Fermynwoods Friday 39 – Encounters

During the eight years that Yasmin Canvin was Director of Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, we worked with an incredible 206 artists. For this week’s Fermynwoods Friday, Yasmin recalls six from 2011’s Encounters: Journeys through language and landscape – a series of temporary artist installations and interventions, performances and artist-led walks, along a three-mile route from Fermyn Woods Country Park to Lyveden New Bield, as part of Northamptonshire’s Cultural Olympiad Igniting Ambition programme.

The area around Sudborough Green Lodge – the cottage where Fermynwoods Contemporary Art delivers some of its groundbreaking educational activity – is full of historical and natural significance. When we had the opportunity to curate an ambitious exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad it seemed natural to feature this area and draw out some of the more interesting aspects of Northamptonshire’s landscape and people. We also wanted to encourage visitors to make their own connections, bring their own stories.

One of the six artists taking part, Rebecca Lee, talked to walkers along the historic Lyveden Way (which had been restored in 2005 as part of the 400th anniversary of Lyveden New Bield) about the music that reflected their experience of Fermyn Woods, converting those tunes into a new piece of music that emanated from an organ installed deep in the woods. Paula Boulton created a Complaints Choir, who sang about the everyday trials of life in and around nearby Corby. Jitish Kallat asked “When will you be happy” of Sir Thomas Tresham, who had built Lyveden New Bield, a National Trust property, that had been left unfinished at the time of his death in 1605; his eldest son and heir was involved in the Gunpowder Plot and died in the Tower of London that same year.

Other artists focused on the landscape itself; Shane Waltener interlaced weavings between the trees without leaving a trace of his presence, and Graeme Miller’s Track allowed visitors to watch the trees move over them as they were moved along a 200m track whilst looking up at the sky. Caroline Wright brought the symbolism and harmony of the Japanese tea ceremony to the English countryside through a neon installation.

These temporary installations were powerful because they were fleeting moments of reflection along a three-mile walk between Fermyn Woods Country Park and Lyveden New Bield, but remain in the mind and change our view of a place forever.

Yasmin Canvin

Encounters - When will you be happy - Jitish Kallatt
Image: When will you be happy, Jitish Kallatt

This project was made possible through the support and assistance given by the staff at Lyveden New Bield, Fermyn Woods Country Park and the Forestry Commission during the planning and realisation of this project.

Look out for more Fermynwoods Friday posts each week looking back at some of our favourite projects over the past 20 years of Fermynwoods Contemporary Art.