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Alde Valley Spring Festival unveils new theme – figures in the landscape

PUBLISHED: 10:46 21 April 2018

Jelly Green's Nepalese Silk Seller part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas Atfield

Jelly Green's Nepalese Silk Seller part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas Atfield

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The Alde Valley Spring Festival is a great champion of contemporary art with roots in tradition. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke with festival curator Jason Gathorne-Hardy about exploring the role of the figure in art and the landscape

A replica head of the Emperor Claudius which was found in a river bed at Rendham, near Saxmundham, and forms the focal point of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew ClarkeA replica head of the Emperor Claudius which was found in a river bed at Rendham, near Saxmundham, and forms the focal point of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew Clarke

The Alde Valley Spring Festival is rooted in the Suffolk landscape and that landscape is defined and shaped by our rivers.

The rivers not only shape the contours of the land but also play a huge part in our history. They acted as entry and exit points for friends, traders and invaders alike. They provided a connection to other people in mainland Europe and other points across the world.

They also allowed the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans to settle and work our landscape and help define us as a nation and this sense of immigration and movement of people between lands, of our collective history, lies at the heart of this year’s exhibition.

Maggi Hambling's monoprint Figure series on display as part of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew ClarkeMaggi Hambling's monoprint Figure series on display as part of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew Clarke

The festival is staged at White House Farm, Great Glemham, home of artistic director Jason Gathorne-Hardy. He is very excited about the new direction the festival has taken.

“For many years, the Spring Festival has been about the land and the landscape. These have been our roots. It’s been about exploring tradition and traditional crafts and seeing how they continue to fit into a modern world.

“When thinking about this year’s exhibition I found myself looking at the bronze head of the Emperor Claudius which was pulled out of the river in Rendham in 1907 after being buried in silt and sediment for centuries after being abandoned by Boudicca’s army as they returned home after sacking Colchester.

Callum Stannard's bust of fellow sculptor Craig Hudson's head on display as part of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew ClarkeCallum Stannard's bust of fellow sculptor Craig Hudson's head on display as part of the Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Andrew Clarke

“I found a symmetry in the idea of an ancient bronze head emerging from the river mud and the idea of Suffolk sculptor Laurence Edwards putting a bronze figure back into the mud at Butley when he moved studios recently.

“Over time, Laurence’s bronze figure will slowly get swallowed up and who knows that, one day, time and tide may once again uncover it. Our farm lies at that half way point between the two places and I felt that for this year’s Spring Festival it would be good to explore the figure in our landscape, our place in history. We are part of the landscape, we have helped shape where we live, so it is the right time to explore our connections with the landscape, not only here in Suffolk, but our connections with places further afield that, in the past, have been facilitated by our rivers.

“I feel that our rivers have been largely forgotten. Their importance as vital arteries has been overlooked in an age where we use the car and the aeroplane to travel to far distant places. For centuries, our rivers, particularly those on the east coast, were gateways in and out of the country. Even now, looking out over the Deben you can imagine Romans and Saxons arriving and making Suffolk their home and leaving artistic evidence of their presence in the mud flats and in the rivers themselves.”

Maggi Hambling's Self Portrait, 2018, part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas AtfieldMaggi Hambling's Self Portrait, 2018, part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas Atfield

To mark this milestone Jason has acquired a copy of Claudius’ head from the British Museum and commissioned Laurence Edwards to create a modern response to the classic artefact. Laurence will also be contributing further bronze heads and maquettes for a colossal statue which is currently in production.

Aleksandras Aleksejevas has contributed a series of Etruscan figures which provide an echo that Roman art was inspired by the Etruscans while long-time Alde Valley Spring Festival supporter Roger Hardy has rescued wood from Suffolk rivers and carved figures and objects which fit into the landscape.

Providing a further echo with the Claudius head, he has pressed a carving of an ancient sword or blade into the river mud and created a plaster cast from it, creating a textured new work.

Roger Hardy's Boat People, part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas AtfieldRoger Hardy's Boat People, part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas Atfield

Callum Stannard and Craig Hudson from Butley Mills studios are also contributing a series of bronze busts and portraits in sculpture.

Maggi Hambling and Jelly Green have provided a series of drawings, paintings and monoprints which reaffirm the long history that life drawing has had in art. The exhibition also has an opportunity to view and buy historic pictures by Suffolk legend Harry Becker who immortalised life on the county’s farms during the early part of the 20th century.

The story of migration is brought right up to date with a series of evocative reportage drawings by Gideon Summerfield which were made at The Jungle refugee camp in Calais.

Harry Becker, Portrait of a Man,  part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas AtfieldHarry Becker, Portrait of a Man, part of this year's Alde Valley Spring Festival. Photo: Douglas Atfield

The Alde Valley Spring Festival, at White House Farm, Great Glemham, IP17 1LS, runs from April 21 to May 20.

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