Julie Brook speaks about her upcoming exhibition “Made:Unmade”

  • Published on: 11th March 2016
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Tell us a little about your exhibition that will open at An Lanntair in March and the ideas behind it?

The exhibition will show a body of work I have been making over the last few years in the remote semi-desert landscape of North West Namibia. I am interested in how I respond to a specific landscape and the materials found in the different locations I am travelling through. The light and shadow in Namibia is very strong and has had a profound influence on the work over this 5 year period.

The exhibition will be a multi-screen installation of short films that aim to immerse the viewer in the work, the materials, the rhythms of making, the passages of space and light. The sound creates a visceral quality where you can actually feel the weight and mass of the earth and stone being used.

Drawing lies at the heart of my work and the films reflect this through the textures and properties of the materials in the process of making the work.

The many screens enable me to think about the relationships between forms, the balance between what I make and what I don’t make and how the sculptural work is inspired by a given environment eg the river banks are naturally sculptural in their form and have informed many varying explorations.

Tell us a little about your work process – working in your studio versus out in a landscape or community?

When I am working outside in the landscape I do not know what I will be making. In fact the more open I am to a new environment the more unexpected the work will be. I travel with local guides who help me physically with the work and show me their landscape through their knowledge of it. This certainly has a beneficial influence in the way I see things.

I seek permission from the local community to work in their area. This has enabled me to meet land get to know local people and school children. In my most recent trip I was working in a disused marble quarry far north in the Orupembe area making 2 large scale sculptures, the Divided wall and Divided Block 3. I needed local help from the Himba men and women who live there. There were about 10 of us working together most of whom spoke Herero only but it was amazing how much we could communicate together whilst making the work and exciting to share the process.

Being in my studio is a good time to reflect on the work I make outside.

I make drawings that continue to explore the sculptural ideas I have opened up on my work trips. I work with an editor to make the films of the sculptural work. And it is where I deal with the administrative side of my practice.

If people could take one thing away from your exhibition what would it be?

I hope they will be able to feel a physical connection with the work where all their senses come into play and this in turn refreshes the way in which they see their own environment.

How long have you known and worked with An Lanntair?

I proposed to work with An Lanntair in the early 90’s when I had been living and working on the West coast of Jura. An Lanntair has exhibited some of the work from my educational projects but this is the first exhibition I am having here.

How important is it to be showing in a more remote gallery like An Lanntair out with the large hubs of cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh or London.

I have a great respect for people living close to the land and sea where their knowledge and experience of being in the elements is hard won, challenging and profound. I hope the relationship I aspire to achieve in the work has some resonance with islanders.

It is exciting for me to bring the exhibition into a gallery much closer to landscape where I seek to work that is wild and remote. Since I have begun working on the west side of Lewis this year I hope to continue and develop my relationship with An Lanntair and the audience so there is a sense of continuity when this new body of work is ready for showing.

Julie Brook’s exhibition Made:Unmade opens at An Lanntair on Saturday 19th of March. Join us for the community opening at 5pm, part of An Lanntair’s Family Open Day with activities for all throughout the day.