Exhibition at Carriage House Gallery, Burton Constable Hall 2019

Pulling the British Threads in Moby-Dick

Prints, artists books and textile work inspired by the British sources Melville used in Moby-Dick

When the curator at Burton Constable suggested I return to the Carriage House Gallery with an exhibition to celebrate Herman Melville’s 200th Birthday I knew I had to do something that would appeal to non-readers of Moby-Dick, but would be for me an interesting and well-researched exploration on some aspect of the novel.  I already had a body of work inspired by the Burton Constable whale skeleton mentioned in Moby-Dick, could I build on that to produce something special, unique and very much something only I could do?

Exhibition at Carriage House Gallery, Burton Constable Hall 2019

Exhibition at Carriage House Gallery, Burton Constable Hall 2019

After much reading and thinking the idea of looking at the British influences in Moby-Dick became more and more attractive.  Melville read widely using many sources as well as his own experiences aboard a whaling ship to produce the story and digressions.  Although Moby-Dick is an American story there are significant and interesting British influences and content. There are three main British-authored books that Melville uses; Thomas Beale’s The Natural History of the Sperm Whale (1839), Fredrick Bennett’s Narrative of a Whaling Voyage Round the Globe (1840) and William Scoresby’s An Account of the Arctic Regions (1820). I also wanted to include some more local/personal mentions – the Norfolk based polymath Sir Thomas Browne (b, 1605), the ‘Leviathanic Museum’ in Hull and, of course, the Burton Constable Whale.

Over a year I made a body of work that, along with a few existing pieces, is my part of the celebration of Melville and Moby-Dick. I read the three source books, visited archives and research libraries looking for ideas I could turn into visual, textile pieces.  The resulting exhibition of 17 works contains 11 new textile pieces, four works from my 2015-16 residency at Burton Constable Hall, and two from my ‘Arctic Whaling Year’ Exhibition in Dundee last winter. There are navigation charts, ships, icebergs, mountains and whales in all shapes and sizes!  I’m looking forward to spending time in the exhibition with my sewing machine space over the summer, talking to visitors about my work, my inspirations and whales.

Exhibition at Carriage House Gallery, Burton Constable Hall 2019

Exhibition at Carriage House Gallery, Burton Constable Hall 2019