Following our post earlier this week about new books on Scotland’s islands and the Great War, we are today focusing on visual arts, this time on Bute where the Mount Stuart Trust is showing a solo exhibition by Christine Borland. to The Power of Twelve comprises an inter-related series of new works which reference lesser-known histories of the First World War, and particular aspects of Mount Stuart’s role as a naval hospital.
The exhibition is presented throughout the building, including the swimming pool, conservatory (WWI operating theatre) Marble Hall (WWI ward) and Dining Room (WW1 surgical ward). A unifying element in the spaces is the number 12, which recurs symbolically in major world religions and across traditions, mythology and superstition.
Borland notes that she is “interested in a resurgence of superstition and personalised belief systems during periods of extreme powerlessness associated with war.” Such superstitions are reflected both literally and metaphorically in her use of glass fishing buoys, known commonly as ‘Witch Balls’ to reference the WWI shell-craters of Flanders, many of which have become peace memorials.
Some surprising materials are present in the exhibition, pointing to how people return to ancient technologies during times of shortage, such as using moss as an absorbent antiseptic dressing and spinning nettles to replace cotton thread. As the artist notes, “knowledge relating to the use of ancient, natural materials is embodied in folk-lore but lies dormant until new technologies become vulnerable and often redundant, despite the technological advances usually associated with wartime.”
to The Power of Twelve runs at Mount Stuart until 18th November.