Inventory: Invisible Companion Andrew Nairne Kettle's Yard, 2015

Whitney McVeigh is the fifth artist we have invited to exhibit work in St.Peter’s Church, next to Kettle’s Yard. Each artist has responded very differently to this special, ancient space. McVeigh has made a new installation: a meticulous arrangement of objects brought to Cambridge from her studio in London.


Like Jim Ede, who created Kettle’s Yard, McVeigh gives value and importance to the intrinsic beauty of the ordinary and the found. Her installation also includes a number of her own drawings, prints and collages representing the body and its image – some integrated within books. McVeigh has intuitively placed her objects so that each expresses its own life and ‘energy’. Her work is suggestive of the way objects connect us to others, to history and to the material of the world.


The inventory printed here is like a poem of sorts. Each item on the page exists through language, sometimes the evocative title of a book, or as often a factual naming. They all have personal significance for the artist, denoting objects she has collected throughout her life. As we read the inventory we will find our own meanings, memories and thoughts. The list with its breadth of references to history and knowledge might be daunting if it was not also so human; full of detail and close observation. As we begin to see the actual objects so carefully arranged across the floor of the church, it feels as if each is chosen, differentiated and counted. The things we choose to collect or gather, the objects with which we surround ourselves, can be as revealing and mysterious as self-portraits.


Jim Ede loved St.Peter’s Church and his spirituality infused his approach to arranging art, objects and furniture in Kettle’s Yard. McVeigh sensitively undertakes the reverse: bringing something of the domesticity of the Kettle’s Yard house into the church. The artist invites you to sit in the white armchair (usually beside the piano in the cottages) and experience what you can see from its comfortable and specific viewpoint.


Within the printed inventory, the artist has inserted a small found image. It is of an unknown woman and child sitting for their portrait in a Victorian photographic studio. The woman stares ahead towards the camera. Across the centre are horizontal scratches to the surface. Like scars across skin, the photographic illusion is torn and disrupted. It is one image, but it reflects Whitney McVeigh’s achievement: an acute ability through her art to enable us to look more intently and with greater purpose at objects and images; how they can resonate now within our contemporary world and speak to us imaginatively of how we might act with care and humanity in the present.


Andrew Nairne



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