Catching the tide

Sunday walk

Sunday walk - Credit: Archant

Walk the wild Suffolk coast in Ipswich this summer – from the ruins of Covehithe church, to the pier at Felixstowe, via Dunwich, Snape and the Deben estuary. Liz Ferretti is your guide to a stunning exhibition inspired by the coast


beast - Credit: Archant

Tidal Margins 3 is a major exhibition of art, photography and writing which opens this month at the Ipswich Art School Gallery, and the culmination of three years work by six artists, two photographers and four writers, all inspired by the Suffolk Coast.

Butley River

Butley River - Credit: Archant

The exhibition is arranged as a journey and your trip begins in the dramatic atrium, in Shingle Street and Southwold, in hag stones and seaweed. Rooms just off the atrium are like little secrets. Here you will find the sea, borders, and hope. While the atrium balcony draws you down the 50-miles of the Suffolk coast, other rooms explore wildlife, rivers, boats and ghosts.

Orford light

Orford light - Credit: Archant

Artist and exhibition organiser Jen Hall had the original idea for the Tidal Margins project.

“I was interested in how the art of the past can show what our coast used to look like,” Jen explains. “Suffolk has a dynamic coast – buildings and landscapes disappear through erosion, new sea defences are put in place. It’s always changing. Tidal Margins is about recording our impressions of the coast at the beginning of the 21st century.”

“The Tidal Margins project has challenged everyone to work differently,” says fellow artist Karenza Jackson. “Having to go out into the landscape in all seasons and all weathers makes you sketch in a particular way. If it’s windy, raining and cold you have to work quickly. That helps you pick up the atmosphere around you.”

“It’s encouraged us to search out less well-known parts of our coast, too,” adds writer and artist Juliet Lockhart. “I’ve always had a long and deep love for the sea and its restorative powers, but I’d never been to the more remote parts of this incredible coastline. I’ve fallen in love with East Lane in particular, I go back there all the time.”

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Jen Hall agrees. “I’ve learnt more about the Suffolk Heritage Coast in the past three years than I have in the last 30,” she says. “Drawing and painting requires you to really look, listen, and see.

“If you record all of that, you can’t fail to fall in love with such a beautiful place. The light changes, the weather changes the mood, the wind whips the sea up, and the sound changes as well. We all wanted to capture some of that magic.”

The work reflects the sometimes contradictory nature of the Suffolk coast – it is beautiful, but can be forbidding; the sea is benign, or appears bent on destruction. It’s a coast of defence and military buildings, marshy landscapes, wide stormy skies, estuaries and river walls. I am struck by the energy of the work on display in this exhibition – there’s a real passion for this coast here.

Unusually for an art exhibition, there’s a room dedicated to writing. Dr James Canton, who teaches a course in Wild Writing at the University of Essex, is one of four writers involved.

“I have written about East Anglia and Essex,” he says, “but there is something tangibly strange and special about the Suffolk seascapes which has returned me there again and again.”

There’s a rich variety of writing on offer, so pick a piece off the shelf, sink into a vintage armchair, and allow yourself to be taken to Britain’s most easterly point, to other wordly Orfordness, and into the uneasy beauty of the sea.

The artists involved in this unique project want to pass on their love of Suffolk’s coast and estuaries. “I hope everyone coming to the exhibition will be inspired to explore as we have done,” says Jen Hall, “learn something new about the wildlife, have a go at drawing, painting, writing, or just be curious and go and ‘see’.”

As one of the writers here, I hope you will be curious, and come and see our work. For me, this exhibition is evocative, exciting and real, and I think you will take the smell of the sea away with you when you leave.

Tidal Margins May 24 to September 7