Georgina Coburn considers the work of Allison Weightman
Shotgun blue (detail)
33cm (d) x 34cm (h)
Workingwith clay naturally brings formative ideas to the surface. The ancient knowing in clay is immediately tactile. It’s the earth, the stuff we are made of in legends and the dust we will all return to. There is something deeply connective and optimistic about making, acknowledging what we value most in the process. Allison Weightman’s latest sculptural vessels are evidence of creative evolution, not just in the artist’s practice, but in the essential connection between humanity and the natural environment.
In ‘April Snow on the Ridge i’ Weightman brings heightened awareness to form, in a distilled top line one might walk on a mountainside. The precariousness of elements is present in sculptural form, akin to the melt of glazes and snow, mirrored in the firing process, which even after years of experience still surprises. The landscape is experienced in form, colour, and the inner reflections of Weightman’s alchemical glazing, which conjures temperature, altitude, and a reverent state of mindfulness. Walking around this repository of memory triggers what it is to be in the mountains. This moves beyond the purely physical conquest of landscape, to a sensuous and distinctly feminine understanding of what moves and renews the world. As Weightman suggests in ‘Vessel’ the human body is a vessel of knowledge and experience, the open shoulder giving function to form.
Weightman’s spherical sculpture ‘Shotgun Blue’ combines a holistic sense of the earth and the body, beauty and trauma. Weightman’s shotgun works mark the surface with violent human action, mirroring the destruction of flesh with bullets. As the world discovers with increasing urgency, that the earth and our own flesh are bound together, Weightman’s pierced vessel provides a space of profound meditation. A crafted object of beauty and nature’s sublime design pivot in counterpoint with our capacity to exploit and destroy.True to the artist’s character, there is nothing didactic about the execution, the glazing of ‘Shotgun Blue’ is tempered with warmth, oranges and browns, which despite the explosive action of shotgun cartridges and dominant cool blue, invoke a grounded, natural order of renewal and endurance.
In ‘Northern Lights’ Weightman spins the heavens and an entire landscape of mind into sculptural form, standing tall and voluptuous. All of nature’s elements are elusive, yet Weightman grasps them. Moving around the vessel, lustrous light and colour play across the surface. Feathered expansion of glazes meet gravity bearing change, as Weightman’s immersion in the Northern landscape partners joyfully with her technique. Separation of pigments create a microcosm of momentous natural phenomena. It’s a wonderful example of felt sense, not just seeking to capture the landscape as an optical vista, but as core to what we are. When we stop and behold nature, the sense of connection to forces greater than ourselves is a source of awe and delight, equal to the liberating fluidity of Weightman’s ceramics.
Northern Lights | ceramic | 55cm (h) x 28cm (d)
The exquisite compositions and memories in Liz Knox’s work
by Tony Davidson
Memoryis a psychological process. We acquire and store experiences and then, when we recall them, they are reinvented in a little noticed artistic act - the recreation of a captured moment. Colours are enhanced and balanced – more blue a little less yellow; unneeded distractions are removed to focus this vision, and the meaning is enhanced. This reconstructed work, our psychological painting, defines who we are and what we have learned on the journey. Liz Knox takes this process, her ‘mind’s eye’ recollections, and makes them tactile again. They are reality, with an element of dream, painted by an artist whose many years of artistic practice are evident.
Knox’s compositions are exquisitely balanced. This is what I notice first. There is often a deep blue background which recedes like the midnight-dreamworld from which her iconic elements emerge: and there are beautifully rich reds which come forward and walk you into the gardened, tabled world of a Liz Knox painting. All of Knox’s paintings have joyous yellow and a more sinister black perched in a
Amsterdam Associations oil on canvas 92cm x 61cm
corner waiting to play its role. The colour in Knox’s work becomes characters in a play, and every one of them has something to say when they strut into Knox’s stage. The balancing of each painting is done with an eye to mathematics. Look carefully and you can count many threes, or find spirals which take you to a detail. There are golden ratios too and other divine proportions. It is an understanding (intended or otherwise) of these geometries that bring balance to a painting, and harmony to the world. Mathematics, of course, is one of the few eternal things and this lies at the core of all good artworks.
And what of Liz Knox? You must read her paintings to find out. There’s a tree with orange fruit, European-style buildings, lilies, an open window, a table set with pomegranates and a reclining red-headed nude. Like the midnight background, they are endless.
Blinds oil on canvas
56cm x 56cm
Borders oil on canvas
61cm x 51cm
Waiting to Sleep
oil on canvas | 92cm x 152cm
The holy trinity of words, art and weather
by Tony Davidson
Theradio this morning tells of artificial intelligence (AI) and how words, rather than machines, define (and shape) our lives. The right word, the radio told me, can insight a revolution, or calm one. Art is similar because an image - painting or sculpture - also charts and steers human experience. Yuval Hoah Harari, author of Sapiens, suggests that a word can start a religion, even if whispered by a computer, but that is forgetting about something far larger: the old Gods, the elements. They have always been with us and will be there long after we have gone, no matter what AI whispers in our ears. In a place like Shetland, storms and calms always have the final say. Sailor, pilot and
Rost PETER DAVIS Watercolour,
bodycolour and chalk on paper 50cm x 70cm
Snowstorm over the Sea
JANETTE KERR oil on board
48cm x 48cm
fisherman look out to sea first thing in the morning; and, only after doing this, will they decide what to do.
These Shetland words (as described in ‘Orkney and Shetland Weather Words’, John W Scott) have been a long-time fascination for the island’s artists. Many of these – Ruth Brownlee, Peter Davis, Janette Kerr and Gail Harvey – were drawn north by the pull of the weather to eventually settle in their studios, their almost sheltered nests, where they attempt to capture its enduring power – the sublime.
