13 April - 2 June 2019
Walking is a pleasure
And it is also how many artists have sought to make work, nurturing their imaginations while out rambling over hills, clumping along a coast path or following the course of a river. From the middle of the 18 century, when Gilbert White pottered around the village and parish of Selbourne thoughtfully observing and notating the details of the world him, natural scientists have also used walking as a way to contemplate and engage with the puzzles of the universe.
For William Wordsworth and Richard Long, for Charles Darwin and Richard Maby, for Nan Shepherd and Thomas A. Clark, walks have provided exposure, both to the wonders and mysteries of the external world and to the dark vaults of our own minds.
Since 1975, when he made a walk between Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Bristol, Jem Southam has made a slow rambling walk the centre of his practice and in doing so he thinks of himself following in the steps of the many thousands of others who, like these examples, have made journeys both long and short in search of understanding.
The footpath system and Ordinance Survey maps provide a limited, though incredibly rich, access to the great diversity of English landscapes and it is along such tracks that Jem Southam has made the pictures in this exhibition. In the west of Cornwall, in Pembrokeshire, near his home in Devon, recently along clifftops in Scotland and Ireland and along the beaches of southern, England he has simply gone out for a walk with his camera, seeking to find ways to make new pictures which he combines with a few words.
For the past four decades his practice has involved making extended series of pictures of selected sites over periods of many years. The Red River and The Pond at Upton Pyne are such studies, which each explore a set of complex narratives regarding our relationships to the earth. This exhibition at Kestle Barton is the first in which he will present the new development in his work, in which individual pictures stand alone, each a notation of a moment, on a particular walk, on a given day.
Jem Southam 2018
Above photography by Jem Southam, ‘Buckingham Marshes roost’