River Medway and Ringlestone Hall, Maidstone
A project about nature and the river. I first started doing work on my local area in 2012 with ‘Purses from the river Medway’.
I live and work at Allington Lock, where the upper reaches off the tidal Medway meet the river, this is where the Saxons crossed the riverbed at low tide journeying to Rochester. Today we witness the same river bed of mud and rock where they walked.
Here it feels as if the tides go through you, the river is like breath, my family know the timings of high and low tide each day and the position of the moon. The place is a tough working environment with a historical and romantic narrative. Reflections from the the distant past help me to think about my relationship with the Lock today.
Riverbanks offer a transient existence, the river a boundary, a lawless zone on the fringes of society with temporary communities, who’s stories I collect.
When the Medway is in flood, the banks break in Maidstone town centre, the fast flow is menacing, the river changes in colour from grey to green to brown. Amongst this turmoil everyday objects and fabric gets swept into the river, evidence of human lives.
My ideas converge through drawing, textiles, ceramics, installation and performing, for a deeper insight into the world. As I make my work ‘I feel it’, I become the work, I see moving pictures and stories and I immerse myself, being with it, doing it. This draws me to performance and film, no longer limited by the stillness of my paper and fabric work. My performances feature objects, costumes, ceramics and extensions of my own body.
As the ‘River girl’ I attached a small likeness of myself to my dress. Together we submerged hundreds of tiny dresses into the river Medway and left them for weeks. When we hauled out our bounty, mud and river life had collected in the bundles of dresses from the ebb and flow of the tide at the Lock.
Later at Ringlestone Hall, a quiet, vacant building close to the banks of the Medway river the ‘River girl’ and her puppet perform on warm coloured floor boards, moving amongst an entangled mass of branches and miniature dresses. Playing with the viewers vision, slipping from watching River girl to puppet, energy in passed to the animated object, the puppet becomes part of her character, there is a double kind of magic, the puppet and the puppeteer together, acting out their task.
My creativity and identity is immersed in this river and it’s Lock. The work marks my time at this place and the value I put on locality and the connection with those who have gone before.