& Change in the River Medway
Turner is a visionary UK artist who uses elements of the natural
world as both subject and medium. In 1998 Turner produced a unique
installation, entitled "Tide & Change in the River Medway"
in an abandoned nautical fort, built last century on a salt marsh
island in the middle of the Medway estuary in Kent.
August Stephen recorded the movements of the tides on huge canvas
tarpaulins stretched across the riverbed at strategic positions
around the waters edge. Then, over a complete cycle of the
moon from September to October, he lived on the island and received
visitors, carried over on boats as the tides allowed, to view the
river-worked canvases hung on the ramparts of the fort.
are some excerpts from the diary Stephen Turner kept during his
month on the island:
The fort construction is complex and beautiful a polo mint
form divided into eleven vaulted bays.
The canvases have all come out so differently visual equivalents
for the changing movement and energy of each tide. I have started
to glimpse how the water flows. In these works the river sings its
own muddy Medway ballad of sediment, syringes and shells,
telling its own story, in its own voice.
28.9.98 (first quarter moon)
The fort is slowly sinking into the mud on which it stands. Flooding
keeps the foundations permanently wet, while rain works its way
down from the unprotected roof above. Fourteen inch thick steel
sheet turns to rust which flakes and falls to the floor of the fort.
Roots of small thorny bushes force the brickwork apart. Nature will
Charcoal embers provide black for drawing, local chalk a white and
fresh mud the warm greys in between. Baking mud in my camp fire,
I obtain light brick red, orange and yellow. I collect verdigris
coated copper scrap, scrape it down and work it with vinegar into
paint and pastel. These with rust from the fort, provide unique
local colour. Todays batch of pastels are so hard that the
paper needs to be wet to use them and the chalk has little hiding
power. When I could go out and order any one of a thousand colours
made into perfect paint, why does less always feel like more?
12.10.98 (last quarter of the moon)
I watched the tide surging in toward the heart of the sprawling
Medway towns. In our increasingly urban lives we need such powerful
reminders of nature if only more people noticed.
Finished a 360* sequence of drawings through the gun ports, using
mud as paint. Found a fragment of Romano-British pottery decorated
with fingernail marks below the rim. Nearly two millennia ago, someone
else here was working with the mud.
Stephen Turner is now Artist in Residence in a forest near Canterbury,
His current project is related to Tide & Change in that he is
working with rings of canvas fitted around the base of trees
which stay in place for an entire year, and an annual record of
their activities. For the painting he does as part of this installation,
Turner extracts pigment from the trees, using Native American and
Celtic recipes, which provide colors that are unique to each tree.
Turners website is currently under construction, but you can
contact him via email at StpTurner@aol.com