Cley is getting creative
- Credit: Archant
For the next month, the small coastal village of Cley will be home to fascinating art exhibited in unusual places
From tiny installations hidden among the stone-work of a church tower to sculptures exhibited on an empty shingle beach, Cley 16 is celebrating the talents of Norfolk’s growing population of contemporary artists.
The month-long exhibition held in the coastal village of Cley is organised annually by the North Norfolk Exhibition Project (NNEP), and this year, rather than following a theme, it aims to illustrate the diversity of contemporary artists living and working in the county today.
The exhibition – entitled In Norfolk Now – features work by more than 70 artists who were each challenged by this year’s curator, Hugh Pilkington, to create a new piece of work which pushed them to their limits.
“Those who have curated the exhibition in the past have suggested a theme, but I wanted to take a slightly different approach,” he says. “I wanted to address questions such as what is the contemporary art being produced in Norfolk now? Who are the artists living and working in Norfolk now that might make up a new ‘Norwich School’ and be the successors of John Crome and John Sell Cotman?
“For this exhibition I wanted to encourage the artists selected to create a piece of work which was risky and hard-edged, which they might not normally do because of commercial constraints. I wanted them to dare to produce the work they always truly wanted to produce. Of course artists need to sell work to make a living, but it is important sometimes to give them the opportunity to do something not just based on whether it is commercially a good idea or not.”
Artists living and working in the county were asked to submit images showing examples of their work – and nearly 200 responded, more than three times the usual number who apply. Those selected were then commissioned to make a new piece of work which had not been seen before. Hugh, who is an artist, architect and curator of Black Barn, a project space for contemporary art at Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, says the response shows the depth and variety of talent in Norfolk. He also hopes the exhibition will illustrate the diversity of the different artistic practices being used – from the abstract landscapes and photographic pieces to sculptures of all shapes, sizes and materials.
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“London used to suck everything in, away from places like Norfolk, but as it has become less accessible and affordable as a place to be, artists have looked at other places to base themselves and exhibit. Even in this county though, I noted a difference between the art in urban Norwich and urban Yarmouth, and in rural Norfolk, which was very interesting.”
The NNEP began staging the exhibition in 2000, initially at Salthouse Church, with the aim of enabling artists to work and exhibit outside their comfort zone. However, the project, which is run as a charity by a team of volunteers, moved to Cley in 2012, enabling work to be exhibited in St Margaret’s Church, the village hall, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre, on the beach and nature reserve, and in other village businesses.
As well as the exhibition, there is a full programme of events, walks, concerts and talks throughout the month as well as an art quiz sheet for children.
This year for the first time, Cley 16 also features work from the Fine Art Masters course at the University of the Arts in Norwich. “They are creating and placing tiny objects of art around the external walls of the church and visitors will be given binoculars to spot the different work. It is a great concept and a challenge for the students.”
Cley 16 will also work closely with Barrington Farm – an independent day service centre for adults with learning difficulties based at Walcott, near North Walsham, which has an extensive arts programme. Members’ work which will be exhibited in the church at the NWT Visitor Centre at Cley, and a Barrington Farm Colouring Book and Portfolio has been commissioned especially for the exhibition.
Cley 16 runs from July 7 to August 7; www.cleycontemporaryart.org