Etching the Archipelago

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Posted 9th March 2020

Etching the Archipelago

Etching the Archipelago brings together more than 40 aquatint etchings, including a number of new prints, inspired by Ackroyd's expeditions over almost 50 years. Ackroyd has faced some of the harshest weather conditions and travelled to the farthest reaches of the British Isles, in order to create the stunning work seen in Etching the Archipelago. In characteristic muted tones, Ackroyd captures the transience of light and weather upon remote, island landscapes, creating dramatic images which evolve from sketches made during meticulously planned journeys, often involving hours spent at sea. Ackroyd does not hesitate to start his work, no matter the conditions or obstacle, according to Sir Professor Christopher Frayling, who has commented upon the artist's tenacity and invulnerability to the harsh conditions that surround him.

Featuring etchings that capture both the beauty and the danger of the rough seas, the work selected for this exhibition includes St Kilda Morning (2019), created following an extended stay on the island in force nine and ten gales. Ackroyd recalls watching the sunrise over Boreray and the Great Sea Stacks of Stac Lee and Stac an Armin, and how, over time, his drawings and watercolours of the bird life that dominates the landscape became more and more abstract. Harris from Lewis (2019) – on display for the first time – evolved from the artist watching and drawing a force eight Atlantic storm hitting the rocks and cliffs off the west coast of Lewis as he waited for the sea to change to allow a visit to Kilda. And in Mingulay from Pabbay (2019) Ackroyd captures the Barra Isles, a necklace of islands at the southern extremities of the Outer Hebrides, now uninhabited but with ruins that recall their previous populations. Ackroyd himself has placed the red marks upon the map on display in the exhibition, which shows the locations of each etching and highlights how his works depict landscapes only a few of us will be so fortunate to see in person. It is fascinating to have a visual idea of how far his art has taken him.

Etching the Archipelago is currently in Watts Contemporary Gallery until April 19, with free admission. Works are for sale. Click here to find out more.

Banner image: Stac an Armin- Evening, Norman Ackroyd, Etching and Aquatint

SIde Bar Images: Andy Newbold Photography

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