Mike Darling, Visual Arts Curator

01 Nov 2021

Mike Darling will be leaving his post as Visual Arts Curator at An Tobar at the end of January.

Mike, who first curated an exhibition in 1981, has worked at An Tobar for 16 years as the gallery technician, working on installing exhibitions. Since the end of 2015 Mike has taken on a second job of programming exhibitions and curating for the gallery.

“When I took on the role of curator as well as the gallery technician, I had in mind that I’d plan the development of the gallery’s exhibition programme over a five-year period. I thought that as I’d already turned 60 at that point this would essentially make it a job for life!

It’s been really fulfilling and exciting getting to work with artists over the past few years. I’ve tried to create a varied and interesting programme including many craft-based exhibitions, with work predominantly by Scottish artists. Some of the artists are well established and have exhibited internationally, and for other artists their exhibition at An Tobar has been their first solo show. One of the most important events of each year has been the themed annual open exhibitions. This gives the artists from Mull, Iona and Argyll the chance to do their stuff, a challenge that they rise to and have never failed to impress. The current open exhibition ‘Hidden’ is the perfect example of this, it will run until March next year.

Many of the exhibitions have formed the basis for workshops and other ancillary events. There has been a strong emphasis on including young people, to allow them to feel connected to An Tobar and to the visual art, on many occasions working with different schools and with Mull Youth Theatre. For the current ‘Bones’ exhibition, children from Dervaig school have created their own painted bones, they have made bone jewellery with Alan Melvin and bone music for a dance and movement performance with Andi Stevens, filmed by Sarah Darling.

The last two years have been tough for An Tobar Gallery with the challenges of lockdown but even while the rest of the building was closed, I thought it important that the gallery remained accessible, in so far as was permitted. During lockdown we commissioned artists to make work that would become permanent fixtures within the building. Two new stained-glass door lights by Pinkie Maclure and Keny Drew have now been installed along with a printed wall hanging made by Tighnabruaich artist Eve Campbell, who worked with Mull based photographer Carolyne Mazur. 

Since An Tobar, the Café and Mull Theatre were fully reopened in the summer it’s been great to see the place beginning to buzz again. This has confirmed that art, music and theatre (and cake) are essential, they lift our spirits. 

So, it remains for me to thank all of my friends and colleagues that I’ve worked with both currently and back over the years and a massive, big thanks to all the Mull and Iona artists. There is an exciting exhibitions programme in place for 2022 so I’m leaving with every confidence that the visual arts will continue to flourish in the gallery.

The artist Gerhard Richer said “art is the strongest form of hope”. I’ll leave you with that thought.

“It has been an incredible privilege to work with Mike for the last six months. The commitment and artistry he brings to his work is exceptional and his contribution to the local arts community is huge. He will be very much missed by all of us here at An Tobar & Mull Theatre."
Rebecca Atkinson-Lord
Artistic Director & Chief Executive