Moth represents the culmination of an eighteen month long project,
researching, drawing and engraving common English moths by artist
Sarah Gillespie. All 24 of the resulting mezzotints and a selection of silverpoint drawings will be seen together for the first time this September, at Kestle Barton. The exhibition will be accompanied by an artist’s book, in a limited edition of 300, each one numbered and signed by the artist, available to buy from Kestle Barton and directly from Gillespie’s website - https://www.sarahgillespie.co.uk/editions/moth/
Misunderstood and overlooked moths are deeply unloved by most humans. Unseen in the dark and dismissed as ‘dull’ in favour of their flashier, diurnal cousins, the butterflies, moths are in fact more numerous and more varied, are
a major part of our biodiversity and hold vital roles in the wildlife ecosystem as pollinators, recyclers and food for bats and beloved songbirds.
We are in the middle of the sixth extinction of life on Earth, this one caused by human action. Since 1914 it is thought that around 62 species of moths have become extinct in Britain alone. Habitat loss, intensive farming, commercial forestry and light pollution have caused the overall number of moths across Britain to fall by around one third in just the last 35 years. Some species, like the well-known Garden Tiger, fell by 80% or more.
Gilliespie’s work draws attention to this catastrophic collapse and goes further to see with a tender eye and celebrate their unseen nocturnal lives, their exquisite diversity, and the poetry of their common English names. Her choice of mezzotint as a medium, a labour intensive tonal engraving technique much used in the 17th, 18th, andearly 19th century, is key to the nocturnal quality of these works. Only by means of the meticulous and gradual scraping and polishing of the copper mezzotint plate can one create such soft gradations of tone and rich and velvety blacks. At times revealing themselves in all their astounding detail and at others disappearing altogether, Gillespie’s moths hum quietly of what may well soon be gone for good.
‘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.
Showing the series in its entirety for the first time at Kestle Barton is particularly fitting as the surrounding gardens are the perfect habitat, boasting their own impressive population of moths of over 60 different species.