Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Layering Landscape: artists' responses to the rural environment

Inside the Field Laboratory 2011
In 2011 Tempo Arts initiated and coordinated an artists' residency and workshop project at Romney Marsh Visitor Centre (RMVC). This was part of Folkestone Triennial Fringe and was supported by Shepway District Council. Tempo Arts invited two artists on the basis of the relevance of their practices to the site.
Nicholette Goff lives and works in Sandgate & Sharon Haward is a Hastings based artist. In liaison with Steve Humphreys, the Centre manager, both artists spent time at RMVC during the summer developing new work which had a resonance with the Marsh landscape and the work of the Centre.
Goff's 'Field Laboratory', housed in a tent, continued her research into endangered plant species, native to Romney Marsh. During the residency, she collected indigenous plants from the site which are recognised for their culinary or medicinal uses. Then using an old printing press, installed in the field laboratory, Goff made a series of prints from these plants which were then pasted to the outside of the tent. Some of this work has recently been included in a solo exhibition at space Gallery in Folkestone.
Sharon Haward created 'watchtower', a 4m high black structure which acted as a periscope to view the landscape and the natural Marsh habitat. On the exterior of the structure, Haward installed 2 convex mirrors that reflected the landscape and human interaction. The location and form of 'watchtower' makes it immediately visible to Centre visitors and by grabbing the attached handles, the periscope turns to allow an unusual view of the natural environment. 'watchtower' is now installed permanently at RMVC and in its elevated position is seen by passers-by.
On Sunday 18 September, both artists ran public workshops at RMVC. Goff focused on printmaking & creating a large scale sun print while Haward encouraged participants to create shelters from a range of found materials (wood & branches) and tarpaulins.

The SPACE community engagement projects, St Leonards-on-Sea

In September 2012, Tempo Arts Ltd received funding from The Seedcorn
Fund through Sussex Community Foundation to develop a series of community based projects in coordination with the artists' temporary projects and events at The SPACE in Kings Road, St Leonards. This series of projects is aimed at reaching a range of residents who do not
normally have access to participating in contemporary art & culture. The
programme will work with a range of community members including
children, young people & older residents.

Hastings based artist, Jaye Ho, created a new installation 'Memorial for an unseen presence' for The SPACE
(12 October-25 November 2012). The work referenced a pillbox bunker designed to 'protect' the adjacent Warrior Square station. Fabricated from old bed sheets impregnated with cement & sand this created a solid but make-shift structure & was anchored with sandbags made from pillow cases.

'Memorial for an unseen presence' led to Jaye Ho developing participatory
workshops for young people in two St Leonards' schools. On 24 October, the artist worked with 16 year 10 students at St Leonards Academy to create their own temporary shelters to protect against zombie attacks. Preceding the participatory workshops, Jaye Ho gave a slide presentation of her own work alongside images of other protective shelters used by the military to defend the coastal areas from invasion during WWII. The students worked outdoors in teams to build their structures from recycled materials & found objects.
On 23 November 2012, Jaye Ho led a workshop for 15 year 6 students at Christ Church Primary School in St Leonards. This activity was part of their study on war & as well as constructing their shelters, they were shown images of bunkers on both sides of the Channel.

The community engagement programme is led by Christine Gist, Director of Tempo Arts Ltd. She is also artist/curator of the artists' projects & events at The SPACE. 

In April 2013, Tempo Arts was awarded funding from Community First through the Community Development Fund. This has allowed for an extension of the community engagement programme working specifically with local residents and groups in Central St Leonards.
The first project has been realised with St Leonards artist Beccy McCray who has led community workshops at St Leonards Women's Institute and Healy House, a centre for the visually impaired. Both workshops focused on Beccy's research of the memories and traditions associated with cake. Participants discussed how cake made them feel & the range of emotions attached to cake - good, bad &/or ambivalent. They were also encouraged to share memories of the most excessive cake they could remember. With the visually impaired participants, the artist made drawings of cakes as described by them as they shared their thoughts with the group.
These experiences helped inform the artist's temporary installation of an enormous, garishly decorated five tiered 'cake' titled RESIST which has been installed in The SPACE, St Johns Road, St Leonards from 10 May until 8 June 2013. It has received many positive comments from local residents and passers-by who are pleased to see an artist's work enhancing their neighbourhood.