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The Artist Making a Mark on Redruth

Redruth artist Caroline Wilkins will be exhibiting her body of work ‘Graveyard Shift’ from The Ladder, Redruth. By Leonora Ellis.

Caroline Wilkins is one of a community of artists taking Redruth by storm. She is totally in love with the town and the sense of place she has found here. Having lived in Redruth for over 25 years, it was only natural for a lot of her work to be so hyper-local. Lockdown, like for a lot of people, was one of the starting points for a body of work called Graveyard Shift. “I walked to a graveyard every day, like most people I just discovered somewhere I hadn’t been to before”, she says. Unfortunately, Caroline’s father became ill in London, and the graveyard suddenly provided a quiet space where she could sit and think about her dad. “Sadly, he died, and when we came out of lockdown it felt like a natural thing to start a residency. So, I approached the church and asked if I could work as guest artist in the graveyard.”

Caroline used the graveyard as a place where she could come to terms with her own grief and “the grief that we were feeling collectively” she tells me. Practically every day for six months Caroline made a rubbing from one of the gravestones. “It felt like I became part of the landscape.”

Through the process of mourning, she came across the French philosopher Roland Barthes’s book The Mourning Diary, which he wrote after his mother died. “I fell into step with him, I calculated how many days away from bereavement he was, and I was. Read his diary every day, and then did a piece of writing.” Now Caroline had a large body of work, which she let sit and rest.

Caroline’s studio. Photo: Leonora Ellis

2 years later Caroline came across The Ladder in Redruth, “The Reading Room was the most beautiful space, it had all the qualities which I was looking for. If the windows were open you could see across to the Carn, it’s got that lovely almost churchlike feel.” She plans to use the space for a few different projects. First as a test space, where she plans to invite people in to talk to her and about the work. Conversation is an important part of her work, “it doesn’t become anything until it starts to ask questions, or it becomes expansive and allows the audience to participate.” Then she plans to put on a public facing show with events and more socially engaged bits of work.

Caroline primarily works with print because of its accessibility and also works in collaboration with another local artist Tony Minnion to run Redruth Press, “we do screen-printing out in the community and make posters, there are a couple of poster walls in Redruth that are ours. My work always has a big community element and is very much my community.” Caroline’s love for the town is only too apparent, it feels like something really special for an artist to be so invested in a place and that community, and she says The Ladder, with its amazing multi-functional spaces and atmosphere of creative energy, will really tap into that and be a great addition to the town.

Other than place, Caroline is also very interested in everyday politics. “Most things when you scratch the surface for a second are political, I really think that the personal is political.” She tells me that she likes the protest history of printmaking, and it being used as a kitchen table democracy. Her postcard printing workshops encourage people to converse and potentially have difficult discussions, and this is when we learn the most she says. “I would like to find more ways to instigate difficult conversations because I think we shy away from them.”

The Ladder will definitely become a home for interesting conversations and practices that will bring a real energy to the town.

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