2017 Rakow Commission: Karlyn Sutherland

2017 Rakow Commission: Karlyn Sutherland

Harbour Road, Lybster, Karlyn Sutherland (Scottish, born 1984), Made in Sunderland, England and Lybster, Scotland, 2017, Fused glass, 2017.2.4, 32nd Rakow Commission

Harbour Road, Lybster

Karlyn Sutherland (Scottish, born 1984)
Made in Sunderland, England and Lybster, Scotland, 2017
Fused glass
2017.2.4, 32nd Rakow Commission

The 32nd Rakow Commission was awarded to Dr. Karlyn Sutherland, a Scottish artist who created Harbour Road, Lybster.

Originally trained as an architect, Sutherland describes her work in glass as an extension of the sensibilities and skills she honed while investigating the attachments people form to place. She describes her autobiographical artwork as, “a reaction to vivid memories and intangible qualities of significant moments. Each piece aims to evoke architectural space and atmosphere, distilling and communicating the essence of an experience.”

“The composition came from a series of sketches that I did whilst in Canberra [Australia] and thinking about what it was to feel emotionally detached from place,” Sutherland said about the idea for the Rakow Commission. “The piece uses perspective drawing to offer a viewpoint that is physically unattainable and unreachable, suggesting an emotional distance. It’s about describing that feeling of being a little uncertain and in between—of being anchored somewhere but feeling kind of detached at the same time, like looking at somewhere from the outside.”

Karlyn SutherlandHarbour Road, Lybster speaks specifically to the sense of disconnection Sutherland felt from her family home in the days following her return from Australia. The home, in Caithness, northern Scotland, was built by her father—a boat builder by trade—with a keen attention to craftsmanship. As a child, she was particularly fond of reading in the deep sills of two windows that frame a corner of the living room. Sutherland used to tuck herself away in the windowsills to read, noting the perfectly matched wood grain of the sills and the golden shafts of light that would pass from one window to another and across the room. It was a deep connection, the kind of formative attachment to place that is difficult to experience or even reproduce as an adult.

In three fused panels in stark black-and-white, the work recreates the spatial relationship of the living room windows in her parent’s home and a picture frame that hangs beside them. Rendered in startling perspective, the pieces are dimensionally flat, but appear to project beyond the wall.

“Together, they create an unsettling sense of space, just outside of the viewer’s grasp, that mirrors the emotional disconnection Sutherland experienced when she visited her childhood home,” said Susie Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass at CMoG. “I hope that when people walk into the gallery and see Karlyn’s piece, they have to do a double take. Her piece is visually vexing—It requires viewers to look for longer and look more intensely to try to understand for themselves what these pieces are and what they might be made of, and what they might mean.”