‘Re-soundings’ artists discuss their upcoming exhibition at An Lanntair

  • Published on: 3rd May 2016
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Artists Mhairi Killin and Hugh Watt discuss their upcoming exhibition ‘Re-Soundings‘ which will launch at An Lanntair on Thursday 12 May. Make sure you come along to our opening at 5pm to celebrate.

Tell us a little about your exhibition that will open at An Lanntair in May and the ideas behind it?
Re-Soundings is the outcome of a collaborative journey through the landscapes of Lewis and Iona. Musician John Purser of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Lewis writer Alastair McIntosh, accompanied us in our exploration of the bell as a symbol of secular and non-secular time all set against the wider context of the reformation in Europe.

Re-Soundings references the iconoclasm of the Reformation and the impact of this on belief structures in the Hebrides, suggested by the presence and absence of the bell as a visual and auditory feature in the landscape. One of Alastair McIntosh’s observations on Lewis’s bell-less belfries is that the empty space leaves room to look through and beyond to an alternative and, some might argue, deeper understanding of belief. The emptiness and silence has created a space not only for reflection, but also, for creativity.

The installation comprises 12 bells suspended over the image of a canonical dial, taken from a medieval carving on Iona, surrounded by a soundscape composed by John Purser. The soundscape uses bell recordings gathered during public workshops and performances on Lewis and Iona. The bells were created by re casting WW1 munitions into replicas of two early Christian quadrangular hand-bells. We chose this material to symbolise a rethinking of the iconoclasm of the Reformation in Europe; we know from historical documents that bells were removed from religious buildings and recast as munitions. It seemed fitting to use munitions from the Great War, given that the project coincides with its centenary. The sound piece will also be installed for a brief period at St. Moluag’s Church in Ness and St. Oran’s Chapel Iona, coinciding with the exhibition dates, unifying the two medieval chapels and their auditory landscapes.

Tell us a little about your work process – working in your studio versus out in a landscape or community?
Both our practices combine working in the studio environment, the landscape and the communities in which work is either shown in, inspired by or both. Re-Soundings was approached very intentionally as a project that would explore landscape through engagement with people and we hope that the communal sound pieces, created by those most connected to the landscapes we have been exploring, will give a contemporary voice to the presence of the bell; linking time, people and histories in the space offered by the empty belfries.

If people could take one thing away from your exhibition what would it be?
MK: It’s a challenge to answer this question without sounding too presumptuous, but I hope that experiencing the work, whether in the gallery at An Lanntair or in St. Moulags in Ness or St. Oran’s on Iona, will allow people a moment to pause and consider what responses or questions the work raises. So, I am hoping for a kind of exchange or conversation to take place between the viewer and the artwork.

HW: I would hope that the installation at An Lanntair and the interventions in St. Moulags in Ness or St. Oran’s on Iona would act as punctuation marks in the every day, which would both present an audience with the space to reflect on the questions put forward within the work and then hopefully carry these reflections out into the contemporary landscapes of Lewis and Iona and further afield.

How long have you known and worked with An Lanntair?
MK: I have known about An Lanntair for a long time and in recent years I have really enjoyed attending Faclan. I exhibited with the artists’ collective 6°West at An Lanntair in 2012 and it was following this opportunity that I was invited to propose work for a further exhibition.

HW:I have known about An Lanntair for many years but this is the first time I will have exhibited here. This project has taken 2 years to research and complete and over this time I have worked closely with An Lanntair’s staff to make this installation a reality.

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.
MK: The opportunity to exhibit at An Lanntair feels like a natural progression in my practice, and is very important in terms of being able to show work in the environment that has inspired it. I think it is equally important that artists living and working in the Hebrides also have the opportunity to show their work in the central belt, thereby raising awareness of the place to inspire contemporary art practice.

HW: Over the past 7 years most of my artistic practice has been based in and inspired by the landscapes, traditions and people of the north of Scotland. As a result the opportunity to work with An Lanntair has been really important to me, as it has afforded me a unique opportunity to further develop my thinking and making within these geographic locations.

To read more about the project please visit the Re-Soundings blog at re-soundings.com