Axis Artist of the month

Posted on Wednesday 3rd August, 2011

Installation View, Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen, Scotland
Each month a guest selector chooses an artist from the Axis directory to be featured as our artist of the month. This month Independent Curator and Researcher, Karen Gaskill discusses her selection.

People and place cannot be anything other than intimately linked. Places are shaped and brought to life through their inhabitants as much as people are moulded and personified by the landscapes they exist within.

The work of Scottish-born artist Katri Walker strives to reveal the nuances of this complex relationship between individual and place. Through an interwoven practice consisting of part documentary and part conceptual modes of presentation – primarily film and photographic image, Walker lays out the intimacies that she perceives in the everyday.

This sense of location and geography is revealed most in her 2011 work, ‘North West‘. Taking its leave from the familiar cinematic language of Hollywood Westerns, the 3-channel video piece locates the viewer in a selection of pivotal landscapes. Positioned at high vantage points in the island mountains of Assynt, Sutherland, the viewer is subject to a landscape stretching before them across a triad of images. Still camera shots remind the viewer of the stillness and timelessness of such scapes, but also the sense of place and cultural representation that the Assynt landscape (akin to America’s Monument Valley) means to the those whose homeland it forms a part of.

In another of her works about place ‘The City is the Film‘ (2010) Walker presents the city as muse, revealing through camera the characters on its stage. The film collages an intimate portrait of Glasgow and its inhabitants, using the Edwin Morgan poem ‘A City’ as the verbal thread linking the human and architectural cast together. The minimal soundtrack to the film aids reflection as the frame continually pauses to consider the city’s sights and its inhabitants.

In the photographic work ‘Pipe Major Wyatt Earp‘ (2011) Walker presents a documentary image of Pipe Major Iain Grant. The dual identity of the subject and his specific interests is exposed through the contrasting mix of body adornments: a tattoo of the frontier Marshal Wyatt Earp, a set of bagpipes, the stars and stripes on an American dog-tag and finally a kilt. The reference points could not be further from each other but together provide an interesting mix of contemporary Scottish and historic American. Shot against a black background the subject is forced to the fore, with no contextualising background or any other information to draw attention away from the solid stare of the Pipe Major. The work alludes to the previously discussed North West film and its reference to the historic relationship between Scotland and the USA.

There is a real sense that in all of Walker’s works she herself is present in the language of the piece, an acknowledgement of the intimacy that exists between herself and her country is apparent. Through this subtle emotion she carefully extracts and reveals her characters, be they architectural, human or geographic.

Karen Gaskill is an independent curator and researcher based in London, UK. Recent exhibitions include Constellations at Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester, co-curated with Michelle Kasprzak, the co-curation of the FutureEverything, Manchester 2010 arts programme, and Save Us, Macclesfield, July 2010. Karen is currently Guest Curator at Somerset Art Works for a year, managing three new contemporary art commissions and also is a Senior Lecturer in Photography and Moving Image at Sheffield Hallam University.

Karen Gaskill on Axis

Occasionally Somewhere

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