Exhibition - 21 September - 23 November 2019
Beverley Art Gallery, Champney Rd, Beverley HU17 8HE, UK
Ghanaian artist photographer Nii Obodai has been working in residence in the East Riding of Yorkshire with art and environment organisation Invisible Dust. The residency culminates in a new exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery, titled ‘Of Natural Magic’, which explores the waterways of the region and the people that they conjoin and influence.
This new body of work questions the extremes to which we have pushed our environment and uses photographs, sound and installation to represent the landscapes that connect and intersect the lives and ecology of the region. Obodai explored reservoirs, rivers, streams, canals and the sea, in particular the Gypsey Race, Spurn Point, Tophill Low and Pocklington Canal.
Obodai uses traditional photography techniques to create his work and has been capturing the landscapes of the East Riding using a large format, 8x10 Deardorff camera, along with salt and black and white darkroom processing. Choosing to work in this way, Obodai makes a connection with his practice and the pace of climate breakdown; the gradual movement of environmental change reflects the slowness of his technique.
Nii Obodai says: “The photographic process I have chosen to work with is related to the environment. It’s about slowing down. But it’s also about using an ecological footprint that allows me to be a more responsible photographer.”
His practice also draws on 19th-century photography that was developed in the UK, by the likes of William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron, whose work often bridged ideas of science, nature and art. The exhibition title ‘Of Natural Magic’ is a quote taken from Fox Talbot, in response to his discoveries around capturing an image.
Obodai’s photographs encourage the viewer to consider the changing nature of our waterways. Now sites of scientific interest, in terms of their biodiversity, both Pocklington Canal and Tophill Low Nature Reserve are human-made structures. Working in these locations, Obodai encountered first hand the effect of human impact on the environment as well as learning from the people who dedicate their time to protect and preserve it.
Spending time with the conservationist volunteers at Tophill Low Nature Reserve which is managed by Yorkshire Water, allowed Obodai to connect with the landscape and wealth of biodiversity at the site. Their knowledge and diverse approaches to the topic have fed into Nii’s own thought process and the development of his work. Although dominated by a human-made reservoir, Tophill Low is a haven for wildlife lovers and more importantly, the wildlife itself. The nature reserve provides facilities that allow visitors to observe the animals and plants whilst supporting the development of the sites rich biodiversity.
Richard Hampshire, Tophill Low Site Warden said:
“We’re incredibly lucky to have achieved a balance between the wildlife that resides at Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low and our visitors who come to see and learn about what wonderful plants and animals we have thriving here.
The team of volunteers at the nature reserve are dedicated to maintaining that balance whilst all the while considering the effects of climate change on wildlife, people and land use in East Yorkshire and how we prepare and find sustainable options for the future. We have been thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Nii and can't wait to see the results.”
‘Of Natural Magic’ is part of ‘Surroundings’ a three year project produced by the Humber Museums Partnership in partnership with Invisible Dust. Launched in 2017 - the year of Hull City of Culture - the programme includes international public art commissions with an environmental theme, a young curator’s project, residencies and exhibitions. Each year has a different but interrelating theme - food, migration and landscape respectively.
Dorcas Taylor, Curator, Invisible Dust said:
“As an international artist and considering his photographic practice, Nii has provided a completely different lens to the climate debate and environmental landscape of the East Riding. His exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery will reinforce this as well as bring the interconnecting stories of the regions people and waterways to life, and hopefully get the audience to think more about the water sources that they come into contact with.”
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For more details, or to request images or interviews, please contact Emma Hallam, Marketing Manager at Invisible Dust on firstname.lastname@example.org