When I was commissioned to create a piece of artwork to hang in the newly restored Irvine Townhouse, I took a slightly different approach than to my previous work.
In addition to researching the physical shapes and make up of the landscape, I also looked to the human history of the town to create a map which speaks of the people as well as the landscape.
The development project integrating the historic Townhouse and the new modern Portal leisure facility, references a link between the old and the new in it’s concept and architecture.
This link is strong in Irvine. Designated one of Scotland’s ‘New Towns’ in 1966, to improve housing and employment, Irvine has in fact been settled since the 12th century and was given Burgh status in 1140.
The River Irvine played a large part in the success of the town with the port being the third largest in Scotland up until the 18th century. Many local industries, mills, shipbuilding, export and engineering, thrived here until the mid 20th century.
I felt the river should be the starting point for my artwork, the focal point from which the town has grown. Cutting the shapes of the landscape from Harris Tweed, a cloth with a history and heritage of its own, following the twists and turns of the river flowing through the town. Embroidering the streets, I thought about the people who have lived, worked and travelled through this place.
There are many famous names associated with Irvine and I discovered that each room in the Townhouse has been named after one of these people. Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns, poetess Jean Kelly, Christian poet and hymn writer James Montgomery, author and entrepreneur John Galt, businessman and philanthropist John Ferguson, Ross Tollerton and Captain Harry Sherwood Ranken both recipients of the Victoria Cross.
On reading further I learned of the global reach from Irvine through just these seven individuals. Careers, lives and achievements that stretch from the town to many other parts of Scotland, France, Canada, South Africa, New York and Asia, to name a few.
I have represented each person on the map with a different coloured thread, rooted in Irvine but reaching, stretching and connecting around the globe.
The colour palette I chose for the threads in the map takes inspiration from the original mosaic floor at the entrance to the Townhouse, shades of blue, yellow, russet, and white. Striking against the contemporary grey blue tweed, a palette drawn from the silver birch and waters of the new pool.
I hope to achieve in this artwork a feeling of history and heritage, the cloth, craftsmanship and story, within a dynamic contemporary image. Celebrating the joining together of the old and the new.