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Sybil, 2024

Glazed ceramic, leather, glass, plywood plinth.


Comissioned as a part of the exhibition Belonging, for Arts Council England funded project, Pink-Collar GallerySeventeen Nineteen, Sunderland, travelling to Arts Centre Washington


Sybil explores the female character that features in the 14th century story The Lambton Worm, Northern Sea and water mythology, and Sunderland’s rich history of shipbuilding and maritime.


Through a period of research, I collected various telling’s of the local folkloric tale of The Lambton Worm, an infamous story where character John Lambton fights in battle with a serpent creature, which follows with a curse upon his family. In the climax of the story, a female character features, though through many retellings of this tale she is in a constant changing state, whilst the rest of the story stays mostly the same. She is often described as a wise woman or a sybil. Sometimes a hag, or a witch, and more recently, removed from the story completely.


I was interested in the changing state of this character, the different names she has, and varied perspectives that paint her as good, evil or unimportant. In Veronica Strang’s Water Beings: From Nature Worship to the Environmental Crisis, Strang analyses this tale as allegory for the changing state of the Pagan church into Christian, and the role that this story and stories alike, have played in the Western human imagination in vilifying Paganistic values. Along with Christianisation over time, came a dismissal of nature, none-human beings and realms, and an acceptance of colonialism, consumerism and capitalism.


This work brings together ideas of feminist ecologies, local folklore and allegory, and the symbolism of ship figureheads from the 14th century onwards, to highlight Sunderland’s proud history of shipbuilding and its relationship to our water-worlds.

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