First off, we have Barbara Nicholls’ enormous watercolours. These supersized works on paper bring the viewer face to face with the medium, showing off the magic of colour pigments activated by water. The works can be as large as 3 metres long, creating a truly immersive encounter with paint and its versatility.
Reflecting the presence of water in the Lake District landscape, Nicholls is concerned with a controlled manipulation of pigments in liquid. While at first glance, the works are abstract, the colour choices are far from accidental and the interactions between the chosen shades reveal the artist’s in-depth knowledge of colour. If you’re planning a visit to Windermere, these really are worth an in-person visit – the sheer scale of the installation makes for a memorable visit.
Alongside the watercolours, the museum is also showcasing Dovetailing, an immersive, collaborative installation produced by sculptor Juliet Gutch, filmmaker Claire Dearnaley and composer Sally Beamish. Developed remotely during lockdown, Dovetailing is inspired by the art of making stringed musical instruments – luthiery. The installation consists of wooden mobiles made by Gutch inspired by the forms of instruments. Their twisted shapes, resembling grammatical symbols or musical notes, move gently with the wind. Dearnaley’s film uses footage of the mobiles along with process shots from the sculptor’s studio, intertwined with natural sounds and Beamish’s musical composition.
The installation “considers how the craft of luthiery dovetails with the natural world to create potential for music”. It does so through its appreciation for the complex processes involved: from the source material of wood and the natural mechanisms that come together to produce it; to the skills of the luthier, composer and finally the musician.
Dovetailing is a wonderfully calm display, filled with both silence and sound, the wonder of nature and human skill. It is a perfect accompaniment to the gorgeous landscape of the Lake District.
The Barbara Nicholls display is included in the museum admission price. Dovetailing is free for all visitors to the site, and is on display until 17 July.