Land & Sea Exhibition Opening: An evening of art poetry and song

Chalk Up

Land & Sea Exhibition Royal Cinq Ports Yacht Club April 10th – April 12th 2015

Works from left as you enter the exhibition:

Engraving from a painting of Dover by William Turner

View of Dover by C.W.1879 (painting)

On the Goodwin Sands by T.U.Kingsbury

 Dover Harbour in 1856 by Henry Pether

 Boating to Windward by T.U.Kingsbury

 South Prospect of Dover in the County of Kent (Etching)

 Misty morning Dieppe by T.U.Kingsbury

 Dover Douvres by Spencer Smith ( Etching)

 View of Dover from the South Pier Head (Print)

Bernard Sealy the Yacht Club Commodore welcomed all and handed over to George Jenkins  the Dover Harbour Board Chairman who in turn handed over to Pam Brivio Mayor of Dover to speak. Lisa Monk-Jones, Finance, Reporting and Partnership Office – Up on the Downs Partnership Scheme spoke about the scheme that has enabled large and small projects around the chalk downs landscape to happen including this one.

There was poetry from Jo Field and Tricia Peak as well as music and song.

Joanna introduced DAD, thanked  Helen Hoffmann and Bernard Sealey for inviting DAD to work with the Royal Cinq Ports Yacht Club on the Land and Sea project. The project  is opening up  paintings from the DHB collection and the Yacht Club to a wider public. She said: “it added to the cultural offer in Dover and Dover’s cultural tourism potential that DAD is presently addressing in the Dover pilot for Culture Kent, part of the national Cultural Destinations project. Clare and I have had the enviable task of selecting the paintings you see here from the Dover Harbour Board Collection and with the hanging of the exhibition.”

Joanna then  introduced Helen Lindon, who DAD had invited to talk about the paintings in the exhibition, with a quote from Helen herself :

“As I make my work I see, hear and feel the sea churning and pounding…relentlessly rising and falling through all seasons and all weathers. I love it and fear it and wonder at it – in awe of its immense power and beauty. The sea defences here are constantly under stress from the crashing waves and in the not too distant future, the relationship between land and sea will change dramatically – the ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and wild, extreme weather conditions are becoming familiar.”

Helen Lindon: “Looking out of my studio on a cliff top, contemplating the sea forces me to think about these hugely important issues. Working on large paintings using tiny marks takes a very long time and becomes a contemplation. The universe becomes all enveloping – the trivia of everyday life drops away and our part in infinity seems both awe inspiring and of no consequence. The universe goes on…

 We all respond to this in our own ways – and what I have always loved particularly about seascapes is the space they offer us to dream our own dreams and place ourselves within their space. So let us explore two of these atmospheric – and what we might feel to be ‘timeless’ paintings from the mid 19th century. Let us find out what they might reveal to us…from a time when Dover harbour did not have the use of electric light for 24 hour schedules, motor vehicles and engines…but wind power, sun and moonlight?

 Well, not exactly. Steam ships were quite common by then – Turner’s famous painting, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, which people believe to be painted as a memorial to the end of sailing warships – this particular one, having been pivotal in The Battle of Trafalgar’, was painted in 1839.

 ‘Dover Harbour’ by Henry Pether was painted 17 years later – in 1856: Let’s take a look at it…

Helen leads the gathering to the Painting

This is painted in oils on canvas, most probably in the studio after making sketches and watercolours on site. Beautifully placed on this wall (agonised over I know!!) – away from direct sunlight but in natural light, the painting is allowed to create its own atmosphere and light. The only light source is the painting itself and this emanates from the moon which sits at eye level in the composition – which reinforces the stillness – the static nature of this work. Our eye travels from the light of the moon to the edges of the painting where it gets darker…and if we stand back, the picture frame disappears and the painting ‘captures’ the whole wall. Our peripheral vision extends the painting as our eye is drawn in to the painting – everything around it diminishes in importance. The reflection of the moon in the water – the ‘moon-glade’ draws us in to the harbour.

 It seems a quiet painting – the sea barely ripples, men with a cart and horse and a few bystanders make the only other implied movement in the work. The sails are stowed. The skeletons of the small boats in the foreground and the larger ships further away are starkly outlined in the moonlight. The business of the day is over, the boats and ships are safely moored.

 Peaceful, quiet – but maybe ominous…

Is this a painting about self-reflection or perhaps a dream of an idyllic past…what was in the Pether’s mind when he painted it? On what journey can our own imaginations take us?

All of us here this evening have a relationship with the sea…we work, live by or measure ourselves against it by sailing in it. We know it is not always peaceful – it is restless, unknowable, unpredictable and dangerous as well as peaceful. It is another world and one that we often connect with our own fears and feelings. It is always with us but we are not really of it. It is not our habitat…

She moves to another work in another ajoining space

‘Misty Morning in Dieppe’ by T U Kingsbury creates for us another narrative scene. Painted again in oils in a studio the painter has created with delicate brushstrokes, a symphony of pink and blue as the backdrop for fishing boats sailing out in a shimmering sea and sky. The town’s outline is softened by a veil of mist. In the foreground on a little beach, figures busy themselves on the water’s edge.

 I can feel that beautiful early morning fresh breeze shiver around me before the sun gets up and burns off that mist. Fishermen are rowing out to their boats maybe full of energy and optimism or maybe hung over – who knows! But knowing that their strength, intelligence, their knowledge, their lives and their good fortune will be pitted against the forces of nature.

 That is what I feel as I imagine myself in this scene – but how near the truth is it? I suspect it is a very romantic notion…life was and is hard as a seafarer. I was brought up by the sea and it has claimed friends.

But in my personal view, these paintings are not of real life in all its messiness and pain – they spring from the imaginations of talented artists as a vision – and we are privileged to see them, inhabit them and allow our own imaginations to run free in them.

 My sincere hope is that in a hundred and fifty or so years time, even though everything will be different…that future generations will be able to look at the images artists make today depicting our time – as the time when we returned to using the sun, the sea and the wind to power our greedy world – that OUR TIME was the start of a new, sustainable industrial revolution.

Responding to this, Barry O’Brien of Dover Tales wrote:

“Peaceful, quiet – but maybe ominous…” painted 1856, possibly showing the stillness of a Summers evening? In August 1856 Dedea Redanies spent the night roaming Dover, possibly down by the harbour, waiting for his 3am appointment with Caroline and Maria Back who by 8am next morning would be found dead high on the cliffs at Capel le Ferne.

Photo:  Robby Whitfield