September 18th – November 3rd 2019
HinterWater brings together poet Nick Allen from West Yorkshire investigating the concept of ‘confluence’, Myles Linley from York who creates visceral charcoal drawings and paintings in the tradition of the 19th century technique perfected by Seurat and Redon except with current content; Adele Howitt, Ceramic & Public Realm Artist who investigates the concept of living landscape, post – industrial sites, hedgerows, identity; Wai Wan, sound artist, researcher and music producer who investigates conceits of nostalgia, geography and identity, environment and landscape.
The man-made confluence of the Aire & Calder Navigation linking the Don Navigation and the Ouse and Humber in Yorkshire, was the inspiration to begin our collaboration. At the height of the south Yorkshire pottery industry from the 1700s – 1890s these manmade waterways brought the world famous Rockingham, Kilnhurst, and Mexborough Potteries, etc., to transport precious cargo along these waterways. Utilising an important route by barge and ‘Tom Puddings’ to export the goods to the world from the ports of Goole and Hull, the divergent rivers are still difficult to navigate, and experienced sailors know their dangers.
Four creators of diverse means meet on a deindustrialised flatland, where wild flowering shrubbery is reclaiming a landscape that was once bent to serve. Through pottery, poetry, charcoal and sound they have produced a record that deals in the microscopic and the monumental, from the texture of pollen to the silhouettes of dead machinery and the span of endless Yorkshire horizons. Each medium has its own associated constraints, and by working in conversation with each other Nick Allen, Adele Howitt, Miles Linley and Wai Wan have probed and mapped them. Correspondingly, the sites chosen as the focus of this work had to be physically accessible by each of the artists, who are each based in different parts of the County. This project speaks to the manipulation of the landscape by industry and commerce, just as materials, marks and the very vibrations of the air are manipulated by human creativity, but also how the landscape will always reimpose itself, and you can’t make charcoal behave like poetry, although the two can complement each other.
Adele Howitt is interested in collaboration for the organic tendrils into the present that it lends to pottery, an art form that is as old as human history and has been used by archaeologists to define entire civilisations. Poetry, on the other hand, exists in the reading and the speaking, and Nick Allen is decidedly individual, but through a psychogeographical partnership with Myles Linley has developed poetry with a painterly eye. Art in sound, even more than poetry, exists purely in time which Hull’s recent cultural history testifies to, and Wai Wan’s contribution has utilised field recording to capture the tremors and breath of the landscape. Charcoal drawing, though immediate and highly skilled in its delivery, depends on an age old skill to produce those mark-making sticks of pitch, and Myles Linley’s practice pays homage to the medium’s esteemed history with a twist. Linley describes how working quickly with charcoal became a necessity around childcare, wherein the slow, sticky business of oil painting won’t fit.
Such glimpses into the material conditions that fed and carved each artist’s practice are relevant to a project that reflects on the aftermath of industrial conditions, and encourages us to consider the ways in which creativity and artistry intersect with brute force and capital. At this point in time, and particularly in this part of the world, we are continually confronted with the ruins of our recent ancestors’ pride, and hubris. The emotional resonance of the post-industrial landscape at this juncture of nearing climate apocalypse can hardly be overstated. To document and respond to the reclamation of this ‘hinterwater’, where the rivers Aire, Calder, Ouse and Humber are joined together, partly by nature and partly by human manipulation, is an act of humility as well as of creativity. Allen, Howitt, Linley and Wan invite us to renounce our dominion over the landscape, and their loose collaboration speaks to the inherently communal nature of creativity, where a strict form of shared authorship or division of credit isn’t necessary because the value of each voice is understood.
The performance combines the live sound–scape created from field recordings by Wai Wan and channelled through modular synthesis, with poetry readings from Nick Allen within the installation.