Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Power of the Sea, at the Royal West of England Academy




Maggie Hambling, Wave Tunnel, 2010, bronze

Last night I was lucky enough to go to a preview of new exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy-The Power of the Sea. I've always loved the sea, and felt very drawn to water, so I was very excited about this exhibition. It didn't disappoint.





 Maggie Hambling, Wave Tunnel, 2010, bronze

One of the first pieces I came across on entering the gallery was Maggie Hambling's Wave Tunnel, a bronze sculpture which really captures the movement and shape of waves. It was strange to see something ephemeral and foamy in such a solid material, but at the same time the solid bronze conveyed the strength and power of the waves. The oxidised colour of the metal evoked the beautiful blue-green of sea water, and the piece had a wonderful texture which really gave a sense of rushing and swirling water. A brilliant introduction to the exhibition.




 Succession, Jethro Brice, 2010, found mixed media

Another piece which grabbed my attention was Succession, by Jethro Brice. It is a model of what the artist imagines could happen if sea levels rose due to climate change, and settlements had to be built amongst the water. I found it very interesting, and I'm always intrigued by anything with a miniature scale. 



Succession, Jethro Brice, 2010, found mixed media

I liked the inclusion of practical details such as each home having a boat, and rooftop gardens to protect plants from the waters. As well as being a very beautiful piece, it's a fascinating glimpse into a possible future.



Succession, Jethro Brice, 2010, found mixed media

Waves Breaking on Shore, by Sidney Mortimer Lawrence, caught my eye thanks to its incredible treatment of evening light on waves. The golden green sky and the rich gold and lilac hues on the waves capture a coastal sunset perfectly. I was happy to discover that this painting probably shows Porthmeor Beach, where I spent many childhood holidays. It is lovely to think I may have played among the same rocks depicted in the painting!




Waves Breaking on Shore, Sunset, Sydney Mortimer Lawrence, 1894, oil on canvas, 137.2x274.5cm, Southampton City Art Gallery

Currents, by Annie Cattrell, is a simple but brilliant piece of sculpture. Clear plastic panels give the effect of rippling water spreading out before you. The piece is perfectly shown in the light filled main gallery, as the light bouncing off the plastic really emphasises the impression of shimming ripples.



Currents, Annie Cattrell

This Sax Impey painting was my favourite in the exhibition, but I completely forgot to write the name of it down. I love the treatment of the sea foam-it looks like it could come flying off the canvas and hit you, as the forceful waves crash down. The shades used in the painting are very dark, giving the waves a mysterious and dangerous atmosphere. I felt it summed up mankind's relationship with the sea very well-fascinated by its beauty, but fearful of its unknown might.



Sax Impey, Celtic Night Sea

Wave Machine, another Annie Cattrell piece, is shown in one of the smaller side galleries, along with And All The Seas Were Ink by Rona Lee.




Foreground: Annie Cattrell, Wave Machine, 2012, water, motor and glass Background: Rona Lee, And All The Seas Were Ink, 2012, chromed polyamide laser build globe

This makes for an interesting view and juxtaposition, and I enjoyed getting a photo with both pieces and the wall of maritime related quotes behind. I found Wave Machine soothing, with its gentle motion. And All The Seas Were Ink, on the other hand, is quite unsettling. It has a jagged, textured surface, and takes the form of a "reverse" relief globe-the sea-bed is elevated and the land reverted. It shows just how deep and unknown the seas actually are, and how insignificant the land looks in comparison. 

Another piece which I couldn't photograph, but which I found very moving, was the video installation Overflow, by Joanna Millett. It is in the downstairs gallery of the RWA, so if you visit make sure you don't miss it.

I really enjoyed The Power of the Sea, it was not only a very beautiful exhibition but a very thought provoking one. I liked the inclusion of artists across a large time period, showing the enduring relationship with the sea, and the recurring themes of enjoyment and beauty, but also destruction and mystery. I also liked the inclusion of some maritime objects, such as a sextant, and articles on the launch of the SS Great Britain. I really can't recommend this exhibition enough, it has perfectly captured the mysterious, alluring nature of the sea. Whether you are an art lover, a sea lover, or both, this exhibition will captivate the senses.

The Power of the Sea is at the Royal West Of England Academy now, and runs until Sunday 6th July 2014. There is also a fully illustrated book to accompany the exhibition. For more information, please visit their website.

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