12 September - 31 October 2020
I have no news of my coming or passing away, the whole thing happened quicker than a breath; ask no questions of the moth. (Farid al din Attar)
‘I didn’t choose moths – they arrived in search of me.
Or, better put, they emerged over a period of years. In the summer months, they became ever more present, ever more insistent until there was no ‘choice’. They had come out of the night, with all their powdery fragility and found me…their fragile winged emanations speaking urgently of the dark, of the earth, of all it is we cannot see.
So, the question was, how to respond? I found in their short lives a glory that comes from participation in the whole complex, entangled fabric of life but in general Moths are misunderstood, overlooked and deeply unloved. There are few references to them in literature; even the Bible refers to them negatively, ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt’.
The work of artists and poets has always been to awaken our attention, to show what is unseen, to love what is unloved. That work feels urgent now. Modern life may be brightly lit but our attention to the lives of so many creatures has largely slept and the damage has been enormous. Since 1914 there have been around sixty moth extinctions in Britain alone. In the last thirty-five years, the overall number of moths countrywide fell by around a third. Some like the well- known Garden Tiger, whose caterpillars are the main food of our much-missed cuckoos, have fallen by 80% or more.
We have to start by opening our eyes. To quote Rachel Carson, “the more we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
So, this is my response, my rebellion. If what I have been given is the ability to focus, to pay attention, and if there is even the remotest chance that in attending lies an antidote to our careless destruction, then that’s what I have to do – to focus. It’s not enough but it’s necessary.’
Sarah Gillespie 2019
©Sarah Gillespie – Swallow tail, Mezzotint engraving
Sarah Gillespie is settled with her family in the Southwest region of Devon. She is an artist of exceptional integrity and skill in observing and representing the natural world – primarily focused on the countryside of England that surrounds her daily.
Sarah was born in Surrey and studied at the Atelier Neo Medici in Paris and the Ruskin School of Fine Art at Oxford University. She was awarded the Egerton Coghill Prize for landscape painting, and the prestigious international Elizabeth Greenshield Award for figurative painting in her early career. She most recently is known for the Mezzotint printmaking technique that she has adopted to capture the half-tones and gradients of the limited palate of ‘black and white and subtle shades of brown and grey’ she uses to create her work.
In 2019 Sarah’s work was recognised at the International Mezzotint Festival in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she was awarded the prize for ‘Adhering to the Traditions and Skills of Graphical Work’.
Sarah is a member of the RWA (Royal West of England Academy) and is currently represented by Beaux Arts Gallery, London.
The Moth exhibition at Kestle Barton (13 September – 31 October) will open on Saturday 13 September 2020 with a talk by artist Sarah Gillespie and another about moths by, naturalist and well-known author, Mark Cocker. Clich here for more information about the Moth Magic Talk