, give them a head-start in making a success of the business. Ben said: “I’m the bossy twin and Joe’s the artist, the dreamer – although I do appreciate art. But while he’s been studying I’ve been out in the world in retail and will do the counter service and show him the ropes to begin with.
“We get on very well and, since it’s our first venture, we’ve both got the enthusiasm and the appetite to make a go of it.”
Joe’s photographic work puts landscape in focus, using a technique called intentional camera movement, which distorts the image and makes it more abstract. To complement his work, they’ve selected a range including original artworks, gifts, jewellery and cards from other artists who also set their eyes on the landscape.
Joe said: “We have worked hard to make the gallery feel welcoming, bright and light, with a beachy theme and works that show off the colours of the islands.”
And Ben adds: “We’ve put a picnic table outside and there’ll be a bowl of water out for dogs. It’s a lovely sunny spot and we hope that walkers and cyclists will just stop, sit for a while, pop in and say hello and have a look at what we are offering.”
You can find out more about gallery opening times and Joe’s work from his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Garenin-Gallery-105303121309696 and see his work on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/joseph_kirkman_
Pictures show the new gallery at 8 Garenin, and a view of the gallery ready for opening