Here are a few of the traditional words which capture these cycles of nature and how they are seen through
watercolour, body colour and chalk on paper 50cm x 70cm
Innsog PETER DAVIS
Alikrogi – a weakly animal that cannot stand the cold.
Bladd – a very large raindrop.
Blashey wadder – wet and unsettled weather.
Blooter – a wet mass or jelly.
Brenna – a fine mist-like spray from heavy breakers.
Brennek – a mock-sun.
Dask – a dense haze of fog.
Dofnin – abatement of storm and rough weather.
Duffin – moderating in weather.
Fjora – foreshore
Flinterkin – (1) a very dry cowpat. (2) a light snow shower.
Air and Sea | GAIL HARVEY oil on canvas | 121cm x 170cm
Gruggie – dim, dark and threatening.
Gven – an improvement in the weather
Haagle – boundless; implacable; remorseless
Hoolan – a strong gale
Hoss – the muffled murmur of lapping waves on the shore in calm water.
Innsog – the suck of the sea towards the land.
Katrisper – a very strong gale
Kwal – to lull, to abate (applied to wind)
Livd – a calming, abating of bad weather.
Lenfter – of the sky; to clear and form a bright patch.
Glet – mild weather.
Lunk – a calming, clearing of the weather.
Maegins – the heart or depth (especially of the night.)
Megin – the centre (especially the night)
Org – oppressive heat (it is mostly described as oppressive.)
Platt – perfectly calm.
Pusk – to come in gusts of increasing violence.
Rullyo – a heap of stones on a beach thrown up by the sea.
Runk – dry weather.
Skelter – a great commotion in the sea.
Skudder – driving, thrashing rain.
Snarr – turn of the tide.
Swaa – the noise of the sea heard from a distance.
Softness and Warm Light
oil on canvas | 121cm x 170cm
Snjóbylus y fir hafinn, Skagaströnd
oil on canvas
140cm x 300cm
Three Questions to PETER DAVIS
Georgina Coburn asks Peter Davis three questions about his work
Your work is deeply meditative, capturing a sense of stillness and connection many people seek in the Northern landscape. Can you tell us more about the natural environment of Shetland as a grounding force in your life?
I was drawn to northern landscapes in my twenties having moved to Orkney and finding a place almost stripped bare, treeless and open to the elements. The weather and the seasons played an important and integral part of living in that environment particularly on a small island. And the move to Shetland over thirty years ago only strengthened that relationship. The sea is ever present and continually changing, as is the light. It’s in such landscapes that we encounter the sublime, the rugged coastline being just one aspect, which affects me both emotionally and creatively. I embrace the isolation too. There’s a feeling of being a small part of that natural world, something which is way bigger than oneself. That sense too of being at the edge literally, months of winter darkness followed by almost endless days
You are renowned for your mastery of watercolour as a medium. Your recent works combine bodycolour and chalk with watercolours, bringing subtle textures into play with translucency of light and colour. How did use of these pigments evolve in your practice and do they offer a certain resistance in fluidity?
in the summer. Trying to grasp those elements and create something which reflects my feelings on living here is what makes painting for me so exciting, frustrating, demanding but ultimately rewarding.
I painted my last oil painting in 1981 having moved north to Orkney and found a kind of imagery and landscape that I could best re-present through a medium which acted in a similar way to the natural world around me, using stillness and water. Watercolour and landscape has over the years suffered with an ‘image’ problem being associated often with the amateur, the elderly and the temporary in its use as a sketching material. But it is much more than that, being a medium grounded in the natural world and responding to it almost as a microcosm of that world if it’s allowed the freedom to do so. The textural effects are enhanced by the material it’s painted on, usually paper or board. An extra dynamic can be found adding chalk or pastel on top of the watercolour, not to obliterate the watercolour, or to hinder its flow, but to enhance the textural effects. In the same way bodycolour, or white gouache (in other words the white opaque paint popular in nineteenth century watercolour) can create a further layer in the texture as an alternative to spaces left in the white paper which can be too stark. This effect works best over dark pigment or dark paper. Its granulation is another element in the process of building up layers.
You’ve spoken about the point at which ‘ the act of painting and the inherent action of nature align.’ What excites you most about going out to meet nature everyday and how does this challenge you as an artist?
As I’ve suggested, I consider watercolour the most natural of the painting mediums in that it responds in a way that mirrors the action of water. What better medium to use when making work related to water either that of sea or loch or weather. And the dried pigment left on the paper is often mineral in origin.
I live minutes from the coast, walking on the cliffs and beach regularly, and the continual action of sea and the ever-changing light never fails to inspire my work. Indeed, I often find myself responding automatically to sudden changes in the weather, in the light over the sea, reflected in the washes I make.
I then leave the paint to dry naturally and there’s always excitement in returning to see the results.
For me this drying time is crucial to my practice. I’ve never felt the need to depict everything in the landscape; the work often embraces abstraction over representation and all the spaces between. Finally, there is the quality that both the Shetland weather and watercolour share, total unpredictability!
Peter Davis Innsog watercolour, bodycolour and chalk on paper
Concrete and Steel or Nature
The Dewilding of the Highlands
Kilmorack Gallery gives its full support to all fights to save communities and nature from the current very real threat that will denature the Highlands forever. Hundreds of miles of giant pylons, substations and windfarms are planned over the next few years, and Scotland already produces enough renewable energy to meet its twenty-year target. They are just not needed. This area, which is famed for its wild beauty, may soon lose all its charms. There are similarities with the clearances and the squandering of oil revenues.
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