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Exhibition: Jute as a Material and Subject

15th February – 6th May 2024
During museum opening hours. Included in Verdant Works Museum admission.

In our latest exhibition, Scottish artist Kim Appleton showcases her exploration of mills and jute in painted works.

Appleton used jute as both as a material to make art with but also as a subject; a symbol of Dundee and its people. Inspired by the stories told by the staff at the Verdant Works mill and people who worked in the Jute industry, the artist was motivated to paint the buildings that are characteristic of the Dundee views. These studies started literally: depicting the mills and the machinery within them as they are, but then moved towards abstraction; sometimes cropping images so that only basic shapes and forms were recognisable. This evolved into considering jute as a material to use and incorporate into art.


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Kim is interested in how materials can retain a social and cultural narrative that can be transferred to an artwork. For instance, the use of precious gold leaf in early religious paintings to represent the transcendent spiritual world. Jute is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Can such an ordinary and everyday textile convey a similar symbolism?

By using the jute as a surface to paint on, a textile to collage with and a tool to print with, the artist describes how she has “explored the material itself, allowing it to lend its own narrative to my work. How this presents itself depends entirely on the viewer and their own experiences and beliefs. Most people will have little or no feelings about jute as a textile but those who worked in the mills may have associated it with inequality, hardship, and illness. After I visited the Verdant Works jute became much more interesting for me. I will never look at a jute shopping bag without thinking of the lengthy and very human process of making it.”

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