Travelling Light: The sailor’s ditty box

TRAVELLING Light is the exciting new exhibition opening at An Talla Solais this week – and includes works from artists based throughout Scotland, including two Western Islanders.

The exhibition shows new work from seven artists invited to respond to the idea of the sailor’s ditty box, or traditional travelling bag.

Each artist comes from a place in Scotland in which seafaring has long been a part of its culture – John Cumming, originally from Shetland now living on Orkney; fellow Orcadian Frances Pelly; Will Maclean in Dundee is originally from Coigach; David Cass is based in Edinburgh; Ian Stephen and Christine Morrison are from Stornoway, and Peter White – working with poet Jon Miller – is from Ullapool.

Offering a unique opportunity to see the work of these acclaimed artists exhibited together, the pieces on show will include sculpture, painting and printmaking, and will reflect on the idea of the ditty box as a focus of identity, departure and travel.

Originally drawn to the subject through voyages around the Outer Isles as part of the Sea Change project by Cape Farewell in 2011, John Cumming has been reflecting on the relevance of the ditty box to the contemporary world for some time.

He says: “On the deck of a boat the sky is immense, the horizon uncluttered. The individual seems small and the ocean infinite. By contrast, below decks there is no private space, everything is commonly owned and occupied. For seamen it has always been thus, hence the need for a small token of one’s own individuality; one’s history, maintenance and hopes sealed within a hand-sized box.

“The ditty box became an artists’ space in which to explore these themes.”

‘Travelling Light’ runs from April 20th until May 19th at the Ullapool Visual Arts centre An Talla Solais, Market Street, Ullapool.