Our season of exhibitions in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery continues with a series of photographs by Matt Wilson.
Anyone who has seen our publicity and event photos will already be familiar with Matt’s work, and we’re delighted to be able to give Matt the opportunity to exhibit some of his more focused portraiture. The new exhibition, part of the University’s anniversary celebrations over the course of this year, is a selection of portraits of members of its staff. In Matt’s own words:
Since 1965, the University of Kent has employed thousands of people. These are just thirteen.
Admission is free; gallery open during normal opening hours, and the exhibition is on display until the end of October.
As part of the Ringing Changes project commissioned by the Music Department for the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations – the premiere of which takes place on Friday12 June (read more here) – photographs by Phil Ward (Deputy Director of Research Services) are being exhibited in the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, to coincide with the performance. Several of Phil’s images will be projected above the stage during the concert, to which the text for the piece (by Patricia Debney from the School of Creative Writing) was written in response. I caught up with Phil, and asked about the inspiration for his photography, and the experience of collaborative working as part of the project.
How did your passion for photographing the landscape come about ?
When I was younger I used to take and develop my own black and white photographs. However, that fell by the wayside somewhat with moving houses, changing jobs, starting a family. Two things got me back in to it. The first was the technology. With modern smart phones the quality is so good that you essentially always have a decent camera with you. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it does mean that you don’t have to take a lot of equipment with you, so you’ll always be ready to capture that fleeting moment, the changing of the light, that sudden stillness. And the second was starting to cycling to work, and passing through such beautiful and ever changing landscapes. It was irresistible!
There must be something about the Kentish landscape in particular that attracts you; is there ? Are you a modern-day digital pilgrim ?!
As I say, it came about when I started cycling between Wye and Canterbury to work. As part of the route follows the pilgrim trail, I guess I am a ‘modern day digital pilgrim’! We are incredibly spoilt in this part of the world, both for the myriad back roads and tracks that make cycling a joy, but also the beauty and variety of the countryside, from the bucolic, quintessentially English charm of the rolling Downs, to the flat wildness of Romney Marsh, the bleakness of Dungeness, or the dozens of varied beaches. But I also like the less picturesque, the things that others might find ugly, from corrugated iron barns, to greasy spoon cafes, to the detritus next to the Stour river.
Your images are used in the choral commission being performed on the 12 June; what’s it been like to collaborate with Matthew and Patricia ?
It’s been an immense honour and privilege, but it does make me feel like a fraud! For me, I had already produced the work; for them, they are having to create new pieces. I imagine being inspired and creative to order is incredibly difficult. I hope the photographs have helped them in this. Both of them have been very open to suggestion, and it has felt like an ongoing conversation as it has developed.
What can visitors to your exhibition expect ?
Given the number of images that I’ve got on my blog, it was challenging to cut them down to the selection I’m going to show. I wanted them to be somehow representative, but ultimately went with the ones that I liked best. There will be everything there, from a broken blackbird’s egg found on the Chartham cycle path, to winter mists and summer haze, from the stark beauty of Dungeness to the lush farmland of the Stour Valley. I hope they reflect my journey, my ‘digital pilgrimage’!
The exhibition of Phil’s photographs is now open at the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, admission free, gallery open during normal working hours. Ringing Changes will be performed by the University Chamber and Cecilian Choirs on Friday 12 June as part of Summer Music Week: details here.
Our second exhibition in the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery space is a powerful, energy-filled series from Canterbury-based collective, Earthbound Women. Entitled Saxon Shore Way: a response to Tokaido Road, the exhibition explores the historic ancient Roman shoreline from Gravesend to Hastings, and features dramatic visions of different sections of the route in mixed-media format including collage, print, etching and collagraph.
The group describes the exhibition as ‘a palimpsest…modern observations written over the ancient history of the Kent coast,’ with some stunning images capturing the visceral power of the sea at Reculver, a haunting nightscape of the moon low over Whitstable, Harty Ferry at Faversham, the river at Chatham and more. The series marks a particularly Kentish reply to Hiroshige’s ’53 Stations of the Tokaido Road’ to which it responds, continuing the themes of travel and landscape begun in the previous photography exhibition by Hope Fitzgerald.
The exhibition runs until 24 May, and accompanies the performance of the chamber opera Tokaido Road: a journey after Hiroshige which comes to the Gulbenkian on Saturday 23 May (details here). Admission to the exhibition is free, gallery open during normal hours.
