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JW58 by Susie Reade at Thurso Gallery

An exhibition by artist Susie Reade comes to the Thurso Gallery this weekend (April 30).

The artist has created new work illustrating the extraordinary story of her mother, Lavinia Ponsonby, who went on an Arctic convoy during World War Two.

It was a journey which took the 24-year-old from Loch Ewe near Ullapool to Moscow via Archangel to take up a post at the British Embassy there.

She refers in her diaries to some of the most notorious events of the war such as the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz – which was a great relief to her as it was a threat to the convoy – and describes how she witnessed live action air and naval engagements which came perilously close to the merchant ship on which she was sailing.

Susie said: “My mother was among the first women to make the treacherous voyage by merchant ship in an Arctic convoy, numbered JW58. The convoy sailed from Loch Ewe, just 50 miles from Ullapool in northwest Scotland.

“The ships sailed north in March 1944 into the Arctic Circle and finally crunched their way through the ice to dock in the port of Archangel. From there Lavinia boarded a train to Moscow to work in the British Embassy for the Ministry of Information.

“Seventy five years on I began to follow in her footsteps, researching, drawing and painting as I went. The result is a series of monotone oil paintings of inhospitable seascapes, weapons and defences and of the intimate objects which helped her survive the journey.

“This exhibition combines short, typed excerpts from Lavinia’s diary with my paintings. These are in oil paint on calico backed paper and like wartime maps they are displayed unframed. Although bleak they are beautiful.”

Exhibitions Officer Cathy Shankland said: “This is a fascinating story and is evocatively interpreted by Susie Reade in her paintings.

“We are delighted to be able to show them at the Thurso Gallery. The story and artworks demonstrate the extraordinary bravery and stoicism of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations who lived through such unsettled times and will have resonances for many of our visitors.

“The exhibition is a reminder of how grateful we should be to live in a time of peace and a reminder, especially in view of world events today – of how fragile peace can be.”

The exhibition is on show at Thurso Gallery, Thurso Library until June 25.