“Due to restrictions, so many folk I know in the creative industries have been out of work for a long time now, including musicians,” says Dundonian musician and composer Andrew Wasylyk, who has co-curated Unhalfwintering, an exhibition of art created by musicians, currently showing at the Kathryn Rattray Gallery at Meadow Mill.
“I was drawn to the idea of us coming together as a collective, the sum of our parts, in a positive, hopeful act,” continues Wasylyk, who is also a member of Idlewild, of a show named after one of his albums (its opening was postponed from midwinter by Covid).
“There’s solace in creativity, I suppose. Having never curated an exhibition before, I’m very thankful to the artists involved for accepting my invite and conjuring up such beautiful work during a difficult time.”
In total there are 31 pieces of art in the show, by 17 contributing musicians, many of whom are from Dundee, Fife or the surrounding area. Among the names showing are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap, Beldina Odenyo Onassis (aka Heir of the Cursed), Emily Scott of Modern Studies and Kathryn Joseph.
Also featured are Fraser Simpson of Laeto, Hinako Omori, Jill O’Sullivan (aka Jill Lorean), Lindsey Leven-Pryce of Gulp, Lomond Campbell, Su Shaw (aka SHHE), Raz Ullah, Thomas White of Electric Soft Parade and Mystery Jets, Tommy Perman, Frances Castle of the Hardy Tree, VAJ.Power and Wasylyk himself.
One example of the type of work on display is the poster for the event itself, which was designed by musician and artist Perman, and which contains a fitting sentiment for the show in its mirror-image tree and roots design.
“It’s said beech trees support each other through their roots,” says Wasylyk. “They help out the weaker trees, exchanging sugars through interconnected root systems to the wellbeing of their surrounding ecosystem. Those beech trees most in need become stronger and then return the favour and encouragement.”
Wasylyk’s co-curator in the show is Rattray herself, a Dundee-based professional photographer for the last decade, who originally took on the space as a photographic studio and switched it slowly over to use as an exhibition space named Studio 11. Trying to juggle work as a photographer and gallerist with her young family, Rattray though about closing the gallery last year.
“It was just filled with all my junk, and there were loads of paintings and photographs lying about,” says Rattray.
“Then people started coming in and saying, ‘can I buy this? Can I get that off the wall?’ I was like, wait a minute, those are mine – but people are really interested in this space, even more interested than when I first had it. I’m going to give it one last shot.
“I changed the name from Studio 11 to Kathryn Rattray Gallery and reopened around August last year, and from August to December we had the busiest and the most energised response. Remember this was just after lockdown, we were still under last year’s Covid rules, but I had the most encouragement and enthusiasm from visitors and people wanting to be part of it. Artists were coming to me, asking if they could have an exhibition.”
A beautiful energy
To speak to Rattray, the sense of community among those involved is clear. She says that Simpson has been teaching her film photography, that Omori and Leven-Pryce’s Japanese-inspired works remind her of her own years living in Japan, and that she’s even bought one of Shaw’s photographs.
“It’s small, A5, and it’s been shot on ten-year-old, out-of-date film,” says Rattray. “It looks like the sky, but it could be a galaxy, it’s got these marks all over it. It’s just the most tranquil, exquisite photograph I’ve seen.”
A gallery that is also a haven
“I’m not just saying this because it’s mine, but I think the gallery has a really beautiful energy,” she continues. Chatty and enthusiastic about her subject. “Somebody came in and said, ‘aw man, this looks like my favourite gallery in LA.’ I was like, more of that, please! I think it looks like a gallery in Berlin or Miami, but tucked away in Dundee.
“I’ve noticed that people are so keen to prop up the arts here right now, even if they’re just coming in to say hi. They know the importance of this sort of independent movement – it’s a resurgence that’s happening, isn’t it?
“My desire is to keep the gallery really lively and filled with sound, so people can feel comfortable when they come in here. There’s always coffee on, there’s always music, there’s always something happening.”
- Unhalfwintering is at Kathryn Rattray Gallery, Dundee, until Sunday 20th June. More information at www.facebook.com/kathrynrattraygallery