Artist's map exhibition celebrates Scarborough's geology star William 'Strata' Smith

Coloured map exhibition opens at Scarborough Art Gallery next monthColoured map exhibition opens at Scarborough Art Gallery next month
Coloured map exhibition opens at Scarborough Art Gallery next month
An exhibition of hand-coloured maps by contemporary artist Kathy Prendergast opens at Scarborough Art Gallery this autumn.

The exhibition, curated by award-winning art and science organisation Invisible Dust for Scarborough Museums Trust, opens on Saturday September 14 to coincide with the Yorkshire Fossil Festival - from September 13 to 15 - and will also feature teaching maps created by female geography students from Bedford College, now Royal Holloway, University of London.

It marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of William 'Strata' Smith (1769-1839), known as the ‘father of English geology’.

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In 1815, Smith produced a geological map of England, Wales and Scotland, the first attempt to visualise the earth’s layers and often referred to as 'the map that changed the world'. Smith’s geological map, as with Prendergast’s work, shows the power of maps to change people's perception of the world around and beneath them.

Established in 1849, Bedford College was the first higher education institution for women in the UK. The geology and geography departments gave women the opportunity to undertake fieldwork and other outdoor research, essential to the study of these subjects, but often deemed socially unacceptable.

In 2000, Kathy Prendergast began a three-year artist residency in the geography department. Some years later, hand-coloured topographical and geological teaching maps were made available to her when the Department’s collection was rationalised. She became curious about how and by whom they had been used.

Prendergast’s own hand-painted maps – most of which have not been displayed before – focus on process rather than representing a finished body of work. She spends years working on them, returning to them many times.

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The maps in the exhibition from Prendergast’s collection and from Royal Holloway reveal that women have long contributed to teaching and research in the geosciences, but they have often been written out of history.

Simon Hedges, Scarborough Museums Trust’s head of curations, exhibitions and collections, said: “We’re delighted to welcome an artist of Kathy Prendergast’s international standing to Scarborough Art Gallery. This collaboration is the first of what we hope will be a fruitful partnership with Invisible Dust.”

Kathy Prendergast was born in 1958 in in Dublin. She studied at London’s Royal College of Art from 1983 to 1986.

She won the Best Young Artist Award in 1995 representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale. She was also the inaugural recipient of the David and Yuko Juda Foundation Prize.

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Prendergast is particularly known for her City Drawing project, which she began in 1992. She detailed pencil maps of the world's capital cities; the work is now part of the permanent collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Her work is held in galleries around the world.

Strata is at Scarborough Art Gallery from Saturday September 14 until Sunday January 5.

The gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays (plus Bank Holiday Mondays) from 10am to 5pm.

Entry is free with an Annual Pass, which costs £3 and gives the bearer unlimited access to Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and Woodend café gallery for a year.