Pangolin offers an insight into the extraordinary work of Scottish land artist Julie Brook

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Pangolin offers an insight into the extraordinary work of Scottish land artist Julie Brook
Firestack, Autumn: Aird Bheag, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 2016, Photographic Print on Aluminium, Edition of 7.

LONDON.- ‘What Is It That Will Last?’ offers an insight into the extraordinary work of Scottish land artist Julie Brook. Capturing the sculptures she creates in wild and inaccessible locations around the globe through film, photography and drawing, this exhibition explores Brook’s deep and immersive relationship with each landscape and the natural materials she uses.

Originally trained as a painter and often working outside in the landscape, Brook’s practice led her to Hoy, Orkney where she studied the captivating cliffs. She subsequently moved to Glasgow, and a couple of years later she discovered a cliff arch on the west coast of Jura, where she lived in solitude over a period of three and a half years observing the daily rhythms and forces of nature. It was here that she had the idea to bring together nature’s four classical elements - air, earth, water and fire - together in one artwork. Thus, the inception of the celebrated ‘Firestack’ series unfolded, a testament to Brook’s artistic ingenuity. Recently revisiting this series, she has experimented with firings, exploring the interplay between her work and the various seasons and weather conditions that envelop her surroundings.

Moving to the Isle of Skye with a young family, Brook spent her summers exploring the Hebrides and specifically Mingulay, immersing herself and her work in their ancient ‘muscular’ landscapes. With a desire to explore a contrasting landscape, in 2008 Brook began to make solo trips to Libya, Syria and Namibia where she travelled with local guides and worked with small communities to make work in those landscapes. It was not only the differences of temperature and terrain in these locations that inspired Brook, but also the quality and stark contrast of light and shade.

This stirred Brook to make pieces that used both light and shadow to offer a different dimension to her sculptural work, and to use new local materials such as the pigments from the earth itself. For example, Brook used the rich, red Otijize pigment to create the series of ‘Pigment Studies’ (on display in this exhibition) that recall the sharp blades of light and modulated shadow from a series of land works made in the riverbanks of Northwest Namibia.

Developing a passion for exploring the relationship between light and darkness, Brook began to create a series of works that contrast weighty stone structures with exquisite shafts of light which bring the sculpture to life at certain times of day or season. They encourage the viewer to pause and look, touch and feel and to be rewarded by their patient observation. Winter Wall, Parallel Space and Divided Wall are all recent projects that explore the interaction of light, and Brook has experimented with making these in both the remote natural landscapes of Scotland as well as the more man-made yet equally challenging environments of stone quarries in Japan and Italy.

In parallel to these works, Brook has drawn inspiration from a yellow ochre tuff stone quarry in Komatsu (Japan), a rockfall off Meall nan Surrag on the Isle of Harris, and the landscaped grounds of Holker Hall in the Lake District, where she has created a series of works which use hand-built steps, inviting viewers to engage physically with both the art and its surroundings. By ascending these steps, individuals can alter their perspective of the landscape, creating a unique and dynamic inter- action with the environment.

Brooks uses film, photography, and drawing to convey profound themes, making her work accessible to a wider audience. Offering a unique insight into her practice, this exhibition prompts us to rekindle our primal connection with the landscape and ponder the enduring question, ‘What Is It That Will Last?’

Brook is a British artist who for 30 years has roamed, lived and sculpted in a succession of uninhabited and remote landscapes in North West Scotland: Hoy, Orkney; Jura, West coast; Mingulay and North Harris Outer Hebrides. Brook studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University. She has explored the black volcanic desert of central Libya and in the Jebel Acacus mountains in South West Libya (2008/2009) and the semi-desert of NW Namibia (2011-2015) where the nature of light, shadow and structure are expressed in the sculptural forms Brook makes. More recently Brook has been working in stone quarries in Japan in relation to developing her tidal work, Firestacks in The Hebrides. The sculptural work is often transient in nature, inspired by and made from the materials of the landscape itself. Brook documents these transformations through film and photography which then become the expression of the work. She has recently been working in the marble Quarry La Cava di Querciola in Carrara, Italy. In May 2023, Brook opened a major exhibition at Abbot Hall, Kendal, UK with Lakeland Arts, followed by an exhibition at Komatsu Museum, Japan in June 2023.

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