Harrowing stories about migrants and their plight have been the motivation behind Lucy Woodley’s exhibition at An Tobar Gallery (1 June – 9 August 2019). Her exhibition of mixed media sculptures brings her work with silver and found objects to the fore, expressing her response to the subject of migration, war, violence, poverty and persecution – all of which contribute to the fact that at least one in every 122 humans on the planet are designated a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, according to UNHCR.
Woodley’s response to the migration crisis that has been with us for some time is conveyed through the use of symbolism: showing rather than telling, yet inviting careful thought and discussion. The exhibition explores the outcomes of attempted journeys, informed by the emotive combination of hope, anticipation, fear and trepidation; telling a timeless story spanning centuries, of migrants seeking a better life for loved ones. As she states of Between a Rock and a Hard Place, “the work is inspired by Þingvellir in Iceland, a chasm created by the separation of two tectonic plates and the idea of people being stuck between countries borders.”
“Our world is in flux, says the artist. “We are being forced into reconfiguring our borders and along with them our identities. Ultima Thule, is my way of exploring the themes around migration, the hope and the trepidation that comes with any journey that traverses known and unknown territories. In the context of a dehumanising rhetoric around immigration, I encourage empathy by means of storytelling. In exploring the humanity behind these journeys, the boat is seen abandoned, deserted and empty, or elevated as on object of reverence and place of worship. The fish is an ancient symbol of faith and hope with the black bird as an ominous onlooker observing the displaced.” Of the work titled ‘Precious Cargo’ (below), she adds: “The boat in this piece is full of Groatie Buckies which are cowrie shells found on local beaches in Sutherland and Caithness. Over three thousand years ago cowrie shells were widely used as currency in China and India.”
Lucy Woodley | Ultima Thule
Lucy Woodley graduated from Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen in 1992 where she studied jewellery. She ran a successful jewellery business for twenty years based in the Highlands and now concentrates on sculptural works.