Glasgow born artist Katie Paterson brings her latest startling work, REQUIEM, to Edinburgh’s Ingleby Gallery situated in Albany Lane on the fringe of the New Town.
Telling the birth and life of our planet in a single object, the unique event holds at its centre a large glass urn into which layers of dust will be poured. The dust sits in 364 small glass vessels that have, along with the urn, been made by the glass-blowing team of the National Glass Centre. These delicate objects have been beautifully assembled around the main exhibition room of the former Glasite meeting house, whose natural lighting adds something extra to an already special event. Each contains 21grams of material, allegedly the weight of a human soul, dating from pre-solar times to the present, and are in themselves an intriguing piece of visual art with their wide palette of colours.
The work taken to bring together this project, that was three years in the making, is nothing short of mind blowing. Going back millennia after millennia to pre-solar times through ages many of us will not even have heard of and reaching periods in history more familiar that encompass both pre and post Christian times, the dust has been gathered from a dizzying array of objects. From the likes of fossil fuel detritus; dead coral and ancient pottery to items from our own times such as a brick from Terezin concentration camp; barbed wire from the D-day landings; a fragment of the Berlin Wall; an Army stopwatch from the Iraq war; survivor trees from Hiroshima, all of which are products of the Anthropocene, which is the current geological age, when human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
Katie is known and highly regarded for her work that sits at the nexus of art, science and, it has to be added, literature. Examples of her haiku style of describing her field of interest, that are both breath catching and arresting, can be seen cut in Sterling Silver on the upstairs gallery wall in the Ingleby as part of her ongoing Ideas series. In the same room is the exquisite new work, Evergreen, that is a black and white embroidery of extinct flowers and plants done in Arts and Crafts style by a team of highly skilled stitchers from the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court. Endling, a mixed media dial that looks like a vortex and is made from more varieties of dust in paint form, and The Moment, a glass containing pre-solar dust designed to measure 15 minutes, continue the theme and add to the sheer wonder of this exhibition.
While Katie Paterson’s REQUIEM is a thoughtful journey on the impact of humans on the environment, this modest and engaging woman is no doom merchant. Instead, she gives an impression of someone with the gift of a practical optimism, whose imagination, like the universe itself, knows no bounds.
REQUIEM runs from 9th April to 11th June at the Ingleby before moving to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland from 17th June to 11th September 2022.