Shona Illingworth: Lesions in the Landscape exhibition at UNSW Galleries is an unflinching and personal exploration of memory and individuality. 

Shona Illingworth is a UK based artist who works across the mediums of film, video, sound, photography, painting and drawing.  She has a particular thematic interest in neuropsychological models of memory, or, the knowledge and rules that govern working memory systems, and when and how these systems break down.

While Illingworth’s art often explores memory loss in broad social dimensions, in her latest work she examines the life of a real woman named Claire, who woke one day at the age of 44 from a coma with impaired ability to recall most of her past, including the raising of her own children.   

In the exhibition, Claire’s individual experience is portrayed alongside a visual narrative of the depopulated island of St Kilda, located 64 kilometres west northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic, containing westernmost islands of Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Illingworth presents viewers with aerial shots of the island, featuring the remaining foundations of buildings dating from the Late Middle Ages. Alongside images of rock formations, water and archaeological sites, sit portraits of Claire.  Both Claire and Illingworth travelled to the island of St Kilda to film the vast and empty landscape.  Illingworth used her own video and photographic equipment to document St Kilda.  At the same time, Claire utilised a special devise that hangs on a cord about her neck; a SenseCam - a special camera that allows her to catalogue and review her day.

Lesions in the Landscape is an immersive, audio-visual display of films and photographs taken by both Illingworth and Claire. The visual archive includes pictures of the island of St Kilda and an image of the brain lesion that has caused Claire’s loss of memory.

Lesions in the Landscape is curated by Professor Jill Bennett from UNSW Art & Design. The project is the culmination of a partnership between UNSW’s National Institute for Experimental Arts, the UK’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) and has been supported by the Wellcome Trust.

Illingworth is artist-in-residence at UNSW Art & Design.

The exhibition continues at UNSW Galleries until 21 May.

More information on Lesions in the Landscape can be found here.