‘Refuge’ took place in the Barn Gallery, Weston, in early October and was a group exhibition incorporating film, sculpture, poetry, installation and photography. It took root when Art Collector Ronnie Duncan asked Clare Dearnaley to do some filming of his Stone Garden. The film ‘Refuge’ came about, finding its inspiration from quietly ageing stones as they are reclaimed and given new life and purpose. Following this came the idea for an exhibition which would take the themes of displacement and repurpose as the starting points for other work.
We had around 500 visitors to the Barn Gallery over the long weekend and visitors were also invited to explore the Stone Garden.
Our own work for the show explored the human instinct to search for stones and shells on seashores. This related to one of Ronnie’s favourite quotes from the Scottish poet W.S.Graham: “It is only when the tenant is gone, the shell speaks of the sea”. Our works and poem addressed the feeling of unease that comes with taking something out of its natural context and placing it elsewhere. This linked to the sense that it is sometimes only when something is displaced that it’s value is put into relief and articulated. The stones we used in the exhibition were brought back from the beaches we spent time on in Orkney in the summer, a place where Ronnie had encouraged us to visit. We also drew parallels between our working processes of sanding, smoothing and honing of wooden objects with the natural processes of the sea as it acts on the stones and shells on the beach.
The titles for our mobiles came from the poem Gathering Stones which was written for the exhibition:
A slow moving huddle of hunched wet backs we were,
With arms outstretched and faces down from the rain.
Unrelentingly focussed, with the rest of the world a blur,
We sifted and searched for shapes, as again and again
The waves and the wind threw shells and stones and sand
In a never-ending gesture of even but imperceptible rounding.
Back home we arrange them after holding them in our hands,
Watch light on the stones, their pools of shadows resounding.
But gradually there grows a gentle sense of unease:
These objects taken away from their course of continuous smoothing
Are still and inert. Nevertheless, they unceasingly please,
And their temporary refuge from life’s natural erosion is soothing.
Our instinct to arrest a moment by gathering stones
Arises from their precious reminder that all things are honed.
The exhibition also included Mark Carey’s photographs from Yemen, Gary Winters’ neon works and Kathryn Fox’s conceptual work and book ‘Out of Place’. Images of the exhibition are below:
Studio shots of the mobiles in the exhibition can be seen below: