A Whisper of Wings

Gwenllian Spink​​​​​​​

By appointment
28 Jun - 22 Aug 2021 

Dad used to build boats, and a few months back I asked him why he called his first boat Swallow Moth. He told me that while he was building that boat, his Dad died and soon after he found out, a moth that he'd never seen before landed on his half-built boat. He told me how he felt that it was his Dad in a different form, saying goodbye. 


Two days after Dad's death I’m at the police station picking up the things Dad had on him when they found his body. As I flick through the photos on his phone, I find a photo of a Scarlet Tiger Moth that we found in my grandparents' garden, which is rare in Wales, and I’m reminded of Swallow Moth.

A few hours later I’m in my bedroom looking for photos of Dad, and I open a box by my bed. It's a small lacquer box covered in images of dragonflies flitting across its lid. I open it, to find a single photographic slide lying there, and as I hold it up to the light, a massive moth appears on its surface. I have no idea what it’s doing there. Dad used to do loads of photography, and has boxes full of old slides and prints, so I assume that it must be one of his. On the back, someone has written Tropical Swallowtail Moth.

A few days later we are walking to the place where Dad slipped and fell. You can only go when the tide is out, and you have to walk over rock pools to get there. It’s the end of March and the wind is strong. Dad took the path along the cliffs above us and fell down the rocks, landing in the cove where we’re headed to. As we walk over the rock pools, something catches my eye in one of the pools - it’s a butterfly, an old Red Admiral and it’s drowning. The wind is too strong for it, and its wings are ripped. I’ve never seen a butterfly by the rock pools before, and it’s especially strange considering the cold wet weather in early Spring. A few meters away from here is where Dad fell. I scoop it up and hold it, cupping it between both palms, its wings beating my skin like a soft heartbeat. We stand there together for a while, and afterwards I take it to a leafy bit by a stream just behind the beach and leave it there to bathe in a circle of sunlight.

Materials List

Swallow Moth
Aluminium, reclaimed teak, wire.

35mm photographic slide, reclaimed teak.

Exterior walls, left to right:

Shadow Moth 
Reclaimed teak, dowel.

Shadow Butterfly
Reclaimed teak, dowel.

All reclaimed teak was found in Dad’s shed.  ​​​​​​​

Photography by Reinis Lismanis