Today, Tayport artist Pinkie Maclure woke up on Mull.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, she installed it for permanent exhibition – or, as she puts it: “For as long as the building is there, I hope.”
Commissioned by the Arts Centre after Covid-19 saw exhibitions cancelled last year, It’s 2020 And I Miss My Mum was welcomed by An Tobar exhibitions co-ordinator Mike Darling.
Mike said: “Due to lockdown, it became evident that the planned exhibitions programme wouldn’t go ahead. We decided the best thing we could do was commission new works for permanent display in the building.
“Very fortunately for us, one of the artists that we’d planned to exhibit was Pinkie. She agreed to create a new stained glass to be mounted above one of the entrances at the front of the building.
“The brief for the commission was to produce a design that reflects life in 2020, and Pinkie has given us this beautiful work.”
‘Beyond a joke’
The window certainly meets its brief, representing lockdown life in its themes and its creation.
Created at her Tayport studio, which is “luckily a few feet away from the back door”, I Miss My Mum is a window in two halves, showing a mother and daughter separated and reaching towards one another.
Asked how she landed on this window’s story of family separation, Pinkie explains: “I did go through quite a few ideas before I came to this one, trying to put a positive spin on the situation!
“But I felt the gravity of the situation was beyond a joke and I just needed to express the pain we were feeling.”
Ahead of the installation, Pinkie (virtually) sat down with me to shed some light on the piece – its creation, its story, and its significance as a record of the pandemic.
Through the looking glass
R: Tell me about the colours in this piece – it’s almost entirely red, blue and black with flashes of white.
P: I realised that I wanted to make a piece about social distancing and I wanted it to reflect the intensity of the situation, so I decided to use only deep red and blue glass.
I like to think that people will be reminded of religious windows and then surprised by the content of mine.
R: Let’s talk about the title. Many of your titles are clever or quippy. But this one is straightforward – ‘It’s 2020 and I Miss My Mum’. How did you arrive at that?
P: This situation has been so dark and painful for us all, I found myself needing to be quite blunt about it.
I haven’t seen my mum since February 2020. And I still don’t know when I’ll be able to see her. I wanted to make sure anybody viewing the window in years to come would understand what 2020 has been like for us all.
R: Symbolism is a big part of your work – using images to communicate a story or comment. What does the imagery here symbolise to you?
P: The wires are the only thing connecting the two women. They’re reaching out to each other across cyberspace.
The knot of cables shows scrambled communication; the scattered keys symbolise universal lockdown. And the heart being torn in two is simply an expression of their heartbreak.
R: When can people see it in real life? Will your mum get to see it?
P: I believe the gallery is opening by appointment and if all goes well, the whole building will be open soon. But no, sadly my mum will never see it.
R: Your usual art form is lightboxes, but this is a window. Did that make you approach it differently?
P: When you’re making a window, you have to take into consideration what’s behind it, like roofs or chimneys.
And windows have their own dynamic power, because the sunlight moves behind them and often creates beautiful projections in the room, especially when you are using hand-blown glass which has lovely, delicate textures.
R: Tell me about the process of making this piece. How long did it take?
P: It took me about two to three months. I usually work the design out using a combination of digital imagery and my own rough sketches. Then I translate it on to paper by eye.
Each piece of glass is outlined on the plan, then cut out and painted, the white areas being engraved and sandblasted.
R: What inspires you?
P: I am obsessed with ancient, patched-up Medieval church windows!
I use stained glass to communicate personal beliefs and stories, much in the way Medieval church glass did, but with content that is often considered controversial. It’s a misunderstood and overlooked art form.
R: Where can people see more of your work locally?
P: The nearest place would be the National Museum of Scotland who acquired
Self-Portrait Dreaming of Portavadie last February just before lockdown. It will be on display when they reopen this year.
‘It’s 2020 And I Miss My Mum’ will be available to view from May 8.