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In conversation with: Catherine Sargeant

Inspired by the changing sky, O for Light is a collection of vivid and reflective pieces that have just made their debut at the Upright Gallery in Bruntsfield.

Created by Edinburgh artist Catherine Sargeant, the series focuses on the use of text and different mediums to highlight aspects of the everchanging sky during the months spent in isolation and lockdown.

Albeit done during a time of great difficulty for most, Sargeant presents us with the ability to find a small glimpse of light even in the darkest of times.

Tucked into a small corner, the gallery seems the perfect place to present artwork such as this- as if the buildings themselves are cradling this treasured secret, it is a place of refuge and comes as a breath of fresh air after the noise and bustle of the busy city streets.

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The sun is shining for the first time in weeks though the North Wind wreaks havoc beyond the door shielding the artwork alongside me.

The first thing you see are the dates written on the side of a collection of 30 small acrylic paintings- a depiction of the evolving April skies when lockdown first hit the hardest. Hues of blue and streaks of red, orange, green, and yellow.

The sky as it has never been seen before, alive and dancing. It takes another second to notice the words- happy, flying, lost, woods, wait…

“There is something about the simplicity of normal language,” Catherine tells me. Her words make me think of the Romantic poets- there are traces of Wordsworth and Keats echoing in her paintings. A step back to nature, it is the common ground we share that she wishes to express.

This is a way in which we’ve never seen a month progress before. The focus on numbers and dates eludes the mind in the presence of serenity Sargeant’s paintings have so wistfully captured.

However, the April skies are not the only pieces she has to show. The exhibition also includes a selection of reimagined pieces off a 100-day book project she worked on during the summer. The name of the series also stems from this book as Catherine divulges that it was originally a book about golf that she used.

“The materials I used were things I had at hand, old envelopes, etc.” Sargeant shares. The original book is also available for you to see in the gallery, along with the larger recreated paintings that emerged from it.

One in particular draws my gaze as we continue to speak about her use of oil and acrylics – the lighter hues of blue and the emphasis of the grey grasps my attention immediately.

The word stillness is almost translucent and feels as if it is contrasted with the greater emphasis of texture surrounding it. Somehow, it feels as if it is a point of balance amidst the organized chaos and I am taken aback by the serenity it breeds within my mind.

Although perhaps the most engrossing of all her work are the words “velvety night without stars” enveloped in the dark recesses of the canvas. Streaks of red and darker hues of blue amidst the black echo of the canvas. A moment of brief reflection, those beautifully haunting words will forever live within my mind.

If you also wish to live amongst the stars for a time, this exhibition is worth experiencing. O for Light is food for the soul and quite a terrific way to spend your morning or afternoon!

Image: Courtesy of Upright Gallery

By Ece Kucuk

Ece Kucuk served as President of The Student in 2021/22 and is currently a regular contributor to the paper. She was previously Head Editor-in-Chief and Features Editor, she has also been a writer at The Student for over two years. She is going into her Fourth Year of a Master of Arts with Honours in English Language and Literature and plans to do her Postgraduate in Education and Child Development. She has written for every section of the paper as well as written for The Rattlecap and other publications. Some of her favourite works include her reflection on being the child of an immigrant, her piece on introducing ice hockey, as well as her interview with children’s author Mariam James.