Read more about Earthbound Women here: follow in the footsteps of the Romans at Colyer-Fergusson…
Continuing the ancillary events linked to the Tokaido Road opera coming to the Gulbenkian Theatre in May, our second exhibition in the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery is a response to the Kent landscape, and in particular the historic Saxon Shore Way, by the Canterbury-based artist collective, Earthbound Women. I asked one of its members, Ruth McDonald, about the group and their response to the project.
Tell me about Earthbound Women
We met whilst doing an MA in Fine Art at Canterbury Christ Church University and all have an abiding passion for clay, earth, form and landscape. We are bound to the earth – it defines us.
What was it about the Tokaido Road project in particular that interested you in taking part ?
We were keen to participate in a project that features women in the Arts and were anxious to be involved and give the project our own “take”.
You’ve talked about the exhibition as ‘modern observations written over the ancient history of the Kent coast;’ what have you discovered in preparing for it ?
Initially we explored the Saxon Shore Way together spending time drawing and illustrating the landscape. We then divided the coast up and each took different section. It was fascinating to see how popular the coastal walks are and yet at the same time they do have a desolation when the weather is inclement.
Your exhibition will explore similar ideas of travel and landscape to Hiroshige’s ‘Tokaido Road:’ is it a Kent-ish version, and why did you choose the Saxon Shore Way in particular ?
We studied Hiroshige’s works and felt that we should study our own landscape in Kent and walk the paths of the Saxon Shore Way. This is a long distance walking route of 257 km named after the line of historic fortifications that defended the Kent Coast at the end of the Roman era. It stretches from Gravesend to Hastings. The range of landscape is tremendous and we wanted to record the changes in the weather and seasons.
What can we expect when your exhibition opens in Colyer-Fergusson on May 9th?
Expect to see a wide range of work in differing styles. One artist has made clay objects from earth gathered on her walks. Another has produced a series of etching and drawings. Some will be accurate observations and other work will have an emotional interpretation of the experience of the walk.
Tracing the Saxon Shore Way by Earthbound Women will be at the Colyer-Fergusson gallery from 9-24 May; admission during normal opening hours, admission free. Find out more about Earthbound Women here.
It’s with an heraldic fanfare of trumpets that we’re delighted to announce that the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery space is now open, with its first exhibition being the evocative and scenic #walkSwaleMedway project by Faversham-based artist, Hope Fitzgerald.
The upper balcony now hosts an array of jewel-like images in beautiful frames, inspired by Hope’s walking project, and will be on display for two weeks until Friday 1 May. The exhibition is also the first of several ancillary events for the Tokaido Road chamber opera coming to the Gulbenkian next month, which explores similar ideas of travel and landscape. Hope’s exhibition is a response to, and is inspired by, her walking around the Swale area; read more about the project here.
Admission is free: come and lose yourself in the landscape of the county in Colyer-Fergusson. #walkSwaleMedway is sponsored by Arts Council funding via Ideas Test.
As part of the Tokaido Road project coming to the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery later this month, Faversham-based photographer Hope Fitzgerald will be bringing her #walkSwaleMedway series. In advance of the show opening on Friday 17 April, I caught up with Hope and asked her about the ideas behind her various walking projects, and what to look forward to in her forthcoming exhibition.
Tell us about the #walkSwaleMedway project
Walk Swale Medway began with a continuous walk of nearly three weeks through Swale and Medway starting on 22 June, 2014. Using a mobile phone, I took pictures as I walked and posted them to Instagram using #walkSwaleMedway. Links were also shared on Twitter and Facebook. As part of the original Walk Swale Medway three-week walk, I relied on the kindness and hospitality of my neighbours in Swale and Medway. I took a few photos, heard stories and shared them on Walk Swale Medway. Sometimes a friend recommended someone who could help.
The website includes a selection of writing and photographs featuring the places seen, the people met, and the stories heard along the way. Walk Swale Medway continues to be an open ended invitation to take notice of and share where we live, connect with and contribute to our community
What was it about the Tokaido Road project in particular that interested you in taking part ?
