Solo Exhibition Down Under

Detail from ‘Sea Ivory’ (2022) 40 x 40cm, wool roving, yarn and beads, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie
Exhibition view in Gallery76 showing (from l to r) ‘Revealing Pathways (2017) 150 x 50cm, ‘Cumbrae Rockpools’ (2022) 120 x 50cm, ‘Treasures’ (2022) 30 x 20 x 20cm. ‘How long til I catch one dad?’ (2022) 150 x 60cm, photo credit Nicole Anderson

At Gallery76 in Sydney, Australia, I am currently presenting my first solo exhibition – Topophilia: a sense of belonging. The works on display consist of colourful felt-based hangings, framed artworks and sculptures inspired by my experiences living in Scotland, Australia and recently back in England. 

I examine the relationship between place and the human psyche, how my experiences have shaped my identity. What echoes through our subconscious, controlling our present emotions in a particular place? And what accounts for that contented feeling of ‘being home’?

Wool is intentionally prominent in the exhibition, a reflection of the warmth of home and a cultural link with the countries considered.  Nest motifs and intertwined cords in knotted wool yarn appear throughout the collection as symbols of security, home and creative nurture.

My own migration is expressed visually in the gallery as one walks from the greens and greys of Scotland, past the red ochres of Australia to the naturally dyed hues of the English countryside. 

Scottish ancestral peat cutting and fishing are referenced in Leodhas, while childhood seaside memories in Scotland are the subject of deckchair-framed Cumbrae Rockpools .

Leodhas (2016) 120 x 70cm wool roving, silk, flax, linen, stones, photo credit: Janet Tavener
Detail from ‘Cumbrae Rockpools’ (2022) 120 x 50cm wool roving, wool yarn, canvas deckchair fabric, wooden deckchair frame, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie

The vast eucalyptus trees in Sydney streets are the epitome of Australia for me, with their shedding bark and brightly coloured perched native birds. These details are suggested in a felt lace hanging, Big Gum, appropriately the largest work in the exhibition. Eucalyptus leaves have naturally dyed and eco printed the merino felt lace in this work, interspersed with translucent gumnut motifs. Rosella and Lorikeet reflect those native birds providing splashes of colour on framed backdrops of embroidered wool felt.

Exhibition view in Gallery76 showing (from l to r, and t to b) ‘Rosella, ‘Lorikeet’, ‘Eucalyptus I’, ‘Kookaburra’, ‘Eucalyptus II’ 30 x 30cm (2022) wool roving, yarn, silk, and ‘Big Gum’ (2022) 160 x 230cm wool roving, yarn, polyester fabrics, photo credit: Nicole Anderson
Detail from ‘Big Gum’ (2022) 160 x 230cm wool roving, wool yarn, polyester fabrics, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie

Turn a corner in the gallery and the journey continues to Oxfordshire, England.  The artworks here are a reflection of lockdown walks and a time to source foraged local vegetation for natural dye. 

Detail from ‘Intertwined Hawthorn’ (2021) 40 x 40cm wool roving and yarn, cotton, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie

The hues from elder leaves, spring blossom and hawthorn leaves in the framed Intertwined series sit comfortably alongside the knotted nest motifs of From little acorns, their colours suggestive of familiar passing UK seasons. 

‘From little Acorns’ (2021) 110 x 78cm wool roving, yarn, silk, beads, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie
Detail from ‘From little Acorns’ (2021) 110 x 78cm wool roving, yarn, silk, beads, photo credit: Helen MacRitchie

Knotting in this way is certainly ‘slow making’ but I value the process when my thoughts and feelings become embedded in the work and art is created with a personal sense of place and time.

If you’re in the Sydney area do pop in – it continues until 2 Oct at Gallery76 with free entry open each day (9 – 4pm weekdays, 10 – 2pm weekends).

This weekend 17 / 18 Sept at the gallery, I will be teaching a workshop on Felt Lace combining felting with hand and machine embroidery techniques. If you fancy joining me, you’ll find more details and how to make a booking here.

And do check out and follow my website, Instagram @helenmacritchie or Facebook pages to find out more about my new work.

Thank you,

Helen MacRitchie