Caught by the River


Kirsteen McNish | 10th May 2023

Kirsteen McNish introduces a season of events at Kirkcudbright’s pop-up gallery and events space.

‘Hard Rain’, © Michael Johnson

There’s a lot going on over the next month at TIDESPACE in Kirkcudbright. This airy events and gallery space sits at the heart of Scotland’s artists’ town. Nestled on the Solway coast, the harbour town and the surrounding area is renowned for its beautiful coastal and pastural landscapes, and rare quality of light which has attracted artists for centuries. 

Through May and into June TIDESPACE’s exhibitions and talks focus on people with formative relationships to land, starting with Michael Johnson: LAND LINES.

Johnson’s exhibition reflects how the artist has been drawn from the urban to the rural and presents a body of work created in response to and within the landscapes of Dumfries & Galloway over the last three seasons, to help process significant changes in his life since the pandemic. He explores memory, place and change, the shifting tides of the Solway coastline and the emotional tides within. Drawing as he walks, he takes the artwork into the physical landscape — constantly responding and layering, his recollections fused with observations drawn from the very moment: “reality intervenes: a passing person, a bird flying past, the light on the sea.”

Alongside the exhibition is a series of talks about and with farmers, examining our relationship with the land we live upon. Whilst 70 percent of the UK land is farmland, it’s arguable most of us know very little about the farming life and process, and if you do happen to live cheek by jowl with farmers, (as current TIDESPACE writer-in-residence Bella Bathurst found) you are likely to become gradually aware of the gruelling work and commitment required and the oft soul-destroying challenges faced — thus gaining a better understand of the journey from field to platter. 

Bathurst shares her book Fieldworks on 12th May. A while ago Bathhurst moved into a farm, witnessing what was entailed in the daily life of a farmer first-hand. Broadening her research far beyond the 180-acre hill farm in Wales she lived on, Fieldwork is a sensitive exploration of farming up close; “a journey into rural Britain to meet the people who work in the fields, butchers’ shops, abattoirs, greenhouses and barns that produce our food”. 

Between 12th May and 6th June, authors Wilma & David Finlay, Jamie Blackett and Wainwright prize-nominated Patrick Laurie chat with TIDESPACE about the challenges and choices they face as contemporary farmers. Each of the farmer authors’ perspectives and focuses is different. However, at a point in time that entails the most rapid and radical changes in farming since our Neolithic ancestors found a way to survive without being nomadic, all share the same hilly Dumfries & Galloway landscape and contend the current climate; physically, politically, financially, socially and environmentally. The TIDESPACE talks will explore their personal stories; how they ended up working the land, and what the future holds for them individually. This will also illustrate how their experiences reflect those of farmers across the country, and what this might mean for the future of UK farming, food and land in precarious times. 

In tune with the very nature of the seasons turning and the important connections between land and sea, TIDESPACE is an ever-evolving space designed to collaborate and celebrate the thought-provoking creations of its visiting artists and writer-in-residency and those who live and work in the region. As early summer arrives, the gallery seems to be in full rhythmic flow and promises to upturn stones to look for the stories drifting within its currents — welcoming artists, writers and musicians to its shores.

More info on TIDESPACE and tickets can be found here.