5 May - 24 June 2018
As part of Beyond Bonhoga - the ongoing programme of off-site exhibitions across Shetland - Bressay Lighthouse was the venue throughout May and June for Conditions, a solo exhibition by London-based artist Amanda Welch.
Amanda had submitted an exhibition proposal to Shetland Arts after visiting Bonhoga on a visit to Shetland but her work was too big for the gallery space. It was decided it would suit the Amenity Trust’s space at Bressay very well, providing a great focus for work exploring Shetland’s landscape.
As well as offering a new and engaging location in which to encounter contemporary art it also supported two paid residencies, one for Amanda throughout May and an open call for an artist to respond to Amanda’s work and the location throughout June. Through a selection process from over 120 applicants the latter was awarded to Glasgow-based artist Vicki Fleck. Her practice considers ideas about the natural world and the human response to landscape and nature.
Amanda Welch’s work mixes painting, drawing, sculpture and mixed media installation and assemblage to explore place relationships with landscape. She first visited Shetland in 2005. An experience while walking to the Culswick Broch was the germ for the Shetland works which formed a large part of Conditions. The exhibition was installed in three rooms in the old lighthouse keepers’ accommodation at Bressay Lighthouse.
During exhibition opening hours (Wed, Fri-Sun each week) each artist was required to be on duty and staff the exhibition. Amanda explains, “During May I lived there, looking after the exhibition, talking to visitors (some came on purpose, others I snatched off the cliff when they were innocently trying to go for a walk or look at the lighthouse, only one said he just wanted to use the toilet) & in between visitors working in the studio space.”
The exhibition rooms adjoin the live/work space so this proved easy and successful. Outwith opening hours each artist was able to work and explore freely. The benefit to having a creative/personal guide for visitors to the exhibition was enormously positive, providing direct engagement with the work, its concepts and the process of its creation.
In addition to the creative insight for all visitors throughout May Amanda delivered an informal gallery talk at the opening event (5 May) in which she explained her influences and creative approach to her work. At the close of the exhibition (24 June) both artists were present to speak about their work together.
Nearly 400 visitors came to the exhibition over the 30 days of the show (throughout May and June) plus nearly 200 school children from five schools across Shetland who visited the exhibition and took part in gallery and drawing workshops as part of the START Bonhoga Education Programme.
The response to the show was extremely positive and the residency model worked excellently from the point of view of interpretation and creative insight for visitors, especially those not naturally engaged with contemporary art.
The feedback from Bressay residents was particularly favourable in terms of the show’s location and as an opportunity to support more visitors to Bressay and the amenities on offer. We would certainly consider using this space again in the future.