21 July 2009

Guest blogger: Salthouse 09 by Daniel Bell

The annual exhibition of contemporary art at Salthouse Church in North Norfolk, this year carries the theme of ‘Salt of the Earth’. Curated by Simon Martin the show features the work of 50 artists with a Norfolk connection, encompassing painting, printmaking, ceramics, film and installation.

The exhibition touches on the biblical metaphor of ‘salt of the earth’ with drawings and sound recordings for example that tell the stories of archetypal honest country folk. Predominantly though, the theme is explored in more literal terms, with work that looks at the local landscape, the marshes and the sea, often using salt as a material (crystallized, carved, ground or polished). Interestingly, many of the pieces use the earth as a starting point to venture into more celestial imagery and ideas. Ian Starsmore’s installation (A Step at a Time) for instance is a peculiar assortment of carved ladders, poetry and etchings – all on a very small scale, but spiraling upwards past floor, windows and walls. Jane Wheeler’s hand-built vessels are similarly ethereal, using earthy materials to create curious-looking implements that relate to such ‘rituals’ as Fermentation, Preservation and Fertilization.

Even Brian Whelan’s religious paintings (You are the Salt of the Earth – The Light of the World) look exotic and almost otherworldly with their dazzling colours and intricate configuration. There is further humour in Colin Self’s playful collage The Fishy Tale of the Battered Wife, complimented by more solemn elements such as his delicately detailed etchings of dead birds. Wildlife, earth, ocean and weather feature strongly in Salthouse 09, and they are all distilled most succinctly in Jo Hincks’ linocuts that hang in a column reaching high into the church. Like a lot of the work in the show they use stark symbolism and a high level of craft to explore very down-to-earth struggles.

For me, it has been a chance to exhibit somewhere far away from a typical gallery or cinema, and with my video installation in the church pulpit I have experimented with my take on a uniquely changeable rural landscape.

Salthouse 09

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