Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe
25 February – 7 April 2013
Reviewed by: Peter Berry
Currently showing at the Landmark Theatre is an exhibition by the photographic artist Dave Green who has been exploring, photographing and researching the history of the North Devon Coastal landscape where he has lived and worked for the past seven years.
Both the earlier, smaller and framed pieces (first shown at the North Carolina Aquarium USA last year) and the later, larger and frameless works show a consistent fascination with the subject matter of the rocky shoreline and its caves. The progression and refinement of the ongoing process in the direction of a ‘greater realism’ is impressive.
|Combe Martin Lead Mine|
Green works on location with a camera, often photographing a single place for as long as an hour and making a large number of images of his subject. In the studio the images are meticulously and patiently worked into a completed final image using Photoshop software. As the artist says “I am trying to make a record of a place over a passage of time in a single image”.
In discussing his work Green says that we see details with the eye and brain which the camera can’t see in a single frame or exposure and that means that the single frame cannot contain the richness and complexity of the original experience. This has to be created in the studio. Decisions about composition, colour, scale and the framing edge are continuously examined and adjusted as the image ‘comes into line’ with the artist’s memory of the experience.
The later series of prints are very finely drawn with the quality of etching. The frameless edges of these larger pieces allows the onlooker to experience a more direct involvement with the subject. This experience is both intimate and dramatic. It is as if we are inside, in the place of the artist, looking out towards the light, the sky and shoreline, surrounded by the detailed surface and texture of these mysterious and timeless caves.
In addition to the formal and aesthetic concerns of picture making,the artist aims to arrive at images which are a true record of the objective and subjective nature of our experiences of the coastal landscape and it’s associations. In this regard the artist references other disciplines such as geology, local history and environmental studies and in order to deepen our understanding includes maps and texts relating to the images.
Dave Green also offers group workshops and personal tuition. Further information about the artist and his work can be found at www.davegreenphoto.co.uk
Peter Berry Artist/Writer/Lecturer b. 1936 Cheltenham, Gloucestershire Art College: 1957 – 63 Cheltenham and Slade School – Sculpture/Printmaking. Teaching: ILEA, Cheltenham, Birmingham (Senior Lecturer in Foundation Studies). Qualifications: NDD, PGDip Fine Art, MA (Art Ed.), M. Soc. Sci. (Cultural Studies). Exhibitions: includes Solo and Group Shows in London (MBA Gallery), Birmingham (Ikon Gallery), Glasgow (Goethe Institute), Cambridge (Arts Council) and Leicester (LCBD). Lives and practices art in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Website: www.peterberry.org.uk
The Landmark Theatre Ilfracombe North Devon
The spring tides in February were spent exploring Samson?s Bay, just east of Hele Bay, North Devon. Philip Henry Gosse in A Naturalists Rambles on the Devonshire Coast 1853 described it like this, and I expect it hasn?t changed too much since then as it is rarely visited:
“A little way beyond this point the traveller looks down upon a cove called Sampson’s Bay; it is girt in with rocky cliffs of great massiveness and wild grandeur, too abrupt and perpendicular to be scaled, even by the most expert climber. An ample cavern yawns on the western side of the bay, into whose depths, as the tide was high, the surf was dashing, with a roar that rivalled the discharge of artillery. I thought of the fine simile of Thomas Moore:
‘Beneath, terrific caverns gave
Dark welcome to each stormy wave
That dash’d, like midnight revellers, in’
A new friend, Alan, showed me the old mining track down, very overgrown but not needing a rope to safely access the beach. 2013 is the 100th anniversary of a shipwreck in the bay of a British Sharpshooter-class torpedo gunboat launched in 1889/90 but no-one knows for sure which one it is, and whether it was actually wrecked or just left to die! There was also a passenger steamer that ran aground here:
“Much excitement was caused in Ilfracombe and neighbourhood on Thursday evening? when it became known that the saloon steamer Alexandra, with about 300 passengers on boards, was ashore near Watermouth castle, the exact spot being Sampson’s Beach.” (Ilfracombe Observer August 22 1893 p 7 c 2)
But I was really here to explore the caves, of which there are many, including the largest of these Samson?s Cave. This cave is legendary, it might have got it?s name from an infamous smuggler said to have used it as a store house. It is probably the cave used for hiding contraband in the allegedly true story ?The Call of Chambercome? written in the 1850?s and set in the seventeenth century. A lot will have changed over 400 years, especially as the cave was mined for limestone and possibly silver up to 150 years ago. But it is still a fascinating place, awesome, sublime and majestic.
You?ll have to wait another few months for some finished images from here but the thumbnail images, or sketches are looking very promising. The top image is a sketch from my second visit and gives an impression of what might be achievable once I have spent some days editing, combining, stitching and merging the 128 RAW frames shot of this subject; over a time period of 65 minutes in a cramped position. I accesses Samson?s Cave just as the huge tide had left it?s entrance, sliding down an almost sheer, smooth rock wall to get in. A cave always looks its best when it is wet, ideally with water dripping from the ceiling.
