Seascapes: One and All exhibition artists share their inspiration

Tania Kovats and helpers bell casting on the beach at Porthcurno

Three artists discuss the original inspiration for their online artworks in One and All, our latest Trust New Art commission. The artworks are inspired by the coast and are also exhibited at Somerset House. Extract from our autumn members' magazine.

Our recent Trust New Art commission celebrates the 50th anniversary of our campaign to safeguard the British coastline with an ambitious 'immersive virtual experience’ interpreted by three very different artists.

Each of the three artists tackles the subject of our national coast in a different way and for different reasons, using visual art, sound art and poetry respectively.

Alongside the One and All online artworks, there is an exhibition at Somerset House, a former Admiralty building on the tidal Thames overlooking the river. Each artist will have a room at the exhibition. The artworks and exhibition are supported by Arts Council England.

Tania Kovats: Tide

Tania is a visual artist who has created a substantial body of work focusing on the sea, its place in human consciousness and our island identity.

'I grew up in Brighton, so I have a fondness for pebbly beaches. There’s something I find very evocative about the knocking sound of a pebble when it’s dropped. There are so many beautiful beaches in Great Britain – Chesil Beach in Dorset is one of my favourites. The South West Coast Path is beautiful too; the way it connects all those beaches.

'Tide is a digital animated interactive drawing that represents the tidal movement around the whole of the UK and follows the tide in real time. The viewer can zoom in and see what the tide is doing in different locations, or accelerate the movement, or skip forward to see when high tide will be on another day.

'I think art should get people to slow down, to pause and reflect. That’s what I’d like Tide to do. When people look at the sea, they slow down and connect to the sea’s rhythm. I want to represent the depth and meditative quality that the sea has.

'As part of Tide, I have created a tidal bell, which I cast on the coast in Cornwall.

'I’m testing two different methods of drawing at the moment – one that works with saturation and evaporation of ink and salt-crust and another that’s more flowing, representing the movement through mark-making. I’ll go with whichever one works best online.

'Part of my inspiration came from William Whewell, a 19th-century scientist, philosopher and theologian.'

Martyn Ware: What Does the Sea Say?

Founder of 70s new wave bands The Human League and Heaven 17, Martyn now creates soundscapes for museums, charities and live events.

'My piece is a collaborative soundscape accompanied by a video. A brightly coloured beach hut will be travelling to three post-industrial locations from July – Orford Ness in Suffolk, Ynys Barri in Pembrokeshire and the Black Beaches, County Durham.

'Visitors will be able to go into the hut and listen to recordings from the British Library Sound Archive, of a range of people talking about their coastal memories. They’ll also be able to record their own memories of the coast. I’ll use these recordings to create a vocal composition – a soundscape, called What Does the Sea Say? It will be impressionistic and allow people to meditate on the importance of the sea in their lives. I also want visitors to write their memories on the walls of the beach hut, which itself will be part of the exhibition at Somerset House.

'I don’t think we fully appreciate the National Trust. Other countries don’t have anything like it in regards to countryside and heritage. I’ve been a member on and off over the years but it was only recently that I realised how much of our coast it cares for.'

Owen Sheers: On the Sea's Land

Owen is a Welsh poet, author and scriptwriter. He also presents arts and literature programmes for TV and radio.

'I loved the idea of three different artists interpreting their experience of the British coastline. My poem is a filmic ‘journey’ in which the reader can follow images or lines into other offshoots of information or story.

'Before I write my poem, I’ll be spending two weeks on the Gower coast in August. I’ll speak with people who have knowledge of that area, or who have lived and worked there for many years. Among others, I’ll be speaking to a Swansea University academic about the Gower dialect and a geologist. Then I’ll absorb the environment, its intimations, its sense and sound, and really listen to how and why it works its magic in the way it does. At some point this will form in language, and the poem will begin with those early notes and questions.'

Magazine Spring 2021 cover spread

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