Earthworks Exhibition Slideshow




‘Earthworks ‘– An Artist’s Exploration and Celebration of Assynt.

Nowadays, as our society becomes more and more concerned about natural disasters and the need to conserve the earth’s resources, many artists are tempted to take a “shouty”, cautionary and, on occasion, patronizing approach, urging their viewers to be more mindful and caring of our planet. Disrupting this trend, ‘Earthworks’, an exhibition currently installed at The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, 19th August – 30th October, displays artworks by the textile and mixed media artist Jan Kilpatrick and instead presents an artist who celebrates the particular locale of Assynt, where she lives. She has created, in the most innovative ways, thirty-eight textile works that express her response to her exploration of this land and its relationships with the individuals who have lived there. Jan has cleverly made the connection between the land and its occupants by developing techniques using plants, minerals and found objects, which represent the remnants of earlier settlers in Elphin and Assynt, in order to make marks on to cloth. These processes have been combined with embroidery to produce wonderful art works.

A conversation with Jan reveals her belief that, “Everything comes from the earth and returns to the earth. It is a larder for all human beings and in one form or another, eventually holds all of our secrets and memories.” This sentiment is expressed in three panels titled “Return”. “ Return II” is a still life depicting a decorated burial urn and beaker using the shape of  a Stone Age urn that has been found in the British Isles. The urn was created using applique on cotton and decorated with batik markings. Human remains would have been placed inside this urn, which would have been buried and returned to the earth. Jan buried the silk in peat alongside some items from crofting life, such as horseshoes, chains and nails, to develop markings on the cloth and this was then used as the background to the work. The beautiful arrangements of these markings remind the viewer of the earth’s ability to create beauty in its natural processes. A poem by the artist hangs alongside.

Another work, entitled “They Used to be Sunflowers”, also explores the theme of life’s cycles. This stunning piece depicts two sunflowers in a withered state and appears to highlight the beauty that can be found in all stages of nature’s processes. The seed would be planted in the earth, grow and bloom, made possible by the sun and rain, then wither and dry out. The seeds would then fall to the earth and the whole process would start again.  To create this artwork, again the artist has embroidered on to silk that had been buried in peat for several months alongside some rusty old objects that had been found whilst she had been digging in her garden. This work inspires thought about the certainty of life and death and how it is connected to the earth. A poem by the artist also hangs alongside this work.

A triptych of panels, with the title, “Earth, Moon, Sun”, further appears to make the connection between living beings and the earth. The shapes appear reminiscent of standing stones which many believe signify a respectful connection between man and The Earth, as they were placed on sites associated with religion and ceremony. The combination of natural processes and artistic techniques used in the production of these panels, seem to reinforce that respectful connection. The techniques used to create the marks include rust-printing on old bed linen, that was then both hand and machine embroidered followed by the burning of the edges of the ‘stones’ and the searing of the fabric, using a soldering iron. The searing created strong dark lines and scores that run vertically down the centre of each shape. The dark lines signify Ogham symbols and these symbols communicate the element that each stone represents. The use of Ogham refers to their Celtic connections.

Jan also explained how the daily rituals of her life, influenced by nature’s rhythms and seasons, result in varying visual experiences. ‘Night Vigil’ is a successful expression of this. Many different looking moons make up this piece, thirty-six to be precise. The poetic text that snakes through the moon representations, tells the story of how a repeated action of viewing the moon, at the same time each night and from the same spot, results in varying visual experiences.  

 ‘Earthworks’ is a must-see exhibition. The textile art pieces celebrate the magnificent land of Assynt and explore the interactions with its dwellers through time. A strong sense of place and appreciation, by the artist, emanates from each piece. She not only successfully captures and transmits the active power of the Earth and nature in gentle and beautiful ways but also provokes much thought and self-reflection from its viewers, about how they personally interact with and treat their natural surroundings.  In my case, it stirred a renewed aim to preserve the precious natural resources that allow us to thrive. What will you think? I recommend that you go and find out.

Lorraine Frew

‘Earthworks’ Exhibition and sale, The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, 19th August – 30th October 2022. 

Email :    Tel : 01854 666279,   Postal Address : Jan Kilpatrick, Cul Mor, Elphin, By Lairg, Sutherland, IV274HH.

Home  |  Galleries  |  Courses  |  Shop  |   Biography  |  Archives  |  Contact |  Search