Wolfson’s newest art exhibition explores 'Life Within Landscapes'

Life Within Landscapes

From Sunday 9 June, Wolfson's Combination Room, Gallery, and Dining Hall come alive, as the latest art exhibition ‘Life Within Landscapes: Caribbean - Cambridge Art, Now' officially opens to the public.

Life Within Landscapes

Featuring the work of three Cambridge-based contemporary artists, the exhibition explores the intersections of memory and identity, with each artist's work informed by her Caribbean heritage and lived experience. Many of the works on display have been created especially for this exhibition, with the artists working across a range of mediums: from painting, print-making, and drawing, to textile and doll-making. 

“I am absolutely delighted that we can showcase the work of three remarkable contemporary artists here at Wolfson College,” says Dr Anna M. Dempster, Fellow and curator of the exhibition. 

"For me their work is both exciting and rich in meaning. I feel it reflects many of our aims at Wolfson and the multicultural communities we live in and want to be a part of. It also asks some fundamental questions about our place in the world, including our relationship with nature and our landscape. We are very lucky to have such amazing artists right here in Cambridgeshire. The exhibition strengthens our new partnership with Cambridge Open Studios (COS) and growing links with local artists. It also reflects wider interests of the College community, including with Wolfson’s Research Hubs, and our ongoing commitment to conversations around race and ethnicity (REACH), Sustainability, and Gender. I hope that over the summer and autumn this exhibition will be enjoyed Wolfson students, staff, and Fellows, as well as the many visitors welcomed into College. I want to thank everyone who helped make this exhibition possible."

About the artists

Sandra Scott, who was born in Barbados, says that her work went through a shift when she arrived in Cambridge more than thirty years ago. 

“When I first started creating art in England, I went through so many different phases. I was doing lots of dyeing and Batik in the Caribbean, and there were lots of techniques that I was discovering and exploring—from papermaking, to embroidery techniques, to felt-making.  And then when I arrived here the weather wasn’t great, and it was difficult, not having any friends in England, having two little children. It took a while to get back into the materials and techniques that I’ve settled into now.”

Sandra describes how, during her MA, she started working with tissue paper—a notably fragile material, and one that usually sits outside traditional fine art practice. “I started stitching into tissue paper and distressing it, and I discovered you could get a very lacy technique. I used a small motif developed from a dress my mom wore to funerals and used this motif throughout my work.” 

The Palm Frond, Sandra Scott

The Palm Frond, Sandra Scott, 2024

“When my mother was in her fifties she developed Alzheimer’s, which I didn’t know at first. I was living here, and she was in Barbados. I would speak to her on the phone and she would only ask about my first daughter, and I would get angry, and after that anger I stopped calling as much because I didn’t understand. I was apart from her during that time, and eventually she died, and with her death I found that my therapy, my healing, was really through my art. I had a memory of my mom—she would take me and my sister across the church from where we lived, and there were two palm trees. And it was such a peaceful, calm thing. She would pick little berries and talk about it, and that’s a memory I have. So I thought the palm frond would be a good way of connecting the memory of that palm tree, and with my mother.”

Selena Scott, who works primarily in painting and portraiture, uses her art to redefine the portrayal of Black people, giving space to the stories of those within the portraits. 

“For as long as I can remember," says Selena, "creating has been a huge aspect of my life and I owe that to my mother. I have always used it as a form of self-expression, to help understand myself and the world around me. Growing up in a small village in Cambridge as a minority, I struggled to find my place and I remedied the loneliness by sewing toy creatures and creating my own world. This is where I discovered my love of art but also the transformative powers of creativity.”

Fragments of you, Selena Scott

Fragments of you, Selena Scott, 2022

"This sculptural book and bear with audio recording was created as an archive of memories. The audio within the bear is activated by pressing the bear's head, and a memory narrated by my father says: 'when I was a little boy, I loved to see the pretty yellow canaries that would flock to the palm tree outside my house. I wanted to make them my pets and made a bird trap to catch them, with only sticks and string but they always died. And when I asked why, he told me wild canaries can never live in captivity.' The story itself is a tale of naive optimism and it represents the idea of innocence and loss of oneself. As a child you are the bear: you believe the world is yours, you hold power, strength and free will, but as you age you transform into the bird, prey to your circumstances, imprisoned by society.”

Part of the joy of ‘Life Within Landscapes’ is the explosion of colour. While many of the pieces are intricate and delicate, others are impossible to ignore, big and bold, bursting out from the walls. For Nadia Koo, whose work is on view, colour is what defines her artistic practice.

“I found art really late in life – it was a response to a very stressful job. I found that painting made me calm and feel grounded. I am a colourist, and it was the mixing of colours to make new ones that first attracted me to making art. Completing a piece I am proud of is a real achievement for me. I love the thought of other people enjoying my art in their homes. I have done several commissions and I really enjoy this aspect of the process. There is an opportunity to find out what a client likes and wants on a canvas - lots of fascinating stories unfold during the process. I love that each piece is unique to them."

In Greener, Nadia Koo

In Greener, Nadia Koo, 2024

"I lived in the Caribbean island of Dominica as a child. Dominica is known as the nature island. I only lived there for eighteen months, at nine years old, but that was enough to imprint the startling colours on my memory. The turquoise of the sea, and that aquamarine you get - I wanted to drink it up. No mood I'm in can affect whether I paint or not. I've realised that in the depths of despair I can paint, and the more feelings I'm having the more intricate the paintings are. I paint every day now. I'm an artist for life."



‘Life Within Landscapes’ will be open to the public from Sunday 9 June. The exhibition will run until 13 October and is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday, except for days with special events, so please call ahead when visiting.

What's on

A triptych of three plant-themed paintings: the left shows large leaves, the center features a dark forest scene, and the right depicts vibrant, stylized foliage and flowers.

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