Lise Bech - PODS (Cochuill)
Pods (Cochuill) is a solo exhibition of Lise Bech's at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre, Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist, Outer Hebrides. Taigh Chearsabhagh gratefully acknowledges Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Funding for its Crafts Programme.
It is fitting that Lise Bech's fine example of British basket-making is exhibited at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum on the Isle of North Uist since the Uists and other outer Hebridean islands constitute one of the oldest archipelagos in the world and weaving and basket-making are the oldest known handcrafts.
In order to appreciate how outstanding this exhibition is, one must consider the establishment of British basket-making. The industry is historically rich and almost exclusively based on the use of willow, and the craft of constructing a functional vessel for every use has been handed down with precision and persistence for centuries. Traditional baskets also incorporated a large range of techniques: square, round and oval work, randing, waling, bordering were used in myriad combinations of pattern and shape, and each technique takes years to master.
What is sublime about Lise Bech's work is the blending of old and new and the marriage of craft and art. These pieces are definitely not crans, shoppers, or trugs. The large Cauldrons are reminiscent of the beautiful koa wood bowls at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu that were made for Hawaiian royalty. They are commanding vessels worthy of a Chieftan and are exquisitely constructed.
The series of Landscape Pods and Contour Vases are provocative and one is drawn to want to touch them and breathe in the wonderful, tangy fragrance of the willow. The shapes seem almost as if they are placeholders in a landscape that was traversed and inhabited, leaving behind a print or indentation, a whisper of past energy or future fertility. Happy habitation followed by sudden departure, leaving behind small vestiges of life in the landscape. The asymmetric forms are like sensous animated willow dancers, each with its unique, swirling contours and coloring.
Other pieces in the exhibition include whimiscal garlands of naturally colored willow that reflect the hues of the heathers, lichens, and kelps that abound in the surroundings, and powerful willow jewellery that begs to be worn and handed down from wrist to wrist.
Each piece surely holds something different for every observer, but they collectively represent the sound arrival of one of Britain's talented new artists and one who is placing a beautiful and indelible body of work before our eyes. Her footprint will be lasting, and this innovative, environmental gallery has perfectly captured the spirit of the land and the culture through the expression of this talented artist.
Kristen Schlech is a botanist and an authority on Native American and Hawaiian fiber art and basketry traditions. A member of the Scottish Basketmakers Circle since 1991 and the American Craft Council since 1996, she has a long background in museum collections and ethnobotany and describes herself as an amateur basket-maker and patron of the art.