Posts Tagged ‘rivers’

River songs in winter

December 1, 2011

I love the image of John Clare’s wassail singer telling her winter tale; she’s one of  many women whose songs, poems and stories I’m celebrating this season in my new exhibition, River songs in winter, at Woolfson & Tay in Bermondsey Square, near Tower Bridge. In this gallery within a bookshop beside the river, surrounded by books and words and volumes and images, I’ve brought together a collection of river songs from the water’s edge, a winter’s tale of the riverbank.


The Thames is my Ur-river.  Most of my life I’ve lived beside it: as a child in the 60’s playing on the toxic concrete shores at Long Reach, and in my teens totally immersed in the green leafy stretches further upriver. My partner the writer Frances Bingham is a lifelong Londoner, and after university we came straight back to London to start our life and work together, setting up our first studio here in 1986.

Later, when we came home again to London after living for a while by the sea, Frances and I stood together on the winter embankment watching a great ship slowly setting off downriver, and felt the tidal force of the river running through our life as it runs through our city.  For many years now the most homelike stretch of the Thames for us has been the reach from Waterloo Bridge down to Greenwich, and the river still retains its tidal tug; we hear the river’s voice; we read the river’s words.

Rather as a composer sets poetry to music, I work with fragments of poetry or a flow of words that to me express the essential form and volume of the individual work I’m making, whether it’s a vessel or an artist’s book or a driftwood sculpture. This exhibition includes all three, juxtaposed so that the relationship between the forms is evident:

My work is about containment and connection: the natural materials formed and shaped by water and the cosmic transformation of the fire re-enact the elemental processes of nature that form the earth and our own bodies.

Working with text is a way to examine how the light shows through, how the materials and process are given life and meaning by thought and words.  Our artists’ film Riversoup continues this balancing act of text and form with a sequence of still images about constant movement reflecting a poetic text that follows the journey of the tidal Thames from the Pool of London to the sea, and back again.

I always enjoy site-specific exhibitions, where the work relates closely to the showing environment, and the gallery at Woolfson & Tay is a beautiful bookish space, with incidentally a lovely cafe, so that you can sit to contemplate the work in warmth and comfort.

River songs in winter is on from 29th November, throughout December until 8th January 2012, open daily except over Christmas. Please see W&T’s website for opening times and details. It’s a selling show, so you can buy off-the-wall to take away immediately, and as each artwork is a signed original one-off, the show will be changing throughout the month as sold work is replaced.

One fresh spring abiding

October 1, 2010

Though it’s suddenly October, I’m still on the riverbank,

by the waters, all the summer long

(Wordsworth, from the Prelude)

enjoying the watery green shade. Moss is another little elephant, made from an A3 sheet of handmade paper, painted, lettered, torn and folded:

Before it was torn and folded, the sheet looked like this:

The brushwork, the colours and the setting of the lettering combine to give a strong feeling of the beautiful text by Coleridge, as you turn the book in your hand, following the flow of the words in the spiral of the design, to the source.

There are now more than 20 elephants in the herd – and more come along all the time, so it’s been a good summer for them since I made the first ones in early Spring (see Shelley’s Cloud and the Bookworks page). Later in October I’ll be showing you the largest (so far) – a double elephant called Love flows. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished two new Riverlight paintings:

There is ever one fresh spring abiding

(Thomas Campian)

Now the salt tides seaward flow

(Matthew Arnold)

All these works are signed one-offs, for sale. The little elephant books like Moss are £150, and these two watercolours (42cm x 30cm) are £80 each unframed or £120 framed in beech. If you’d like to know more, please leave me a note in the comments box below, or click on contact details for other ways to get in touch.

River names

July 23, 2010

Since we’re still enjoying the effects of The lovely blue, I thought a cool dip into the river would be appropriate. River names is another double-sided elephant book, the text from Geoffrey Grigson’s wonderful Shell Country Alphabet, just reissued in a retro-ish cover – but we’ve got a battered original. The text is set to reflect both the meandering flow of the rivers and the spiralling-cyclic form of the book, torn and folded from one sheet of handmade paper – and it begins on the cover: 

River names… include some of the more ancient names on the map…

The text continues on the other side:

Obvious rivery qualities have given rivers their names…

I so much enjoy the inconsequential, restrained poetry of this text. The sheet of paper, torn and folded, looks like this:

There are lots more One Elephant books in Bookworks, and in previous Work in focus posts (Shelley’s Cloud,  Bank Holiday weekend clouds) – and there will be more to come soon. For information on any work, leave me a note in the comment box below, or click on contact details.