Artists Invited To Take Inspiration From Orford Ness

Artists will get the opportunity to capture a unique corner of Suffolk, as the National Trust Orford Ness announces a collaboration with leading artists to run a series of workshops based at the National Nature Reserve in Suffolk.

Artists have long been inspired by the unique landscape of Orford Ness, with its internationally important vegetated shingle, rare wildlife and a rich history of top-secret military testing providing an evocative setting. Now artists are being invited to let that landscape inspire their work, in a series of events open to artists of all levels of experience.

The programme has been curated by the team at Orford Ness in partnership with three acclaimed locally-based artists and experienced tutors, Susan Barnet, Jane Watt and Caroline Wright. They will be joined by other leading artists to deliver a rich programme of events throughout 2022.

Susan Barnet is course leader for Fine Art at the University of Suffolk and an internationally exhibiting artist from Los Angeles now based in the UK.  She has developed research groups such as radical reThink at University of the Arts, London and worked on projects with the Mass Observation Archive. 

Jane Watt is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Suffolk and has been commissioned to develop site-specific installations and commissions in rural and urban environments over the last twenty years. Her collaborative films with New York-based artist Felicity Faulkner of two east coast lighthouses on Orford Ness, and Montauk Point, Long Island, USA were shown in Venice in 2019. She and Susan have recently made a short film Longshore Driftabout the shifting landscape on the Ness commissioned by British Art Network, supported by Pau Mellon Centre for British Studies, Tate and Arts Council England.

Caroline Wright is course leader for Fine Art at the Open College of the Arts and a visual and performance artist based in Suffolk. Caroline led the successful Re-Frame: A Nomadic Response to W.G. Sebald tour at Orford Ness in 2019.

The artists have responded to the National Trust’s theme for 2022 of Creativity and Innovation, creating a portfolio of events that invites artists to explore the varied landscape of Orford Ness in new ways.

Highlights of the season include the opportunity to turn off all digital devices in two workshops and experience the relaxation that creating art provides, a rare opportunity to spend the night on Orford Ness and capture sunrise over Suffolk’s secret coast on paper, as well as the opportunity to learn how to turn drawings into prints.

In other workshops artists will be encouraged to think about the textures found on Orford Ness, turning those textures into a collective collage, and to take a walk with renowned painter Simon Carter as he shares his practice of walking and drawing as a daily activity. 

The events give participants the opportunity to experience Orford Ness in a new way, incorporating access to areas normally ‘off-limits’ to the general public. As well as tuition, participants will be able to learn about the rich history that makes this site so special.

For artist Caroline Wright, the landscape of Orford Ness is one that has influenced her own work. “The unique terrain of Orford Ness, situated twixt the village of Orford and the sea and with its striking and evocative wartime architecture, suggests many narratives and visual imagery at every turn.” she said. “It is a place I have been visiting for many years and one has influenced my art practice and current research into the eroding coast of Suffolk. I am looking forward very much to exploring the Ness with the public during the 2022 programme of workshops and capturing this fascinating site through a series of creative responses.

Orford Ness is also a landscape that inspires fellow workshop leader Susan Barnet. “Orford Ness is the perfect location to capture the ever-changing elements of the famous Suffolk sky,” she explains. “For me the expanse of sky over the Ness, and the way the weather crosses over it, is what gets me every time I visit.”

Suffolk’s constantly shifting shores provides the inspiration for Jane Watt, “The changing coastal landscape and architecture of the Ness provokes inspiration and awe. I have witnessed it change over the last 10 years as I’ve documented the shift of shoreline and landmarks with students and artist collaborators,” she explains. “I’m looking forward to seeing how workshop participants record their own experience of the Ness through traditional and experimental drawing and painting.”

Glen Pearce, Property Operation Manager for Orford Ness, feels the new events are a welcome addition to the site’s programme. “We know that many artists find inspiration from the mix of landscape and human history here,” he says. “This programme of art workshops will encourage artists of all levels of experience to be inspired by the Ness and we can’t wait to see what work they produce.”

Tickets for all events are strictly limited and full details of dates and prices can be found on the Orford Ness website

Orford Ness is currently closed for the winter but reopens for the season on Good Friday (15 April 2022).

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