Last week I installed North Atlantic Drift: Curious Objects. This exhibition uses a wonderful ‘cabinet of curiosities’ at the Old Low Light down on the fish quay in North Shields, Tyneside. The cabinet, which was designed especially for the space, sits amongst a fascinating multi-media heritage exhibition. There are many drawers of different dimensions and scales, with plinths and boxes on top.
This collection of altered found items and constructed forms are based on objects gathered from northern coastal locations of the British Isles. The materials have been subjected to the forces of North Atlantic Drift (the northern extension of the Gulf Stream); they have been shifted, displaced, scoured, tangled and fractured. Organic and man-made debris, floating on currents or shifted by water and tide, is intermingled, broken down and re-configured.
The space is filled with my altered and constructed objects until 30th June.
DIS/rupt opens today at the Museum in the Park and tomorrow at Lansdown Hall Gallery, Stroud. This exhibition and associated events is by the Textile Study Group and is launching as part of SIT select. There are twenty members showing work across the two venues and some of us are teaching workshops linked to the project. You can read more about DIS/rupthere, book onto workshops, the DIS/rupt symposium and see all the other events happening here and you can read a bit more about the work I have made for this exhibition here.
The Private View for the exhibitions are this Friday – do come along if you can.
I’ve been back to Spurn for the first time since my residency ended 3 1/2 years ago. It felt so good walking the whole peninsula again, some parts very familiar and some bits significantly changed by the elements since my last visit. Some great wildlife encounters made the day really special too: a dolphin (sadly dead, but fascinating to see), a short-eared owl, a lizard, curlew, deer, butterflies…
The lighthouse is now spick and span in its newly re-furbished state, with a new coat of paint inside and out. It is now open to the public regularly and there is some sensitive interpretation inside to help the visitor understand the history of this wonderful heritage building and the unique location it overlooks.
Luckily it was a beautiful day, although with a cold wind, so the views were long-ranging and at their very best. As ever there was all sorts of weird and wonderful (and not so wonderful) stuff washed up on the beach, including various balls of fishing line caught up into bundles with other debris attached, like un-natural tumble-weeds.
I took along some of the work I made during my residency and have donated a piece to The Wildlife Trust, who manage Spurn. This will go up either in the lighthouse or in one of the other visitor spaces. The other pieces I took with me are now on display in the Bluebell Cafe in Kilnsea. It’s lovely to have some of my work back there, where it came from and where it belongs.
During the half term holiday I was away with my family on the west coast of Scotland. I’ve been coming to these parts all my life and I can feed off a visit like this creatively for months and more. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant it was easy to be on the nearby beach every day, at least for a brisk walk, and at most for a leisurely afternoon playing games, cooking and pretending it was a bit warmer than it actually was.
As ever, I came home with a head full of thoughts, images and ideas and a box full of ‘things’ to continue that process with. Now my little collection is laid out in my studio and slowly I’m getting to know the various objects.
Time flies: I realise I post much less frequently here than I used to and than I would like to. I have been away for much of the last three weeks and seem to have spanned a great deal of the country in the process. I had a wonderful few days teaching in Eastbourne (on the South coast) before Easter. As a group we explored the beach, collecting in different ways and then used what we had collected in a variety of techniques – great fun and a chance to explore an area I didn’t know.
Easter saw me in North Somerset (in the South West) with my family in the beautiful Mendip Hills. I snatched an opportunity for a bit of mud lurking – more on that another time.
Then we had a few days in the depths of Snowdonia, off grid and off everything else apart from a tent and whatever we could carry. We were blessed with the most amazing weather and managed to get the whole party (youngest 6) up to the top of Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and Wales) in glorious spring sunshine with a dramatic helicopter rescue (not one of us!) to add a bit of drama.
After a night at home I headed north to give a talk just over the Scottish border. I spent the morning on a windy walk overlooking Lindisfarne and its causeway in Northumberland. Serenaded by skylarks and calling waders the colours and creeks of the salt marsh were brought to life in the clear air.
Meanwhile, an article by Wendy Feldberg on artists using rust in their work has been published in Fibre Art Now and is available here.
The Tide Marks exhibition features a range of works on paper and cloth as well as some small tapestry weave pieces. This is the first time that I’ve shown weave as part of an exhibition. Weave is very much a part of my practice but I tend to use it as a way of collecting things together, part of my process rather than the finished work. I have often used tapestry weave to bring found items together, partly as a way of exploring the possibilities of the material and getting to know it. You really understand a fibre when you spend time with it, manipulating and seeing how far you can push it. Weave requires tension. Some things just can’t cope with this, whereas others can surprise in how they withstand it.
These small woven fragments all have a found metal object embedded within them. These metal marks form a line, like a line of debris left by the tide. They are dark marks within light weave but their mark spreads into the weave as sea water has worked on the metal and taken it into the fibre around. You can see a little sequence of images taken when these were first introduced to sea water here.
These pieces are like a collection of random objects found along that tide line: scraps of things, some rounded, some tattered, some pleasing in shape and compact enough to sit pleasingly in the hand or pocket, some more ungainly. The quality of the weave differs: some is tight and affected by the shape of the embedded object, some is more loose, imperfect. They undulate in response to the forces that have been exerted on them. These are imaginary items: one could almost imagine they’d been woven by mermaids.
On a recent walk on a beach in Northumberland I found a surprising range of fabrics. Some were tiny snippets, some larger pieces and some were fabric structures in various states of decay. These worn and eroded surfaces have given me all sorts of thoughts and ideas…
This interesting exhibition opens at the weekend with a preview on Friday evening. Artlink is a centre for community arts in Hull and has an exciting programme of exhibitions and workshops. All the artists showing work in Re-Present use found objects in different ways.
I have a series of prints (incorporating rust and collagraphs) in the exhibition that I’ve called Beach Ghosts and which, you guessed it, feature items found on the beach.