It was completely unfamiliar to me at first, so that was appealing. I was interested in the fact that a connection had been made between #walkSwaleMedway and the paintings Hiroshige made from views sketched while walking the Tokaido Road. Once I’d read up on it, I was really struck by the fact that Hiroshige’s paintings included details of date, location, and anecdotes of his fellow travellers, just like I had with WSM by adding text on my Instagram images before posting. There’s this lovely timeless parallel – of movement and looking around, and taking notice. It was also his job, really, and not that well paid, but the success of the Tokaido Road series increased awareness of his work.
#walkSwaleMedway explores similar themes of travel, landscape and people to Hiroshige’s ‘Tokaido Road:’ do you see WSM as a Kent-ish version ?
The more I look, the more parallels I see. I’m also really pleased to be on the fringe of a project that has inspired a lot of people working collaboratively to make something new – the librettist Nancy Gaffield, composer Nicola LeFanu, and musician Kate Romano, among others. Not the first time Hiroshige has inspired others, I like this about it, too.
You’ve done similar projects walking in Faversham, and to Folkestone last year for the Triennial: what is it that makes you want to explore like this ?
Walking in Faversham is where it all began, almost by accident. I gave myself a two-week target of walking every day, with a new pair of trainers as my incentive. By about day 10, I was hooked, and walking was a reward in itself. I didn’t mean to do it – it sort of just kept going! I did that every day (barring a couple of sick days) for a year before #walkSwaleMedway. WSM was much more profound an experience than I’d anticipated – I thought I’d just go for a wander, but it was challenging and exhilarating in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I heard a radio programme later about long distance walking and how intimidating it can be, but I didn’t really think it through – I just thought ‘Hey, I know, I’ll walk across Swale and Medway.’
I walked to Folkestone to take part in Alex Hartley’s brilliant work called Vigil, in which a set of mountain climbing ledges hanging off the outside of the Grand Burstin Hotel was occupied by volunteers. It seemed like as good a reason to walk somewhere as any, so I went for it. It took three days, and the countryside that way is beautiful and walking for a long time is a great way to see things. There’s a wonderful metaphor for life built into walking for me – it’s just one step at a time – sometimes they are heavy, sometimes light, but always just the one step keeps you going. I’ve been so busy lately that I have been skipping steps here and there, but I’ll find my stride again. I’m looking for an excuse to walk somewhere most of the time.
What can we expect when #WalkSwaleMedway opens in Colyer-Fergusson later this month ?
The plan is to mirror, in number at least, the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road along the eighteen panels of the new Colyer-Fergusson gallery. The photographs are small, so on an intimate scale and framed in hand-finished black shadow boxes. They are printed on aluminium, so some are jewel-like, while others glow with the feel of watercolour. They are pictures of my home.
Hope’s #walkSwaleMedway exhibition opens in Colyer-Fergusson on Friday 17 April and runs until Friday 1 May; admission is free.
One of the very great strengths about Colyer-Fergusson is its mulitplicity of purposing – the flexibility of the concert-hall, the practice-rooms functioning as green rooms during events, the social area that also works as a performance space – and we are very excited to be drawing further on the building’s potential next month by launching the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, which will run the length of the upper balcony.
The building welcomes plenty of visitors on a daily basis – people using the practice rooms, ensembles using the rehearsal spaces, music teachers working with the Scholarship students, as well as members of the University community and the general public using the social areas or passing through on their way through to the Gulbenkian. At weekends, the building throngs with external events; choral concerts, orchestral performances, visiting performers. The first-floor balcony is a large space that offers scope for visual art to be presented to those moving through the building, and next month sees the first of three planned exhibitions which will adorn its walls.
The first two exhibitions form part of the Tokaido Roadproject (a touring chamber opera with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, to music by Nicola LeFanu, which comes to the Gulbenkian Theatre in May): Walk Swale Medway by Faversham-based artist Hope Fitzgerald, and Saxon Shore Way: a response to Tokaido Road by the local collective, Earthbound Women. Both exhibitions will explore similar themes of journeying and of travel, as part of the project, drawing inspiration from the landscape and the history of Kent. In September, to coincide with the Alumni Weekend, the gallery will host a photographic exhibition by the University’s very own Matt Wilson, whose excellent photographs of music events often feature on these pages.
There’ll be more about each exhibition nearer the time. Walk Swale Medway will be the first to grace the exhibition space, and will run from Friday 14 April to Friday 1 May. Leaflets about the new gallery can now be found in the foyer.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.