Investigating the life of things across space and time

Quarry (2016)
painting, collage, textile, printmaking on canvas; 156cm x 40cm
When much had been forgotten (2016)
painting, collage, printmaking, textile, thread and gold leaf on canvas; 210cm x 45cm
Trace (2016)
printmaking, collage and thread on canvas; 156cm x 40cm
Cleave (2016)
collage, printmaking, textile and gesso on cotton covered board; 120cm x 30cm
Query (2016)
collage, textile, thread on canvas; 156cm x 40cm


Forests, monsters, relics, voids and dreams: an exhibition inspired by an encounter with a 15th century painting.

Painting, collage, printmaking and textile works by Sarah Gillett


In this exhibition Paolo Uccello’s painting The Hunt in the Forest (1470) is the basis for a series of works combining printmaking, needlepoint, text and collage.

In a process of excavation, Sarah quarried material from Uccello’s painting and its making, playing with form, storytelling and language.

The word ‘quarry’ carries multiple meanings within it – an animal sought and chased, a pit from which material has been mined, the process of extraction – and has Middle English and Old French roots in words for leather, the heart and the process of disembowelling. Originally the term denoted the parts of a deer that were placed on the hide and given as a reward to the hounds. In Sarah’s work, these layered meanings are themselves mined and the question of whom or what the quarry may be is left hanging.

The striking arrangement of sculpted trees that make up Uccello’s forest appear to Sarah as a singular tree, repeated many times into infinity. They begin to suggest an enclosed architectural space akin to fan-canopied cathedral ceilings or the Great Mosque of Cordoba (784), an immense chamber of columns and arches.

Amongst ruined stone, catacombs and pillars lurk Sarah’s painted and collaged creatures which exist in a liminal space between realms of the human and animal, ancient and modern, real and imagined. Referencing Hieronymus Bosch, Alice in Wonderland and botanical drawings, these figures form the tableau of a different, nocturnal hunt - the moonlight transforming forms and roles. In Sarah’s works, things hiding in the darkness of the forest come to the fore.

Text by Amy Lay-Pettifer for Quarry, Brocket Gallery London 2016

The Hunt in the Forest (c.1465-1470)
Paolo di Dono, called Uccello (1397–1475)
Tempera and oil, with traces of gold, on panel;
177cm x 73.3cm

Quarry exhibition gallery

PACK: A person in a blue hoodie on a bicycle looks behind them to see hundreds of dogs chasing them through a wide, empty city street


The dogs in south London are running. One of the big ones slows down as it passes me and I step back as its nose swerves into my crotch, waving my arms as though that would make any difference. If it were really hungry it would just eat me but I get a face full of hot meaty air and it’s a lucky day.

Read more »
Quarry art work: a dark subterranean space is populated by absurd and strange creatures that flit in and behind the pillars that hold up the vaulted ceiling

Quarry (2016)

Like Paolo Uccello’s Hunt in the Forest (1470), Quarry came into existence from dark to light. Uccello’s technique created a theatrical depth and drama that I wanted to capture.

Read more »
Query: Raised pale embroidery like old scars on a pale linen, with fragments of tapestry and collage strewn across the whole canvas

Query (2016)

In Paolo Uccello’s preparation of his wood panels for Hunt in the Forest (1470), he glued canvas over knots and scored lines into a black underlayer of paint to mark tree branches and vanishing points.

Read more »
When much had been forgotten: fragments of tapestry, collage and embroidery in the shape of statues and organic forms are scattered across a pale grey-brown linen

When much had been forgotten (2016)

The relics and ghosts of long ago are brought together here as if in a wild dream of nature. Starting from the verticals of Uccello’s trees and dotted lines he cut into the wood I wanted to present a landscape of fragments that offers a framework for a narrative.

Read more »
Cleave: a black smooth board sits behind a blacker abstract shape with a red cloaked figure standing on a rock

Cleave (2016)

As if peering through a gap in the trees this art work focuses on the relationship between light and dark, quarry and hunter. The colour and form of the red figure references Uccello’s practice within the late Gothic tradition and reminds us that red is the colour of fairytales, representing blood (virginity, violence, death).

Read more »
Trace: two sets of arches, one in a pale sandy stone with overgrown ivy and the other, identical in outline but a flat black silhouette, sitting on a mid-grey linen canvas. The outlines of three greyhounds are stitched in white thread, leaping through the arches

Trace (2016)

I wanted to create a work that used just a few very strong elements to show the power of a repeated shape. I drew this grid over Uccello’s painting to reveal his mastery of perspective and as the starting point for Trace.

Read more »
Salt: Lines and patches of embroidery against a pale brown linen background, reminiscent of a set of ruins in a destroyed landscape. A figure with a beak as big as its body and that covers its face entirely, tentatively steps across the ground.

Salt (2016)

Salt is mined, extracted and evaporated. Stitching mends holes, fills in blank space. This artwork began life as the back of an unfinished needlepoint and grew into an exploration of geology and archeology.

Read more »
Slip: Against a fluorescent orange backdrop, a painted figure with blue hose and a dark green tunic falls headlong into a black hole

Slip (2016)

Falling is an uncontrollable action. When we fall (over, apart, in love, asleep) we become vulnerable; quarry. Caught between spaces this figure falls headfirst and downwards.

Read more »
Silk: an embroidered image of bright autumn trees in yellow and orange sits against a black linen background, with tree silhouettes behind

Silk (2016)

This work started as an old needlepoint completed by an unknown sewer, that I unpicked, leaving only these trees intact. It was a way for me to look at the stage without the players.

Read more »
Mantle: neon green background with a figure standing, a black cloth thrown over their head and body, with sky blue hose and black shoes. A strong black shadow extends from the feet out to the bottom edge of the image

Mantle (2016)

As if standing in front of a green screen this mysterious figure invites us to imagine a space in which anything is possible.

Read more »
A walk in the woods: a blue-legged figure with a dark cloth over their head and body stands against a brick wall with plants growing round it

A walk in the woods (2016)

This conversation between Sarah Gillett and the writer Amy Lay-Pettifer digs deeper into the artist’s relationship with Paolo Uccello’s painting The Hunt in the Forest (1470) and her wider art practice.

Read more »

Quarrying Quarry

1. Middle English quarere, from Medieval Latin quarreria (1266), literally a ‘place where stones are squared’, from Old French quarrière (compare modern French carrière), from Latin quadrō (I square), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *kʷetwóres (four).

2. Middle English quyrrey, querre, curee, quirre, from Anglo-Norman quirreie, from Old French cuiriee, ‘entrails of deer placed on the hide and given to dogs of the chase as a reward’, (influenced by cuir ((skin (of an animal)), from Latin corium (a hide) and curer (clean, disembowel), from Vulgar Latin corata (entrails), from Latin cor (heart).

3. Alteration of quarrel (disagreement), ‘diamond-shaped piece of coloured glass forming part of a stained glass window’; square tile.
quarry etymology

I think you might like...

British Sign Language letter I: Radar Beach

Radar Beach

Joseph reaches down and picks up a shell. He hands it to the boy, who is dragging a red plastic bucket across the sand. “Here. What about this one?”
Bill assesses the offering intently. “No Daddy,” he says firmly, “It’s broken here, see.”

Read more »