Empire at The Old Ropeworks
‘It’s become fashionable in recent years for artists to show their work not in pristine galleries but in derelict industrial or commercial spaces. This show, displaying work by 20 members of the Society of Scottish Artists and curated by Gayle Nelson and Alan Bond,follows this trend. The venue is an abandoned rope works, formerly occupied by the Montrose Rope & Sail Company. The main building, well over 100 metres long but only four metres wide, was built for the manufacture of long lengths of rope.
The curators have settled on the theme of empire, offering the artists maximum room for manoeuvre. Montrose, as a substantial port, was active in the trade that was the cornerstone of the British Empire.
Carolyn Scott’s installation, Considered Cargo, is in a room that resembles a ship’s cargo hold. There’s a rope ladder and an audio track giving details of the “slave triangle” between Europe, west Africa and America and the West Indies.
Deirdre Robertson makes a bleak reference to imperial justice. Her construction includes a chair and a hangman’s noose. There’s a chilling eeriness in the stark simplicity of photography, lighting and object — as well as the idea that rope made on these premises was probably used for hangings.
Empire invites many interpretations and associations. Juliana Capes deals with what she calls the “empire of carbon”. Dozens of balloons, painted with graphite dusk, gradually turn from dark grey to gold, representing the way oil and other forms of carbon become “capital”.
Empires can be imagined, conceptual, territorial or mercantile. All of these, and more, are offered as an interpretation by a group of dedicated and highly professional artists and thinkers.’
Image by Andy Thompson Photography