In 634 Oswald, king of Northumbria, invited Aidan of Iona to establish a mission on Lindisfarne to facilitate the conversion of Northumbria and the north of England. Iona’s monastery had become one of the great centres of learning and a place of both holiness and knowledge and its catastrophic sacking by the Vikings can be seen as a loss to both Christendom and western learning. Exquisite works such as the Book of Kells were produced in the busy scriptorium on the island. The shocking sea borne raid which ended this period of creativity and spirit occurred just one year after a similar raid on Lindisfarne in 793.

Iona seems to me an island that not only exists at the margins between land and sea, but also heaven and earth, day and night. When seen for the sea it seems to blur into the water and light , not just material or spirit, dissolving and becoming both . Iona and Lindisfarne form the spiritual axis around which the world of the evolving kingdoms of Northern Britain turned. Thus my paintings of Lindisfarme feature the light of the morning as it faces out to the East; the Iona paintings feature the light of the evening as it faces out to the West.

Like Lindisfarne, Iona has a very special combination of topography, climate and light that sets it apart from its surroundings. It is an interesting debate as to whether this “otherness” is part of what attracted the religious settlers and what maintains its enduring spiritual legacy or is it is in some way an effect of that legacy?