23 Sep – 18 Nov 2023
Wed – Sat, 10 am – 1 pm and 2 – 4 pm
Artist-makers Stuart Cairns and Mark Reddy are modern day gatherers and storytellers; each of their working processes are enmeshed in a deep sense of place and unique visual language. The exhibition ‘Walking the Wild’ presents works that are found, foraged and reframed, sculptural forms that hold time and meditative memory, echoing the past and questioning the present.
Stuart Cairns explores the coastal landscape of Northern Ireland. Here, he is drawn to the vestigial and overlooked with the tangible trace of human presence, now reimagined through the subtle intervention of the metalsmith’s hand into vessels and structures, intimate in scale. Discarded fragments on the shoreline become curious utensils when combined with the silversmithing alchemy of Cairns. Skeletal structures formed of found objects and precious and base metals resemble three-dimensional line drawings.
Wood artist Mark Reddy looks to nature for the roots of our co-evolution, sourcing organic materials on daily walks along the lost ways and through the woodlands of Somerset. Reddy takes a twist of blackthorn wood, reworked and coaxed into a new form, retaining the spirit of its origins, whilst assuming a metaphorical purpose. He retrieves storm felled wood, a broken limb of oak or maple, with which to explore humankind’s deep association with the land and the totemic power of the tree.
Cairns explores his relationship with his environment through the found objects and materials collected on walks through his local landscape, later combined with steel and patinated silver. His sources are taken inward and then expressed outward through vessels, utensils, tools and stilted constructs where fabricated surfaces sit beside the found and gathered. These unique, small forms, translate elements of Cairns’ personal journey. Objects are drawn out of the natural lines of grasslands and wetlands, combining with the marks of shattered boat hulls, collapsed jetties and fragmented fence lines which summon a sense of the land, of a past and of our place within it, as if in remembrance of a previous function and forgotten personal rituals. This new body of work can be seen as a series of visual poetry, speaking of the rawness and richness of place captured in composite assemblages. Half sketched, traced with touches of making, these vessels and implements reflect a fleeting experience of people passing through as the landscape endures.
Reddy takes the modest form of the hand carved spoon and imbues it with symbolic significance. The familiar iconography of the utensil has occupied a place in our everyday lives throughout our history and cultures, channeling ritual and kinship, ceremony and nourishment. With this new body of work, Reddy abstracts the form further through animated sculptural totems, singular and grouped, referencing the interdependence and animacy of the living world. Utilising the innate character inherent within green wood he explores a complex narrative which is borne out of a deep connection between material, process and land. Reframing our reciprocal relationship with the tree and our woodlands, as both terrestrial and other worldly, Reddy reflects on the fragility of all living things. Twisted, articulated, distended and sinuous, this strange community of trees clamours for attention, a necessary and urgent reminder of our collective humanity. Through these sculptural, sacred objects Reddy considers how the tree shapes our land and heritage, honoring our kinship and equality with the natural world.
About the Makers
Stuart Cairns is a contemporary Irish artist and metalsmith whose practice is concerned with investigating his local environment—the liminal, the hinterlands, tidelines and fringe spaces. A distinct visual language emerges through Cairns’ deep engagement with place, whether walking or wild swimming, through photography, drawing and gathering.
Cairns has exhibited widely, including: ‘Collect,’ Somerset House, London, UK, 2022; ‘Tool Kit,’ Pragmata Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2021; ‘Nothing To Look Forward to but the Past,’ TULCA, Galway, Republic of Ireland, 2020; ‘Narratives in the Making,’ Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales, 2017; ‘Silver Speaks’, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; and ‘Fit For Purpose,’ Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, 2012. His work is held in the public collections of The Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland, The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland and National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, as well in the collections of numerous private collectors.
Mark Reddy is an artist maker working with wood, metal and found objects to explore and question our relationship with the utilitarian and functional form of the spoon and the sculptural and symbolic properties of his materials. He has worked as an illustrator and creative director in design, print and television, receiving international recognition.
Reddy’ works in metal and wood have been exhibited widely at galleries including: The Study, London, UK; Primavera, Cambridge, UK; Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh, UK; Lynne Strover Gallery, Cambridge, UK. His recent exhibitions include: ‘a contour, a curve – the lie of the land,’ ‘making arrangements,’ ‘organic forms,’ Gallery 57, Arundel, UK, (2018 – 2019). His awards include: D&AD Awards, Creative Circle Awards, British Television Awards and Creative Circle Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Images: Installation view, ‘Walking the Wild,’ Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. Photo: Dave Watts
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