Whithorn Art Gallery – Life’s Little Ironies is a venue for contemporary arts and crafts in the Southwest of Scotland. Located in Whithorn, a small town in Dumfries and Galloway, Life’s Little Ironies was previously the Whithorn Ironmonger’s shop, stocking everything from tools and paint to fishing tackle. It re-opened in July 2013 as a space to showcase arts & crafts from the local area and beyond. We do not import stock from overseas – Most work in the Gallery is created by local people, although we may occasionally feature national or international artists in our exhibitions.
When we first came to Whithorn in 2010 the shop was named after the previous owner B. Perks & Son so we needed a new name. We wanted a name that reflected the type of shop, had a bit of humour, and could be taken forward for future ventures.
We carried out a survey on twitter offering several alternatives, including “The Iron Lady”; ) and Life’s Little Ironies was definitely an outright winner. The name comes from a series of short stories by Thomas Hardy with the wonderful sub heading “strange, lively and commonplace”. Written between 1890 and 1893 and describing the social issues of that time the stories are described as capturing “the poignant estimate of human nature and the brooding sense of wonder at the essential mystery of life”. Lou is planning a series of artwork based on the stories…
We felt that the name captured the link to the ironmongery but also the strange state of affairs that led us to Whithorn and to having a shop as part of the house. Our own journey to this place is captured to a certain extent in the early blog posts on Lou’s blog and Tim’s posts on another blog called Decisive Moment.
Image: For the Journey by Lou McGill. Handwritten letters to her son as he embarks on his adult life, in the form of origami boats made from japanese washi paper and coated in hot wax.
For us arts & crafts offer a range of rich and diverse languages to both express creativity and to explore our relationships with the world – from how we connect with our own environment to our understanding of the wider political landscape and our personal and social interactions.
In establishing this new venue we aim to provide a destination for national and international visitors which will showcase contemporary arts & crafts that challenge the viewer aesthetically and philosophically – creating a platform for discourse which we feel does not currently exist in this part of Southwest Scotland.
Whilst we offer a professional venue for established artists and makers, we also offer an inclusive space for the wider creative community in the Machars.
Who we are
Tim and Lou moved to Whithorn from Glasgow to lead more sustainable lives and to focus on their creativity.
Tim Gray’s work is driven by Anarcho-Socialist/Syndicalist theory which informs the narrative dimension of his practice. “My work is a response to both historical and present day events which are interpreted through a range of aesthetic languages to create a number of different discourses for both the viewer and artist. I strongly believe that the narrative (story telling) is a key element to the creative process and it is this element that defines our interaction with art and the world around us. I use a range of media from traditional materials to digital toolsets to advance my practice. Above all I believe art is an inclusive activity which should stimulate discourse for viewer and artist.”
Lou McGill works with a range of materials to explore storytelling and language. Her pieces reflect strong interests in cinematic representation and classic literature. Much of her work is multi-layered, in meaning and format and she is currently exploring mixed media work to incorporate textiles and recycled materials. “Being creative is intrinsic to us all as human beings, allowing us to constantly question who we are and how we fit into the big picture. I feel that Western society restricts creativity by crushing individuality and making people compliant. My work aims to challenge that as a woman, as a mother and as a human.’