This image is the first, stitched snapshot image from further back in the cave which I made on my first outing. Although I included more of the cave interior in the image it reaaly lacked colour because the rock was so dry and the composition is a lot weaker that the image above, seen as I retraced my steps to leave the cave on my first visit. Below is an iPhone snapshot of the outside of Samson?s Cave which looks far from impressive or inviting.
“Another name which conjures up visions of smuggling days is Sampson’s Bay – one of the most convenient spots along the coast for men who gained their livelihood by luring vessels to destruction. Sampson was a smuggler of repute.” (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
I?m indebted to John Moore who?s website devoted to Hele Bay is a wealth of knowledge.
Also I include below a quick iPhone snapshot using the AutoStitch app
My new exhibition Sea Caves, Shipwrecks and the Rocky Shore is now up and open for viewing at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe, North Devon. I’m very please with it and it is receiving a lot of interest.
“….your exhibition looks fantastic! Absolutely love it! A massive well done to you. The work is excellent, the framing is great and you have presented it in a really wonderfully creative way…”
Sandy Campbell exhibitions organiser for North Devon Theatres Trust.
Opening times 10am – 3pm everyday. Exhibition closes on Sunday 7th April.
I’ve been working towards my exhibition, Sea Caves, Shipwrecks and the Rocky Shore, at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe from 25th February until 13th April. Ilfracombe is full of stories of smugglers, pirates and wreckers with place names like Brandy Cove and Samson?s Bay, named it is said after an infamous smuggler. Hidden beaches only accessible through tunnels, cut through the cliffs by Welsh miners in the Victorian era. One of these tunnels itself was a mighty cave which William De Tracey took refuge in 1170 after the murder of Thomas A Becket. October 9th 1796 is another key date in Ilfracombe?s maritime past, the day the London was wrecked at Rapparee Cove, adjacent to the harbour. Its cargo?was prisoners of war, from the West Indies,?passengers and a quantity of gold and silver and Ivory.
Right now is a great time to have an exhibition in the town because of its association with Damien Hirst. His artwork is made in a factory on the edge of Ilfracombe and a caf?, 11 the Quay, is decorated with his original artwork also a couple of months ago a huge statue of his, Verity, was installed on the harbour side. So Ilfracombe is becoming an Art Mecca? I hope so, and that my exhibition at the Theatre will add to its attraction.
Two of the pieces in this show are brand new and have never been seen. They are from the rocky shore below Hillsborough, where the London was wrecked. Many other images have never been seen before in North Devon. My next major exhibition in September is on the sandy coast of North Carolina, where this work will tour the Maritime Museums for a year.
Sea caves, shipwrecks and the rocky shore starting at Roses cafe, Crooklets beach, Bude. I’ve run this workshop at Sandymouth a couple of times in the past but have always started from the cafe there; this time as it’s winter I started in Bude. Roses cafe is an ideal starting place, opening at 10 AM and surving good coffee. Sue and Rob, taking part in the workshop, both had plenty of questions and open minds with very different needs. One had a DSL, the other a compact camera. Both had adventurous spirits and a love of the outdoors and of the coast.?
After what seems like a year of rain and a mild Christmas today was a gloriously bright sunny Sunday. We trecked north along the beach from Bude towards Northcott mouth. Studying the geology of the magnificent cliffs, with contorted rocks, with artists eyes. I introduced them to scenes with high contrast deep shadows and bright highlights. The human eyes and brain can see detail in all of these places but the camera has a limit to what it can record. I demonstrated this limit, but in a positive way, by allowing some shadow areas to go very dark or black lacking detail, but drawing attention to well lit areas within a composition. We continued to photograph what the sea had revealed on the beach as we walked north. Spending a little of our time photographing a small natural rock arch over rock pool. 1 mile north of Bude is what’s left of the Belem. This 2000 ton steamer was wrecked in dense fog in 1917. Various parts including the boiler and firebox are still visible.?
Meninchurch point lies just on the cliff side of this wreck and in this headland is a great cave which was our journey’s goal. We made our way through the great boulders at this cave’s entrance and scrambled up to the back rock wall.The cave looked splendid, full of wonderful forms including what are clearly the ripples of an old beach seen in the vertical rock face on one side of us. However, it did not look at its best as it was very dry inside, the tide having left three hours previously which made the interior quite dull, flat and grey. But it was a good place as a teaching exercise, shooting into the light and having to prevent flair from flattening the shadow areas of the interior. Our presence in the cave, attracted a family with young children and dog to come exploring too. I’d like to think our being there had encouraged a family to come exploring where without us they may not have had the confidence. The photograph on the left long and thin, was made using the iPhone is panoramic mode. The photograph at the top was made using the auto stitch app. After the photo shoot we went back to the cafe downloaded images and I demonstrated some enhancements in photo shop. These included processing a raw image using photoshops software, combining images together, cropping, and generally making the images look there best with very subtle alteration.
?Looking back over the day, it is often the unexpected things that participants gain the most from: Sue now has a ‘working’ tripod and Rob can confidently used his camera in the manual mode.
“Thanks for a really interesting and instructive day! Thank you again, the day has made me realise where my interest really lies and has prevented me spending money on things I can do without!” – Sue Lane