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- Wings of Desire by Kate Whiteford

A new exhibition to mark Emily's bicentenary
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In celebration of the 200th anniversary the birth of Emily Brontë, artist Kate Whiteford takes as her starting point the little-known story of Emilys hawk, Nero.  In a new commission for the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Wings of Desire will delve into this previously unexplored dimension of Emilys life story through an immersive, poetic film and works on paper.
Kate Whiteford is a leading exponent of land art and in Wings of Desire has created a film installation that meditates on the iconography of the bird of prey and the Yorkshire landscape and offers a new perspective on Emily, the most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters. The haunting soundtrack featuresI Wish, I Wishby award-winning musicians The Unthanks which underpins readings of Emilys poetry includingThe Caged Bird. Emily’s poetry is read by actress Chloe Pirrie, who played Emily in To Walk Invisible’ (BBC TV, 2016) and Cathy in the radio dramatisation of Wuthering Heights (BBC Radio 4, 2018).
This is understood to be the first time that an artist has focused on Emilys relationship with her hawk, the bird becoming a metaphor for the themes of escape, predation, flight and cruelty, as well as the longing for liberty that exists in Emilys writing. The short film allows the viewer to get up close and personal to these stunning birds and by implication, with Emily. The new work also makes use of aerial imagery and film to create a birds-eye view of the Yorkshire landscape that Emily soars across in her imagination.
Kate Whiteford commented: “I’ve been an enthusiastic admirer of Emilys work for many years and was fascinated to interrogate this side of her life, to be intoxicated by her wilful and passionate nature and have her take me, through Nero, on a journey high up and over the moor.  Keeping such a ferocious creature is interesting for anyone, let alone a young woman in the 19th Century and I think shows an intriguing, darker side of Emilys character and adds to a further understanding of her work. I hope that through Wings of Desire audiences gain a closer appreciation for how Emilys spirit swept across the hostile and inspirational moors through her writing.
Emily Brontë is believed to have rescued the Merlin hawk from the moors and cared for him at the Parsonage, where a watercolour sketch of the bird, that she painted in October 1841, is displayed alongside falconry hoods and other objects as part of Whiteford’s installation.
Jenna Holmes, Audience Development Officer at Brontë Parsonage Museum added: We are thrilled that Kate Whiteford accepted our invitation to create a new work to mark the bicentenary of Emily Brontë. Emily is the Brontë sibling most associated with the natural landscape and Wings of Desire, with its exploration of themes including flight and liberty, make it a fitting tribute.
The exhibition continues with a series of paintings on paper, inspired by birds of prey and archaeological features of the moors revealed through aerial photography.
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