Romney Marsh churches to host bold new art
Art in Romney Marsh is a festival of modern art that has taken place every year since 2003. Exciting new creative work in a variety of media, presented in the eerie yet beautiful setting of some of the tiny churches dotted around on Romney Marsh in Kent. Toby Sargent is looking forward to experiencing it for the first time this month.
I’ve been coming to Romney Marsh for more than 50 years, enchanted by its timeless landscape of rich pastures, slow flowing streams, the wild expanse of shingle at Dungeness and the vastness of the sky above it all. No surprise that the artist and film maker Derek Jarman made his home there, and utterly fitting that it should provide a venue for an annual festival of challenging modern art.
What’s less expected is the selection of buildings in which this Arts Council funded event is to be staged. That’s because it’s taking place in five of the 14 medieval churches that are to be found scattered across the 100 square miles of the marsh.
The churches at Fairfield, Old Romney, Ivychurch, Newchurch and St. Mary in the Marsh will be showing work by 13 artists, with two or three on show in each church. Kathrin Böhm, Nichola Bruce, James Capper, Geoff Coupland, Sarah Davis, Sue Giovanni, Jacky Oliver, Kelvin Pawsey, Matt Rowe, Sam Sharples, Nikki Tompsett, Clare Whistler and Thurle Wright are the artists involved, with work ranging from drawing and film to sculpture and more conceptual installation pieces.
The artists were selected on the basis of their creative response to what the PR for the festival describe as ‘current debates raised by land use, foraging and food production specific to Romney Marsh, either present day or historic’
So the heritage of this area becomes a solid theme, with a focus on farming old and new, the imperative to ’embrace and protect nature for future generations’ and what sounds like an especially interesting work – a film by Kathrin Böhm – looking at the history of hop picking, and the way in which pickers coming down from industrial London related to the Kent farming community.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the sculptures of James Capper, an artist who draws on his own experience living and working on farms in east Kent, creating new objects, like pumps and ploughs, that are suggestive of familiar farming implements.
The combination of exciting and innovative new art in this most remarkable of heritage settings sounds promising indeed.
Art in Romney Marsh 2016 will be open in the five churches listed above on Saturday and Sunday, 13.00-17.00, on 17,18,24 and 25 September and 1, 2, 8 and 9 October 2016. Please check their website for further details of additional events and workshops.
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