Chasing the light: photographs from Sanday, Orkney

SPACE, 6 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0BH


Tuesday 05 June 2018 – Sunday 10 June 2018
Opening Hours: 12–6pm

I'm pleased to present an exhibition of new work from the isle of Sanday, in Orkney. 

Preview night: 5 June, 7-10 pm (details on separate event page).


Every summer, I chase the light.

City-jaded, I pack my tiny car to the gills, take a deep breath, and head north, on a 700-mile, three-day drive to Scotland's far north-east corner, where land slips into sea, and the boat to Orkney awaits.

Each year I'm lured up again to these islands, by what feels like an infinity of space, by 180o-sky vistas, and an ever-changing drama of colour and light wrought by an extraordinary fusion of earth, sky and water. In some far-flung corners, a thick, deep almost-silence reigns, threaded with birdsong and sea sound. 

I could become lost in such vastnesses, and I often do, but there's also a holding, a homecoming.

In 2017, desire for solitude took me to Sanday, largest of Orkney's Northern Isles - low, windswept, just 16 miles long and home to a thriving community of 550. It's well named, with a coastline of long curving sandy beaches, particularly striking seen from the tiny 8-seater plane.

Walking out, I meet remnants of the past: lichened quernstones dot the landscape; a ruined croft house, built in a field, is now drowning in sand as the sea slowly eats its way inland. 

Life continues: waves still pound around near-deserted Kettletoft pier, once Sanday's main port. Close by, silhouetted against a brilliant sunset, a cat pads along its wall, indifferent. 

Spotting a field full of birds, I stop the car to get the picture, but never do; instead, there's a startling thunder of hooves, as a herd of curious cows bursts up, crowding to the fence to check me out.

Beachcombing uncovers more: glowing turquoise of a verdigris-coated spoon among the pebbles; later, twilight's merging of sky, sea and sand into one breathtaking canvas of soft purples, lilacs, greys.

On a small island, everywhere is water. And more light than I could hope to catch.

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Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

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