An interview with the Gabies

Artists Neville and Joan Gabie standing in the Orangery looking out across the estate

Now that 'The Edge of Things' is in full swing, we caught up with artists Neville Gabie and Joan Gabie to find out more about the inspiration behind their work...


What has been your favourite part of the whole creative process?

Joan - If I am honest it’s the time in the studio spent making ink drawings from Gesner’s wood-cut illustrations! Thinking about my own interpretation of them. Offering them to the volunteer group of stitchers to select one to bring to life in stitch. in a very different format so it’s the interpretative live element between people that most excited me.

Neville – Reading books and looking at books has always been a very important part of my creative process.  So the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time looking through the numerous books at Blickling, was wonderful. I was really excited about the journeys, both literally and intellectually, that the books would take us on. What ideas they might these books inspire and who we might connect with through their pages. 

Do you have a favourite installation?

Joan - The Eliot Bible continues to fascinate us. Thinking how it was written with a particular purpose and now is fulfilling a completely different one in re creating a living language.

Neville – The most exciting pieces of work are those, which you feel you could continue to develop long after the project has come to an end. Although the work is now installed, we are both still finding out more about the Eliot Bible and that is a subject, which continues to fascinate. It is such an integral part of the earliest settler history in the USA and it directly relates back to religious and political upheavals in England at the time, which continue to reverberate. Equally, I have already discussed the idea of continuing to work with David and Andrew of the North Norfolk Astronomy Society filming the moon and I very much hope to develop the work with Daniela at Bristol University. Proposing filming a grain of sand with a diameter of a fraction of a millimetre and learning about her work in relation to climate change, spawned ideas which will continue to influence my practice. So all these projects are still very much alive for me. 

What was your biggest challenge to overcome?

Making something meaningful for a contemporary audience to relate to and enjoy using books that are more than 500 years old.

What are you most proud of?

Neville – I loved the whole process of working with the team at Blickling, but it is too early to say what I am most proud of. I will be very pleased if the visiting public enjoy the work and think differently about the books in the library.

Joan - I am most proud of the group cooperation during the making of the concertina tapestry. They didn’t need to take part as it was unpaid work but they did so with such enthusiasm and delight and were so resourceful with it!

What would you like visitors to go away thinking about?

Neville – the value and enjoyment of both visual arts and books. Old books still have so much to tell and to share and excite – and making art has been my life. So if visitors to Blickling leave with a little of the excitement, we had and if they go away seeing things in a slightly different light, then I would be very happy.

Joan - Yes breaking down barriers between audience and artwork is always a challenge I would like them to think the films and installations enhanced their visit to Blickling hall.

What’s next?

Neville – there is always something next – but I don’t feel I have quite finished with Blickling yet. We are still finding out so much more about the Eliot Bible for example and we are yet to have Daniela Schmidt doing a talk at Blicking as well as three astronomy evenings, so there is still much to do. 

Joan - In many ways the commission is still underway with much work to be completed in presenting the tapestry. I can't wait to see it all coming together!

Find out more about the Gabies' inspiration...