This is our manifesto

Making the connection between environmental awareness and contemporary art of the highest quality is what GroundWork gallery is all about.

With each exhibition we aim to develop a new strand of interest in art and environment and to stimulate related actions and events.

This has to be timely, in an era when we need to be increasingly wary of all kinds of threats from pollution, species loss, deforestation, climate change, and global pandemics.

GroundWork Gallery aims to connect art and environment in the belief that art can help us to see the environment in new ways.

Art and artists have the power and potential to inspire us

We have a duty as the viewing public, to respond to art with thoughtfulness and action.

The greater attentiveness that we learn through art can help us to understand our relationships with the environment better.

Increasing understanding will leads us to be more sensitive in the way we manage the environment.

The work of the gallery is to act as an advocate, as a friendly place of encounter. Here viewers can be both challenged and helped to respond in their own way. Increasingly it has become clear that this is our role. We can encourage those responses to take a positive direction in the interests of the environment.

Veronica Sekules, Director

Change in thinking, understanding, dialogue, engagement, connections

There are many ways we might know when our aims for connecting art and environment have been achieved.

Above all, we look for a change – change in thinking and interpretation of the environment.

For, a new work of art can lead to a new means of expression, a new dialogue.

As a result, new dialogues can lead to an improvement in understanding.

This can entail many things including a recognition of the beauty of the environment, seeing its detail. Even through being alert to its fragility, its dangers can therefore become more apparent.

We look for new engagement and renewed interest in the environment, stimulated by art.

We find new connections between people from different disciplines. As a result of the stimulus provided by art, we able to speak in new ways to each other.

The study and creation of art is never predictable. Therefore it is all the more likely that results of discussions will be unexpected, surprising and unusual.

Integration across disciplines for better understanding environmental change

Fruitful interactions between new people and ideas can be effected through the gallery’s programming. The core of this is the linking between artistic and environmental themes. Then we may connect artists, writers, film-makers with specialists in contingent fields of science and engineering. The involvement and commitment of a widening public at large is crucial. This is building a culture linking art and environment and has a rippling effect of advocacy and influence.

art and environment: Shaun Fraser, Flow Country
Shaun Fraser, artist, Flow Country peat project

The air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the spaces we live in….

Thinking about the environment includes noticing the detail of our surroundings and caring for what needs our attention.

Because of the climate threats we face, we have to look out for signs of stress, over-exposure, pollution.

Therefore, it helps to make a very broad definition of the environment. This gives us a greater opportunity for surveying the entire field.

GroundWork Gallery aims for a wide view on the subject, both artistically and in terms of activism and political engagement.

The environment can be the natural environment or the built environment. It covers everything from the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the spaces we live in. Beyond that are the surroundings which frame our lives, localities, lands and seas.

art and environment: Simon Read, Cinderella River, 2018
An image by Simon Read from Cinderella River, 2018

One of the most captivating definitions of the environment was written in 1971 for The Environmental Handbook:

‘Listen friend’, he answered, ‘You are the environment, or part of it, and you are certainly a product of it, just as I am.‘  ‘The environment is the room, the flat, the house where you live: the factory, the office, the shop where you work; your road, your parish, your village, town or city: Britain, Europe, the world – even the space the world sails through. It’s the street where your children play, the park they take the dog in, the flowers, the trees, the animals and birds, the fields, the crops, the streams, the waterfalls.

The environment is the fish, the cliffs, the seashore, the sea itself, the hills and the mountains, the pubs, the bingo halls, the lanes, the motorways, the highways and byways, the farms, the rows of shops and houses, the dustbins, the historical buildings, the trains and buses and cars. It’s the music and dancing and peaches and cream. It is the insects, an empty tin can, aeroplanes, pictures, pollen and the leaves that fall from the trees. It’s the smoke from a fire, a wormcast on the lawn, a cigarette end in the gutter, books, papers, greenfly on the roses, the paint on your front door, unbreakable plastic, the rain on the roof, an empty beer bottle, the heather and the bracken and the butterflies. It is the air you breathe, the blue sky, peace and quiet, the clouds and the sun.’

Barclay Inglis, 1971, The Environmental Handbook (ed John Barr), p. 217
art and environment: Sophie Marritt The Great Ouse at King's Lynn
The Great Ouse at King’s Lynn by Sophie Marritt

Calls to action start with the local but can lead to global impact

Every exhibition becomes a call to action. GroundWork Gallery sits directly on the River Purfleet, within sight of the Great Ouse, the town’s tidal trading river. Since the middle ages, this wide river linked the town culturally and economically to the Baltic states of the medieval Hanseatic League. At one time it was buzzing with boats. They brought salt, herrings, timber, cloth and wine from Antwerp, Danzig, Lubeck, Hamburg, Bergen and other cities on the trading routes. The rivers are largely quiet now, but for the silent threats of climate change.

The whole town sits in a flood plain. Hence it is especially important here in this location, to consider the consequences of climate change. GroundWork Gallery gallery does this by showing art that helps us to think about the threats, but in the most positive ways. The artists set the tone and produce the big stories. However, it is just as important for the viewing public to talk about it, and respond to art. Valuable conversations result from this and consequently, unexpected insights and revelations. Cultural responses of this kind can easily lead to solutions to problems.

Culture Declares the Climate Emergency

GroundWork Gallery joins the many organisations as part of ‘Culture Declares’ to declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency

Read our blog post: https://www.groundworkgallery.com/culture-declares-the-climate-emergency/