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One And All: The Coastal Tale
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One And All: The Coastal Tale

Picture of Danielle Wood
Updated: 12 December 2015
One and All at Somerset House — open until December 13th — is a voyage through sight, sound and sea by three leading artists: Tania Kovats, Owen Sheers and Martyn Ware, with film by Benjamin Wigley. The tale of our powerful British coastline is worked across mediums of art, language and 3D sound. We spoke with Tom Freshwater, contemporary arts programme manager at the National Trust, about the beautiful connection to our coast.

It is perfect to select artists to support and preserve the very coastline they depict throughout their work; who came up with the concept?

The concept of a digital coastal artwork emerged from conversations between myself and filmmaker Benjamin Wigley. Benjamin had documented an earlier projected artwork about the coast called Overlay by Mat Chivers. It quickly developed further with Sound UK, and The Swarm became involved — and further still following the selection of the artists.

Project Neptune has been a great success; do you think that it will encourage a greater love of our coastline by overturning some of its old cliched imagery?

We wanted to offer a deeper appreciation of the coast and to go beyond the simple ‘day at the beach’ experience. Tania Kovats‘ work offers a meditation on the constant ebb and flow around our islands. Owen Sheers explores what it means to be conscious of the historic and deep time of Wurm’s Head and Paviland, including one of the earliest human burials in the country. Martyn Ware’s interests took him to where human industry and activity have left a mark in the landscape — and how this persists in memory.

Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture-Fingals Cave holds the romantic part of the coast of the Scottish Island Staffa; do you feel that Trust New Art will leave lasting impacts on a new generation of understanding and empathy for the beauty of our coastline?

That’s a grand ambition! But it is true that each generation sees the world anew. I know that anyone who gives themselves time to explore these works will find them rich, rewarding — and moving. Trust New Art commissions work inspired by our places from high quality artists, and it is the depth of their response we are seeking, to inspire others as to the value of looking after these special places.

Ben Wigley and Artdocs have produced amazing digital compositions of our coastline; how do you feel his approach supported the artists involved?

It is vital that artists have support to make their work. The National Trust doesn’t have an army of contemporary art technicians and producers like art galleries — so we need high quality arts partners. Trust New Art had worked with Artdocs and Sound UK before and were confident their insight and creative dialogue with the artists would bring out the best results.

How did you choose the final three selected artists?

The creative team of Trust New Art’s Artdocs, Sound UK and The Swarm collaborated. We knew that we wanted artists leading in different disciplines to share their responses to coast, and we wanted artists who had a genuine connection. Tania’s body of recent work made her a natural choice. Owen‘s connections to the landscape of Wales, and the wide range of his work suggested his response could take many forms. Martyn’s interest in industrial heritage gave a way in to some of the less well-known aspects of coast in the care of National Trust.

Artdocs and The Swarm are modern approaches to supporting a very old cause; will they inspire a younger generation to understand our coastline in an aesthetic manner?

It’s funny to think that Twitter was launched in 2006 and iPads in 2010. For so many people today, life comes with a screen connected to the Internet. We wanted to take our art to this setting by leading with a digital first commission — and use the digital space in a creative way.

The teaser film immerses you literally in our coast; the combined appeal to all our senses is riveting. What part of the film connects you most to the subject?

For me, it is the coming together of sounds, vision and strong ideas that give the work its power. Being able to include stories donated by the public to Martyn’s work is important.

One an All is a co-commission between Trust New Art and Sound UK; tell us more about this partnership?

Trust New Art worked well with Sound UK on previous projects, so we knew they are a talented and dependable commissioning partner. Trust New Art benefits from their expertise in working with new media and sound arts, and we help them achieve high quality projects to reach substantial audiences.

The collaboration with Ben Wigley brings the coast to the heart of London; which message do you feel viewers will take away from the exhibition?

I would like people to take away something of the deep reflection to be found in the exhibition. London is busy, hectic and fast paced, whereas the exhibition is calm and meditative and tied into the deeper rhythm of the tide, the land and the lives we have lived there. We only have one coast for us all — and we need to look after it.

The viewer will have the ability to choose how they can experience the commissions; explain a little more about the possible journey they might take?

Online you’ll have the choice of three short coastal walks as you approach each artist’s commission — along Seaham Beach, County Durham to arrive at Martyn Ware’s post-industrial audio-visual installation; a walk on Rhossili Beach to Owen Sheers’ poetic journey along the Gower, Wales; descend down to a cove close to Sennen Beach, near Land’s End to track the movement of high tide mapped in real-time around the British Isles for Tania Kovats’. For the truly adventurous, you can brave the wilds and do all three walks and commissions in one go.

The One and All exhibition is free admission and is open daily 10.00-18.00 (last entry 17.15). Late night Thursdays and Fridays, it is open until 21.00 (last admission 20.15) — from November 19th.

Somerset House, Strand, London, UK

By Danielle Wood

Danielle is the Art Editor for the London Hub of The Culture Trip. She has a fascination with living a life full of creativity. Theatrical soul. Cinematic admirer. Champion frolicker. Avid foodie. Sunset enthusiast.