The art of Somerset’s waterways

THE summer exhibition at Somerset Rural Life Museum, in the tithe barn and other buildings at Glastonbury, features five extraordinary women artists, creating artwork across a range of media, celebrating Somerset’s diverse coast and waterways. Flow, running to 3rd September, features embroidery, painting, printmaking and sculpture by artists from across the county: Sara Dudman, Jane Hood, Julia Manning, Jane Mowat, and Judy Willoughby.

Sara Dudman’s Dynamic Equilibrium (Stone Dialogue) 01, an artwork created with Somerset coast mudstone. This artwork will be displayed alongside a new series of works created by Sara, following foraging walks in partnership with geologist Mathilde Braddock along the River Brue and through the waterways of the Somerset Levels. A film by filmmaker Hannah Earl will tell the story of these walks.

Julia Manning’s The Decline of Eels is a series of 12 large limited edition relief prints which raise awareness about the decline of eels by telling their dramatic, almost incredible saga from our Somerset waterways to the Sargasso Sea.

Embroidery and sculpture by Jane Mowat draws the visitor’s attention to the beauty of seaweed and celebrates the rich biodiversity of our watery ecosystems. Jane’s large tapestry, WATER RIVER FLOOD, which has developed since first being shown at Muchelney Church during Somerset Open Studios 2022, brings together imagery of the plantlife along the riverside or submerged within its depths.

Jane Hood’s concertina book, Place, Time, Memory, contains photography and collagraph prints inspired by memories of the West Somerset coast from Porlock Weir to Watchet. There are more works by Jane Hood in the historic Abbey Barn, where large-scale mixed media hangings depict aspects of the diversity of the Somerset waterways ecosystems.

Alongside these is an impressive display of vertical monoprints by Judy Willoughby, featuring illustrations of marine creatures and insects. They are inspired by the geology of the coast and natural patterns, as well as the artist’s experience of space, light and colour during visits to the coast.

There will also be the opportunity for visitors to contribute to a collaborative community artwork which will be growing in the Abbey Barn throughout the exhibition.

The artworks on show have all developed from a scientific understanding of coastal and river ecology, combined with each artist’s unique interpretation of the county’s wildlife. Together they shine a spotlight on the changes taking place within Somerset’s coast and waterways and highlight the new and different pressures on these sites from climate change and other human impacts.

The exhibition is a development of Somerset’s Brilliant Coast, a coastal engagement project produced by Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Watchet-based Contains Art between 2020-2021.

Pictured: Dynamic Equilibrium by Sara Dudman; Passing Through Burnham, part of Julia Mannings’ Decline of Eels series; and a boat print from Jane Hood’s Place, Time, Memory book.