Ysanne Holt: A Hut on Holy Island


Date: 4 October 2013
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Category: (Texts)

A Hut on Holy Island: Reframing Northern Landscape, Visual Studies, 28 (3), pp.218-226


This essay explores the evolution and significance of a shelter constructed in 2002 by the artist Sally Madge on a remote beach on Holy Island, off the north-east coast of Northumberland. In the context of a legacy of cultural interactions with and representations of this island – a popular tourist destination – the concern is with how the simple structure might be understood in terms of a potential refiguring of a heavily prefigured location, enabling an alternative, even transgressive notion of place, disturbing preconceived boundaries between artists, community, insiders and outsiders and so engendering a new way of thinking about northern peripheries. In the process the essay considers recent examples of public art; from the increasingly design-practice led, spectacular structures at Kielder Reservoir Sculpture Trail, to Charles Jencks’ monumental earth sculpture, Northumberlandia constructed out of the top-soil excavated from an open-cast coal mine at Shotton. By contrast, the specific character of the Holy Island shelter and the nature of the practices associated with it unsettle some of our assumptions about place and the rhetoric underpinning art and creativity.