On 26 December 2021 the world of art lost an artist of significance and an inspirational teacher, Ian Kane. Ian was deeply rooted in the Highlands, living for most of his life in the family home where he grew up. Although he had a long-standing and intimate knowledge of his locality, Ian was intrigued by different cultures, travelling extensively with his family, learning about the world and coming to understand different ways of being in it. The garden that Ian developed latterly at his home in Easterton was a creative labour inspired by the gardens of Japan; the rocks and boulders physically rearranged by hand to surface the topography of the garden, its lie beautifully shaped by human and nonhuman bodies in space. Ian was spiritual, disciplined and full of humour. He had a deep curiosity about human existence and the changing patina that the passing of time brings to the life of objects. Ian was particularly attentive in and to the present; Zen was his way to serenity.
Ian was adept at working with students of all ages and experiences and he had a long and distinguished teaching career at the University of the Highlands and Islands, firstly at Inverness College and then later at Moray School of Art. Ian’s fascination with the world made him an exceptionally engaging teacher. He always needed to get under the skin of things, to know and experience life differently, and to share these insights with students and colleagues through enriching and creative exchanges. Ian established deep and enduring relationships with his students; he changed lives. For Ian teaching was a natural extension of his being (as) an artist, teaching gave space to collaboratively shape thought and to experience shared delight; to be delighted, in the way that one of his best loved writers Neil Gunn understood this - as a light in the mind.
Many will remember Ian’s wonderfully energetic wilder side. He could be mischievous, irreverent, and very funny. He understood just what mattered in life and this wisdom enabled him to question accepted norms and challenge the established order of things. It was having someone like Ian on the teaching team that made the development of the Moray School of Art possible, a creative educational labour through which Moray became an energetic hub of creative production. It was a truly special time, and Ian played an essential role in it.
Through his creative practice, Ian expressed a deep appreciation for the beauty in the everyday, joy in the visual quality and tactility of materials and rigorous inquiry into ideas. With a wonderful sensibility for colour and surface, Ian was highly attuned to the states of things and through his hands the artwork’s way of being was dignified. His spatial work is delicately poised between minimalist precision and the gestural use of materials; the finely wrought and the patination and form of the found. In his arresting body of visual work, a beautifully rendered slab of resin in the most delicate pastel colour (inspired by the great Agnes Martin) lies beside a fragment of concrete; on the wall hang two old enamel mugs with a subtly painted intervention; objects rescued from a midden rest on the floor in varying states of decay. These works, and many more besides, remain as gifts to us all.
We will remember Ian for a long time to come through his work and through what he has taught us. We will remember Ian for his raw enthusiasm counter balanced by deep stillness and contemplation; his lightness of mind and his expressiveness of bodily gesture; we will remember the way Ian leaned back in thought, one hand in his pocket, the other gently holding his chin; we will remember his smile; his integrity; and to borrow from Roland Barthes, we will remember the grain of his voice - the way that Ian articulated the word extraordinary in the gentle lilt of his East Highland accent which expressed his delight and wonder. We will remember Ian; he was extraordinary.
Dr Gina Wall