Landscape and Memory

Landscape and Memory, Gairloch Heritage Museum

In the same way that what actually happened in spring 2020 was not what was in my diary, this exhibition is also not what I had planned when I first started speaking to the team at Gairloch Museum over a year ago.

At that time I had recently completed a four-day sailing trip to St Kilda – the trip of a lifetime, taken with my dad and an extra special opportunity for both of us to spend time sailing on the Atlantic, experience the myth and reality of St Kilda, watch the wildlife of the ocean and of course, spend some quality time together sharing our love of adventure.

During the trip I had made quick sketches, attempting to capture things seen from the water, not an easy task at all. Over the years I have developed a practice that involves immersing myself in a place for at least a full day and more if I can manage it. I find that over the course of the day as I work my visual response becomes more intuitive, bolder and on a good day, I can start to get under the skin of a place and my experience of it. On a boat, ‘place’ is experienced as a fleeting location on a constant treadmill of places, you are literally never still and so how do you capture a sense of place through the limited means of two-dimensional drawing? With difficulty I discovered!

I made a number of scribbled sketches and kept a small sketchbook. I know from experience that it is always worth sketching and drawing what you can, when you can, even if the results don’t seem any good. So that is what I did, trying to ‘do’ and not ‘judge’ (something I tell my students all the time, taken from the rules of Sister Corita Kent: Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes).

When I got back from the trip I put the drawings up high on my studio wall and they lived there for a while as I got on with other things. Then, over the winter months, I found myself with some quiet time in the studio, nothing urgent to work towards and a desire to ‘play’ rather than ‘produce’ as my teaching schedule was pretty heavy at that point. And so I got some of the pieces down and started working on them, using memory as a tool. It was a very freeing experience, some of them remained small as I distilled what I could remember – a couple became expanded as I attempted to capture the space of the sea, the grandness of blue interrupted only occasionally by the sight of land. Leaving the Shiants behind us, watching anonymous islands - no more than rocks - emerging from the expanse as we slipped by. Approaching the great stacks of Boreray, the sense of their structure and immensity was palpable as we slowly sailed towards, past and away from them.

The writer, Rebecca Solnit, talks eloquently about what it is to desire to get to the distant horizon and I share that feeling. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to the coast – the expansive view draws me to it and unleashes a desire for adventure in me:

‘For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that colour of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The colour of that distance is the colour of an emotion, the colour of solitude and of desire, the colour of there seen from here, the colour of where you are not. And the colour of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.’
In this exhibition you will find an exploration of a number of coastal places that are significant to me – I like to approach the landscape as much through sound, smells and movement as through the visual and I hope this is in some way captured in the work.

Roughly half the work was made before March 2020 and the rest was made as lock-down eased. You can clearly see a shift in palette, this reflects the enormous joy I felt getting back to the coast to make work after too many months confined to the city and its parks. I hope the exhibition conjures up the sights, sounds and smells of the remarkable journey this body of work has taken.

Kittie Jones September 2020