Image above: Mapping installation (including Mapping of Piel Island and Mapping of Studio Journey) by Di McGhee, Art Gene 2017

Di McGhee

About the Gene Pool Residency

Di McGhee (with Sophie Lindsey) was selected as one of two Gene Pool residency artists (2017).

Di and Sophie arrived in Barrow-in-Furness at the beginning of August for a 10 day residency, and used the Art Gene’s Main Gallery as a base to work from. The idea behind the residency was for the artists to make work about the locality  – producing for the gallery works which, over subsequent months, would become part of an exhibition: a tall order for just 10 days – but we had selected Di and Sophie in part because of their intuition and responsive and reactive way of working.

We began with a few introductory trips and walks around the town and area – highlighting a few of the many special features of Barrow and it’s incredible coast – and introduced them to current Art Gene projects, such as Allotment Soup (our community growing space on Walney Island) and the brand-new wildlife observation Razzle Dazzle Hides on South Walney; and then let them find their own way through the (perhaps overwhelming) information.

“I came to Barrow with the idea that I could map the research process in some way. Using a simple mapping app I began by mapping those planned journeys for research purposes. In tandem I also began to record, with drawing, any specific sites of interest that may become sites for making. These sites relate to my interest 

in the relationship between people and place and how this sits or conflicts with views of industry and with social situations and issues. I have found Barrow to be particularly diverse in both these areas. As my collection of mapped journeys  grew I  began to focus on smaller journeys associated with the making process, linked to gathering materials and to moving around the studio when making. The highlight for me was an exploratory trip to Piel Island, that was in fact an island to island trip. I immediately planned a further trip, weather permitting, with an aim of  bringing together, journey mapping and making mapping”.

Di McGhee, 2017


“I found the BAE Systems Shed both theatrical and secretive and was interesting in its dominant position in the heart of the town. My initial encounter with the shed as a dominant focal point lasted with me throughout the residency and as the residency progressed I began to use the shed as a reference point for navigation around the town. I became increasingly aware that the shed could be seen from vantage points near and far, including the gallery window and from the shore during my initial trip to Piel Island”.

Image Below: Mapping of Studio Journey, by Di McGhee,

“My return journey to Piel Island was planned as a making journey with the intention of making an installation on the shore. This fit with the theatrical and performative nature of my work and I wanted to produce a piece that would reflect the relationship I had formed with the BAE Systems Shed as a marker and also say something about the urban and natural environment relationship. I set out to map the journey of the event and also to map the making of the installation on the shore”.

The adventurous nature of  the boat journey to Piel Island also added to a sense of making as an event. As maps, including the ‘Seldom Seen Map’ [by Stuart Bastik, see link below] were a consistent reference point during the residency I presented the text work in this way. Transport and journey became the underpinning for this work, and to make the work transportable the text was folded as a map and packed for the making journey”.

Di McGhee, 2017

Below, find a short video clip of Di talking about making her installation Mapping.

Image below: Seen, by Di McGhee, 2017

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