at the Espacio Gallery, Shoreditch, London
From the Western Isles to the East End
Four artists living on the island of North Uist bring their work to Shoreditch.
North Uist is one of the islands in the remote Outer Hebridean archipelago. It’s dominated by water – both by the surrounding seas and a myriad of freshwater lochs – and wide open skies. It’s very varied topographically, with an ancient, rocky, peat and heather clad interior and a fertile green rim around the coasts, fringed with sandy beaches.
The island lies in the path of Atlantic low pressure systems and is a place of dynamic weather and wind.
It’s both a challenging and rewarding place to live. Our exhibition brings evidence of this to the very contrasting environment of London, demonstrated by four artists inspired by the same place, but using very different and engaging approaches to express it.
Playing with traditional binding techniques and adapting them in my response to our theme “Hebridean Spaces” has been a real joy. In my attempt to show some of the facets of life and the more immediate realities of 2020 which ring most true with me within the space that is the Hebrides, I have incorporated new materials into traditional book structures such as sand, netting, fish farm overalls and creel hooks as well as adapting traditional techniques such as foil embossing to employ them in a more personal and expressive way. In binding these books, I was able to understand my relationship with the spaces that surround me a little better and to communicate its nature with others through the medium of the book.
I have lived and worked on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides for over 40 years. At the end of a five mile single track road, I overlook a sea loch and the surrounding moors. There are very few trees. The peat moors give way on the west coast to grassland fringed by shell sand and white beaches.
An empty landscape, but the space is full of movement.
‘what birds plunge through….space reaches from us and constructs the world.’ Rainer Marie Rilke
Due to the geographical position and often extreme climate, flotsam and jetsam arriving on the Outer Hebridean shores originates from a broad arc from the Bahamas to the Arctic. The resultant found objects and the transformative nature of the sea itself have inspired me to create work which is about change, metamorphosis, ageing and decay. Often the fusion of organic and industrial materials results in surprising, juxtaposing and sometimes ironic unions.
My current work is rooted in the beach environment near where I live. It is my attempt to express, both the sense of exposure experienced on the Atlantic shore, and the changing worlds created and recreated on the surface of the beach by the endless rhythm of the tide.
Flotsam arrives on the beach from distant places. It is beach-combed and given a new life or purpose. It disintegrates; molluscs and seaweeds grow on it, and it both changes, and becomes changed by, its new environment. Exotic flora and fauna arrive on the North Atlantic drift; shoals of jellyfish are stranded. This is a metaphor for migration.
In 2016, Anja Baarmann, a member of the artists’ collective umKunst, from Uckermark, Germany, took part in an exchange with artists from the Hebrides. Her work was inspired by her stay on North Uist, and she exhibited with us in 2019 in Edinburgh. She died in 2020 and is greatly missed by us all.