About Art - Whalsay Sculpture
The Whalsay Sculpture was built by environmental artist Keith Barrett. This sculpture forms its own sheltered space in a hostile environment. It is made of elm with concrete foundations and steel fixings, with a length of 7.5 meters.
It was commissioned Symbister House Arts Project with funding from the Scottish Arts Council Sighted at Symbister, Whalsay, Shetland.
The source of imagery for the structure comes from the surrounding environment, reflecting the movement of wind and waves, the surface perhaps bringing to mind the synchronized motion of fish swimming in a shoal. The layered structure forms a double-sided shell, suggesting the form of upturned boats, or an open clam. A person approaching the work would see this shell like form and then the view through the work to the landscape beyond. The sculpture frames the distant landscape, and creates an optical illusion where the landscape is magnified or brought forward within the frame. On entering the sculpture the person would find shelter from the persistent Shetland wind suggesting a peace to be found only in the shelter of a building, or underwater or in death. The twisted timber strands that weave together within the shell can make the association with seaweed turning in an underwater current. People living on the island of Whalsay know the sea as a giver and taker, and live with the shadow of what may be lost in pursuit of their livelihoods. A friend who saw the work told me it felt like a memorial to a schoolmate who had been lost at sea when his trawler ‘The Gaul’ went down. Other people have referred to the work as ‘female’ and ‘like a womb’. Find out more about it and the artist at: www.keithbarrett.com.uk