Brought Back – Roger Ackling, 2009

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Roger Ackling has been making a considered and deliberate response to the natural environment for over 40 years. Brought Back is a large collection of works created almost entirely during 2006-2009 and includes works made as part of a two-week working visit to Orkney in 2008.

His work is created by the use of a hand-held magnifying glass, focussing sunlight directly onto found or discarded wooden objects, mostly collected at the margins of the landscape. The working process is a careful and measured one and totally weather dependent. Always working from left to right, somewhat in the manner of writing a text, with the lens held in the right hand, the sun over the right shoulder, Ackling makes the works either on location or at his home in Norfolk.

The salvaged wood often reflects its local surroundings: the place of its first use, the place of its abandonment and its exposure to the elements. These qualities and characteristics are an eloquent component of the work, which, through the artist’s interaction is elevated from the everyday to artefact – each small circular mark being individual and fused with the potential for its own symbolic and ritualistic inference. 

The works are deliberately ambiguous in their intended meaning. On various levels the works are a recording or an account of the passing of time – marked through a natural ageing and through artistic intervention.

Roger Ackling is one of a generation of British

artists whose work redefined contemporary art in the late 1960s. This group of artists places as much importance on the labour of making the work as the creation of a finished object and has an emphasis on working outside traditional gallery spaces.

The Pier Arts Centre acquired four works by Ackling for its Collection in 2005 through funding from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland and the National Fund for Acquisitions. Ackling’s work was a key marker for Reiach and Hall, the project architects for the redevelopment of the Pier Arts Centre, particularly in the more formal aspects of the zinc and glaze ribbing of the new building which opened in 2007.