Old fossils spotted down on Watchet’s quayside!
‘Jurassic: Triassic: a Geological Journey’ currently on at ‘Contains Art’ in Watchet is an exhibition of drawings, paintings, felt and mixed media work ‘inspired by the strata, rock formations and landscapes of the coastline from Doniford to Blue Anchor’. Featuring work by six local artists (four of whom also have container-based studios on site alongside this exhibition) Mel Degan, Lucy Lean, Angie Wood, Leo Davey, Sue Lowe and Alison Jacobs.
Speaking of ancient history, it has been almost two years since I last visited Watchet when I attended the ‘Contains Art’ grand opening on the sixth of July 2013*! What kept me away for so long?! For those not in the know, ‘Contains Art’ is located on Watchet’s quayside in the form of three large beautiful blue shipping containers that have been transformed into studio spaces and an exhibition space for artists. A visit to these unique and imaginative studios and exhibition space was clearly long overdue and so on May’s last bank holiday Monday I paid them a visit.
The practicalities of an artist working and exhibiting in a shipping container is no mean feat, the spaces are long and relatively narrow (and probably quite cold in the winter months), but as ‘Contains Art’ continues to prove the resilience of artists is such that we are prepared to make it just about anywhere. Printmaking, sculpture and painting all happen on site in these seemingly impractical containers in a real working example of the innovativeness of creative practitioners. It is quite inspiring and has already become a successful addition to the contemporary arts landscape in Somerset with ambitions for future expansion in the pipeline.
|Sue Lowe 'Helwell Layers I'|
The small but geologically formed exhibition currently on until Sunday 31st May is an example of some of the local talent on offer and brings together some varied and imaginative approaches to the theme of the local Jurassic/Triassic coastline. As you may expect to find in an exhibition about geology there is a lot of layering going on in the work! Printmaker, Sue Lowe produces collagraphs layered with chine collé in totem-like columns. The colours and layering Lowe uses create a sense of the maritime, salt/minerals through their depth, texture and wear. Minehead based artist, Leo Davey provides a series of watercolour/ink based drawings depicting the strata and layering of the coastal rock formations. The longer you spend looking at stone the more you notice the amount of colours and tones that seem to change in different light and weather conditions. Davey’s drawings seem to pick up on this being extremely colourful becoming stylised and almost pattern-like in their appearance. Elsewhere Lucy Lean felts undyed natural fleece into tightly packed, dense forms mimicking the shapes and layering of fossils or rock. It is an interesting choice of material [fleece] as it’s soft, more malleable properties have parallels to geological processes of squashing and compressing of layers of rock and sediment.
Angie Wood and Alison Jacobs both create their own interpretations in paint inspired by the cliffs and coastal landscape; Wood through stained/layered acrylic paintings which seem to celebrate the roughness and texture of the canvas surface they’re painted on creating earthy, moody and contemplative scenes inspired by the local cliffs but could also connect to a broader reaching sense of our relationship to space, the ground and terra firma. Jacobs, another accomplished painter depicts coastal landscapes with vivid, expressive colours and energy, some of which have been created on an iPad in a sort of David Hockney style experimental playfulness. They are slightly detracted from, however, in my opinion by another of her works (coincidently my favourite overall in this exhibition) made entirely from used artist’s paint brushes. Titled ‘Fossil’ (pictured) as the name would suggest, the brushes are arranged together in rows taking the curved form of an ammonite fossil, or as I saw it mimicking stratum layers. It is possibly the most conceptual piece in the show, but is very cleverly affective and brilliantly observed at communicating the same subject matter in the paintings but in an altogether wittier way.
|Alison Jacobs 'Fossil'|
In true cabinet of curiosities style ‘Contains Art’ is full of many wonders and diehard fossil hunters fear not, for there are also a few actual fossils in this exhibition as well as alabaster and various stones! ‘Jurassic: Triassic: a Geological Journey’ is a vibrant exhibition that is only limited by its deserving to expand into a bigger container!
‘Jurassic: Triassic: a Geological Journey’ is on at Contains Art, Watchet until the 31st May! Get a move on!