Bridget Steed (23) from Catterline, Aberdeenshire, graduated this year from the Edinburgh College of Art’s School of Drawing and Painting with an MA in Fine Art, specialising in printmaking. She is the most recent winner of the prestigious Catriona White Prize and will be showing new drawings alongside work from her final year project, which documented the history of 37 Inverleith Place, Edinburgh.
Until 2007, the property at 37 Inverleith Place housed the postgraduate school and printmaking department of Edinburgh College of Art but was once the family home of the whaling fleet owner, Theodore Salvesen. Through prints, photography, drawings and objects Bridget has recorded the various strands of the building’s recent and distant past.
This grand Victorian property has endured various, diverse lives; grand, industrial and creative. The identities, inhabitants and situation of 37 Inverleith Place come together in the form of an archive, displayed in an old plan-chest, which creates an intertwined narrative which tells the story of this house’s history. Each chapter of its past has left traces across the interior and through a combination of documentation, detailed research and invented relics Bridget has brought these histories together.
The house’s whaling connection links Inverleith Place to the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo, which were brought to the city on the returning Salvesen whaling ships, via the remote location of Leith Harbour in South Georgia, Antarctica.
The whaling industry permeates Bridget’s work and after a lucky purchase of three sperm whale teeth in a local ‘Bethany’ shop, she began making work which encompassed the Salvesen’s ties to whaling and the remote territory of South Georgia. She has been awarded a Scottish Arts Trust bursary to allow her to visit Antarctica in 2009.
These two allied but distant sites come together in Bridget’s drawings which employ both traditional and digital techniques (a process informed by printmaking practice). Her drawings often combine imagery from the decorative interior of 37 Inverleith Place and the whaling industry. Sailors made scrimshaw (drawing on whalebones) to create mementos of home and Bridget’s drawings are a reminder of these lost places and their histories. For example, a sperm whale’s tooth metamorphoses into the vast scrimshawed body, ripped apart by whalers; a piece of cornicing from 37 Inverleith Place becomes a whale’s gigantic tail and a map of Antarctica is transformed into an intricate ceiling rose.
Bridget’s work uncovers forgotten links to particular sites and creates reminders of these lost places and their histories. The exhibition runs until 27th February 2009.