27th August – 9th October 2010
The upstairs team is pleased to present an exhibition of mixed media works by Gloucestershire based artists Suze Adams, Carolyn Black, Andrew Darke, Alice Jolly, Richard Keating and Kel Portman. The exhibition and associated events are timed to coincide with the autumn 4 star bores. The tidalSevern catalogue can be viewed and purchased online.
Introduction to tidalSevern by Sue Chudley written on behalf of the upstairs team.
The Severn breathes, as if its coming and pausing, going and pausing lends us communion with the sleeping earth, the movement of moon, the passage of time. The river’s tidal range ranks among the highest in the world and its bore, which sometimes tickles, sometimes ravages the soft banks, is a rare phenomenon. Those of us who live within its reach are deeply affected by this river; it is our compass, our measure of day, month, season. We gauge rainfall in the Marches, storms in the Bristol Channel. Wild and dangerous in full spate, seductive in the lull between tides, when quicksands can swallow a grown man, we are wary and respectful. How can we not be passionate in our defence of it?
Newnham on Severn was a thriving port, The George, one of the prosperous hotels and pubs benefitting from ships waiting for the turn of the tide. Still thriving but from other forms of passing trade, the old hotel now hosts a gallery – upstairs at the George. The upstairs team of artist/curators are keen to link place to community, pitch and toss ideas, let artwork speak beyond image. This exhibition brings a variety of works together – photographs, text, soundscape, drawing, poetry – all of which expose a view. The artist is observer, diarist, philosopher, conservationist, activist. She/he sees, hears, feels, mulls and meditates, and in exploring comes to know.
Suze Adams and Carolyn Black refer to each other, as communities always have, across the expanse of water. Where once there were ferries, now there are only parallel banks. They explore distance and proximity through photographs and phone calls: their perception shifts, their gaze the only link. They find a bridge of sorts, a virtual span and a connection through the bore’s enigmatic race. Andrew Darke, in searching for wildness, finds the river’s power resonates within. His identification with landscape and the natural world leads to his passionate plea for conserving what is left. To erect a barrage across the estuary will disempower this elemental force, may stem the bore forever, as has happened on the Seine. He calls to us to Stand, Listen and Experience. Alice Jolly’s poem invokes the spirit of the birds as they wheel and gyre above ‘the spanless space of the Severn’. Alice and the birds are aware of their insignificance in the face of the river ‘slow and steady, infinitely sure, reclaiming its space’ despite man’s attempts to colonise its banks. Richard Keating takes his mind for a walk with his dog and questions as he looks, listens, senses, records and draws in diary pages monitoring reflections on our aesthetic appreciation of nature. His ruminations are as circular and variable as his slow walks, likened to ‘each turn of the tide‘, which ‘adds another layer to the River’s story, whether a minor adjustment of the sands downstream at Arlingham, a flood and laying down of sediment in the surrounding fields’. Kel Portman explores landscape through meditation, making images which both record the place as seen and as sensory experience. One feels the wind, smells the salt, shivers in the chill air. His text, both scientific and poetic, suspends us somewhere as in a dream, here and there.
Alongside the exhibition, the artist group has produced this publication which includes two essays. Cultural geographer, Owain Jones sees land as ‘timescape’. In his piece, Temporal Ecologies, he describes the rhythm of the millennia long cycles of geological processes, along with trees, animals and plants that shape a living landscape. The Severn, like an artery, takes its part in this ‘patterning’ of the Severn Vale; human activity impedes this delicate process. Surfer and campaigner, Stuart Ballard writes poignantly of his relationship to river and Severnsider dwellers – bore riders, cider makers, salmon trappers, elver catchers. ‘The river that flows backwards’ calls for healthy coexistence with this amazing asset in our midst.
This exhibition has been timed to coincide with the autumn 4 star bores, the major cause célèbre of this river. A visit to the gallery can include standing at the water’s edge to scan the opposite bank, feel the breeze, listen to curlew and gull and experience the mysterious life affirming energy that is the Severn.