The Art Insider: September '17

This image: community art at the Co-op on the junction of Milton and Green End Roads 

Ruthie Collins gives you the lowdown on arty happenings around Cambridge in September 

The beauty of art, just like politics, is that it is for everyone, it’s “local and relevant to the needs of local people” (John Tusa, one time director of the Barbican). 

Which is why projects like the Chesterton Community Mural are so brilliant. A large scale public art piece created on the side of the Co-op in Chesterton, it was designed with help from the local community and was installed this summer by fantastic artists Sa’adiah and Samirah Khan, together with Dan Biggs. Also excellent is New Geographies, an Arts Council funded project led by the East Contemporary Visual Arts Network (ECVAN), inviting the public to lead on nominating spots for ten site specific works, celebrating ‘overlooked or unexpected’ sites in counties across the East of England, including Cambridgeshire. Donna Lynas, director of Wysing Arts, just outside Cambridge, is spokesperson for the project.

“The idea is for us to create a new map of the East of England, one based on personal thoughts and reflections rather than historical or economic centres. Any location will be considered, whether poetic or prosaic,” she says. “We hope these new commissions will be enjoyed not only by the people and communities that nominated them, but also bring visitors who will be able to explore the East of England through this new map of ideas and reflections; these New Geographies.”

Literally anything goes – from an old Tesco’s site, to closed down, once-loved pubs, to the Cherry Hinton chalk pits. Anyone can enter – by post, or through an easy to use website:

“If art, passion and love can help inspire us to protect, rather than destroy the habitats of animals, that can only be a good thing”

It’s exciting to see off the beaten track spots not only attracting contemporary art – but being celebrated. Plenty in the East, including its coastal areas, are set to lead the way for off-the-radar, experimental art (you heard it here, first), often a stone’s throw from Cambridge. As one artist said to me recently at a party, “yes, there’s Berlin. But for me the warehouses and hidden away areas of places like King’s Lynn are just as fascinating.” 

Artists have always been talented at spotting and transforming places into cultural magnets, way before places become trendy – sadly, often a sign of impending commercialisation which doesn’t always marry well with community needs. So, emerging art developments with local people’s interests at their heart rock.

You can meet the team from ECVAN at a Heritage Open Day at Peckover House in Wisbech on 9 September, and at Fire & Flint Festival, an afternoon of performances, light installations and a lantern procession, at Brandon, on 23 September. 

King’s Lynn’s GroundWork gallery is a cutting-edge, pioneering art space exploring art and the environment. Catch the tail end of a fascinating show this month, Bird after Bird, exploring the fragility of birds, the dangers they face – and the incredible vision that artists can add to our relationship with them. Watch out for Jayne Ivimey’s centrepiece installation: 70 white, bisque-fired stoneware effigies, of dead birds – inspired by the Red List of endangered birds. Breathtaking, poignant, disturbing, in equal measure. Learn more about the gallery here:

Increasingly, it’s art that makes us aware of the Anthropocene, the geological name for our current era where humans dominate nature with often catastrophic consequences – I had to ask ‘Um, what’s that?’ after artist Freya Zinovieff posted something about this new era, into which we’ve stumbled, on her Facebook page earlier this year. Canada-based Zinovieff, a Cambridge School of Art alumni, is known for standout works such as Traces of Infinity, for which she created sound scores from bacteria grown from dust gathered at holy places of different faiths across Australia. 

She’s also developing a sound sharing platform, to which users can submit snippets of sound from their local environment – the Sound Hoop. Listen to her haunting soundscapes, such as Here in the Anthropocene Time is Cyclical here:

If art, passion and love can help inspire us to protect, rather than destroy the habitats of animals, that can only be a good thing. Lovers of nature’s winged creatures will adore illustrator Daisy Tempest’s vibrant work (right, based at the Art Salon’s Chesterton art space), whose bird and animal kingdom inspired illustrations are available as prints from her online shop. Check her website at Fans of the bat, that lesser-loved winged beast, check Jo Clark – she has a soft spot for the underdogs of the animal world:

So, my New Geographies nominated site? Shepreth Wildlife Park, whose team inspired my five-year old to want to work with animals when he grows up (he also overcame his fear of bats there and wants to learn to ‘speak bat’ – move over Batman). Where would your special place be? Wherever it is, have a fabulous month all.