A decade of work by British artist Julie Brook goes on display in a major exhibition for Abbot Hall art gallery in Kendal, Cumbria.

What is it That Will Last? (20 May to 30 Dec 2023) is an exhibition of film, drawing and photography spanning recent works made in the Outer Hebrides, in the Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan and Cumbria.

Scotland-based Julie Brook (b. 1961) works primarily in remote landscapes, creating large scale sculptural interventions that express the invisible forces – gravity, time and tide – that govern our lives.

What is it That Will Last? is the first exhibition in the newly refurbished Abbot Hall. This reopening show will span all the gallery spaces. Extending the exhibition beyond the walls of the gallery, there is an outdoor sculpture at Holker Hall’s Deer Park.

Abbot Hall is one of Britain’s preeminent small art galleries, set in a beautifully restored Grade I-listed Georgian building on the banks of the River Kent in Kendal, Cumbria. It was temporarily closed in February 2020 to enable essential renovation work. What is it That Will Last? signals a fresh direction for Abbot Hall as the gallery aligns its programme to explore the themes of landscape and identity, through its collection and new collaborations.

Several works from Abbot Hall’s collection will also be on display throughout the exhibition. Selected with Julie Brook, works including those by Frank Auerbach, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper, John Ruskin, JMW Turner and Elizabeth Frink, will further explore the timeless relationship between artist and landscape.

What is it That Will Last? spans the last decade of Julie Brook’s work as well as ongoing projects.

Brook’s work frequently emerges from her inhabitation of a landscape and its materials. Exposed to the full range of natural forces, these works are often transient in character, or eventually eroded by the elements.

“Time, tide, gravity, rock, water and fire are her materials: the oldest of all matters of making. Sculpting with them, she helps us see things that are usually invisible: the rise of tide, the gust of wind, the fall of dark. Such everyday ‘occurrence are phenomenal in their own right’, Brook notes, but because they happen every day we forget to look and listen.” Author Robert Macfarlane

Her seminal work, Firestacks, will be presented as an immersive series of films that enable us to experience the might and mystery of the tidal forces that surround the islands of Scotland. These dazzling beacons of fire, crafted by the artist through feats of physical endurance, are eventually consumed by the sea, inviting us to engage with our own precarious co-existence with the natural world.

Other works include:

  • Ascending. A stepped stone path that has been hand-built by Brook in the steep Kanagaso quarry in Japan.
  • Winter Wall. Built on moorland on the Isle of Harris, Winter Wall receives the evening light at midwinter.
  • Parallel Space. A sculptural work created deep inside the Winter Chamber of the underground quarry in Takigahara, Japan.
  • Outdoor sculpture, Holker Hall. Commissioned by Lakeland Arts in collaboration with the Holker Group and its subsidiary Burlington Stone. Brook is creating a major work using stone extracted from the Brathay and Kirkby-in Furness quarries. Over two years, Brook has explored the industry and the dramatic sites of local quarries. This monumental outdoor sculpture reflects the region’s historical relationship with slate and stone and contrasts with the formal architecture of Holker Hall, offering a rare opportunity for people to physically interact with Brook’s work in the pastoral setting of Holker Hall’s Deer Park.

A new book accompanying the show will be published by Lund Humphries to coincide with the exhibition. What is it That Will Last? Land and Tidal Art of Julie Brook offers a rich and expansive visual record of Julie Brook’s artistic practice and proposes a unique collaboration between Brook and distinct voices from the nature writing and craftsmanship traditions. Find information about the book here.

Rhian Harris, Chief Executive Lakeland Arts said: “The reopening of Abbot Hall is great news for Kendal, culture in Cumbria and the arts scene in the UK.

“It is incredibly exciting to be working with renowned artist Julie Brook. This major exhibition signals a new direction for Abbot Hall as we focus our programme on the exploration of people, landscape and identity.

The Hon. Lucy Cavendish said: “It is with real excitement and pride that we host Julie Brook’s latest monumental landscape installation commissioned by Lakeland Arts, here in our ancient Deer Park at Holker. With her characteristic energy and creative flair, Julie has created a significant landmark using over 400 tonnes of stone, both magnificent in scale and sympathetic to its setting. This adventure brings a promising new partnership between Lakeland Arts, Holker and Burlington Stone.”

Phase I of the Abbot Hall improvements has now been completed. Managed by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), who owns the building, the project included upgrading the Grade I listed building’s electrics, flood resilience and redecoration.

Councillor Robin Ashcroft, South Lakeland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: “Abbot Hall has built a reputation nationally for curating major new exhibitions and showing art and artists of the highest quality and range, and bringing great art to South Lakeland, making a massively significant contribution to culture and economy locally, not least through its input to our area’s all-important creative industry sector, and in improving the lives of South Lakeland residents as well as being a major draw for visitors.

“As owners of the Grade I listed building, we have a duty to make sure we are taking great care to maintain and protect Abbot Hall and that the environmental standards within the building enable Lakeland Arts to be able to develop their offer. 

“We are delighted that this work has been completed and Abbot Hall is able to open again and reaffirm its status again as one of the cultural gems in the South Lakeland crown.”

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) provided funding of £495,000 towards the refurbishment project through the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of CLEP said “The LEP was very pleased to provide the necessary funding to complete Phase 1 of the Abbot Hall improvements, which is an important stage in preparing for reopening in May 2023. I’m sure that visitors will be delighted to see the gallery restored and open for business.”

What is it That Will Last? is generously supported by The Granada Foundation, the Holker Group and Burlington Stone, Kendal Town Council, Lakeland Arts Support Trust, L & W Wilson Ltd, South Lakeland District Council, and Young Films.

Featured Businesses

Leave a Reply