Autumn River - Published July 2020
Hardback, foil debossed
240mm x 330mm
170 gsm silk
Edition of 500, numbered and signed
Each autumn since 2012 I have made images with some of the millions of decaying leaves that fall each year into the River Frome, in the southwest of England, and are carried along its length like brightly coloured jewels.
The work in 'Autumn River' was not made by gazing at the landscape from afar, but by moving into the flowing water, with many images looking beneath the river surface. In this unfamiliar setting, perspective, scale and colour are reconfigured. The work explores the unexpected ways in which light falls through the surface of the river and illuminates the stationary and travelling leaves, many of which have been worn thin and transparent. Leaves are reflected and distorted in a myriad of ways—a mass of intoxicating colours, intensified and blurred with movement; trees on the riverbank viewed through a multi-coloured haze. Inspired by the way Roger Deakin thinks about water in his book 'Waterlog', I have tried to make work that is not just about the river but also in, and with the river.
The River Frome is a small and unremarkable river that runs for twenty miles through South Gloucestershire and the urbanised outskirts of Bristol. It is not, perhaps, a place where one would expect to find the wild or the beautiful. But it is there, and there in abundance. The work in 'Autumn River' is evidence that we do not need to travel vast distances to find difference and strangeness in the landscape—opportunities exist all around us if we are attentive and know how to look. To be in such a place in the northern hemisphere on a breezy day in late autumn is mesmerizing, vital, life enhancing, with the colours appearing to fall from the very air itself. The colourful chaos that is autumn produces a canopy of glorious colour smeared by water and wind—a sensational natural firework display of the red, yellow and orange pigments of autumn leaves.
These places matter because, like the grander and more dramatic spectacles of nature, they have the ability to refresh and renew—to make us, if only momentarily, change the way we see and feel, change who we are and who we can be. To discover and enjoy small scale, local wild landscapes offers a realistic opportunity to begin a necessary political engagement with landscape and the environment, when places in far off corners of the world may seem remote and beyond influence.
The book's design carefully attempts to replicate the immersive experience of creating the images standing in a flowing river, senses overwhelmed with colour and noise.Philip J Brittan, June 2020