Seven Simultaneous Exhibitions of Painting, Craft & Photography
Open 12 – 5 pm daily 1st July – 31st August 2012
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Infinitas Gracias – Infinite Thanks
An installation capturing the interior of a Mexican church using photographic reproductions of original paintings and digital projections.
In Mexico the tradition of offering small paintings (ex-votos) to the saints in gratitude for answered prayers has deep roots. It can be traced back to the 16th-century Spanish conquest and previous long-established indigenous practices of sacrifice and thanksgiving.
Depicting the moment when an individual asks a saint for help and is delivered from disaster or death, early ex-votos were commissioned from artists by those who could afford the price of canvas. By the 19th century, they were more commonly painted directly onto cheap tin roof tiles, enabling even the poorest citizen to make a commission.
Hundreds of thousands of these paintings came to line the walls of Mexican churches, replacing the more elaborate, doctrine driven images of the saints with personal and direct pleas for help and gestures of gratitude.
This exhibition includes reproductions of over a hundred such works from a church in the mining community of Real de Catorce, where the tradition is particularly strong. They contain images of rural life with animals, vehicles, road accidents, hospitals, murders and family dramas. We see life in a country with no NHS, where religion offers the only hope for those in need.
As well as showing how ex-votos have evolved over the years, these artworks are remarkable for being both ordinary and extraordinary. On the one hand they report ‘miracles’ but on the other, they document the accidents, illnesses and anxieties of everyday existence. As well as bearing witness to a deep-seated faith, they also resonate with a common humanity as we, the viewers, recognise elements of our own lives in those depicted here.
The Centre is grateful to The Wellcome Collection, London for making this show possible. The Lyth exhibition entitled Infinite Thanks was curated by William Wilson using some of the material which formed part of The Wellcome Collection’s London 2012 exhibition Mexican Miracle Paintings.
Alec Sutherland 1899 – 1969, paintings
Alec was popularly known as “Sutherland the Vet” for that was indeed his profession. He grew up Aukengill and went to school in Keiss. He studied veterinary science at Glasgow and then worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in the north of Scotland. This involved a lot lf travel so he developed an interest in paiting in watercolour and oils on his journeys around the Highlands and islands.
His paintings were much loved by collected by friends in Caithness during the 1940s and 50s.Alec is of the second generation of Aukengill artists that Lyth Arts Centre began to exhibit in 2011 with the work of his father-in law John Nicolson.
Alistair Sutherland, paintings
Alistair is of the third generation of Aukengill artists and he lives at Summerbank, the home of his grandfather, the artist John Nicolson. He is the son of fellow-exhibitor Alec Sutherland. Alistair spent his childhood in Caithness and Orkney and went on to study at Edinburgh College of Art after which he returned to Caithness and took up farming. His work is included in many private collections in the north.
John Knowles – photographs
John was born in Coventry but grew up in Solihull, West Midlands. He has been interested in photography since the age of nine. He studied photography at Solihull College, gaining a City and Guilds qualification and has been a member of the Royal Photographic Society for over twenty years.
Having enjoyed numerous holidays in the north of Scotland, in 2008 he decided to move away from the West Midlands to Caithness where he now lives at Scrabster. His main photographic passion lies with land and seascapes and this exhibition includes photographs of the Scottish Highlands with wide-open spaces, big skies and atmospheric light.
Laurent Burel – photographs
Laurent was born in France in the swinging 60s and developed a keen interest in photography from an early age. He has had unique opportunities to take photographs in many of the most beautiful and astonishing places in the world, capturing haunting faces, unusual angles, and many comic coups d’œil. He has been a working photographer since 1985, specialising in portraiture, architecture and still life. After studying and working in France, Laurent moved to London in 1986, undertaking freelance photographic work for recording studios, theatre and television productions and fashion design.Laurent’s work has been published all over the world in books, catalogues and magazines. He moved to Caithness in 2011.
Bette McArdle – retrospective
Bette McArdle studied at Glasgow School of Art and went to stay in the artistic centre of St Ives, Cornwall for some years. Since then she has lived in the Highlands – Caithness and Inverness – for 50 years. She worked as a full-time professional painter in the 1970s but then domestic circumstances led her into a journalistic career. She has now returned to her first love and has also developed a passion for glass, both fused and mosaic, and fused fabric. She has exhibited at the Edinburgh Festival and has had two one-man shows in recent years – in Inverness and Fife. She has also exhibited widely in northern galleries and in mixed shows.