There’s more than one way to describe any knot.

Unknot is the first solo show by Artist Emma Hislop. Pulling together threads of encounters and research across alchemy, mysticism, quantum physics, taxonomy and dual/alternative worlds and world views.

Through Hislop’s multi disciplinary practice she explores her perspective of the world as an assortment of unique connections. The exhibition showcases her fascination for approaches and methods of research into esoteric themes. Bringing a cohesive look at the value of material processes and their individual, masterful skillsets as both sciences and crafts.

Unknot shows resulting artefacts from concentrated exploration into metals (steel, aluminium, iron and bronze) and glass. From Hislop’s initial self- taught learning to working in a lab with scientific glassblowers, to her developing skills, she has kept a fascination with the mythology and molecular movements within these ‘allegedly solid’ materials. 

Work gives both familiarity through recognisable motifs and unease built by her curiosity for the uncanny. Tension is a recurring theme for Hislop. Whether by precarity of placement, the delicate and the hard or awaiting a fate (a movement or possible happening).

‘Apprentice Pillar’ exemplifies both motif and a hidden humour in Hislop’s approach. It’s Roslyn Chapel namesake is revered for mythic mastery, graced upon the carver by higher forces. Hislop plays on the legends surrounding the original, a monument of craft and mysticism embedded in science and religion. The comparison verges on parody, relating the opulently carved stone pillar to pine furniture and bannister spindles, stone balustrade remakes and archaic columns. Wedged between mirror cut steel drums is an excess of bronze that echoes these references. The wound serpent, synonymous with science’s alchemical roots, the ecological ouroboros (self eating snake) and divination.

Intertwining continues into ‘Emerald Tablet’, Hislop hopes to show that our belief of science as fact is closer linked to myth than truth. Etched green glass gives a direct link to the title Unknot, the name of a closed loop single knot in knot theory. From maritime display cases, defining the periodic table of elements to DNA and mathematical unpicking of our world and human make up, knot theory is more than a rope wound trefoil. Hislop finds the study of closed end knots to echo her connections-view of the world. The work’s title and form embody the beginning of knowledge, said to start with an emerald tabled inscribed by Hermes Trismegistus with coded details on how to transmute the philosopher’s stone, life’s purpose and featuring the fabled message “as above, so below”. And so began Hermeticism, alchemy and science. Hislop forces us to recognise just how far we haven’t come.

A partnership between Scotland’s national provider of studios, Wasps, and Marchmont House, have Emma Hislop and Jack Brindley the opportunity be residents on the Marchmont House Estate, spanning Friday 25 March to Saturday 26 April 2022. Read about the Marchmont residency here.


Event Details

Date: July 1 - August 1
Time: Mon-Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm

South Block
South Block
60-64 Osborne Street
G1 5QH

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