Hidden underground river beneath Bristol city centre inspires exhibition: ‘You Move Me’

Wandering through the exhibition ‘You Move Me’ is an insight into the mind of artist, Jo Lathwood. Her inspiration for the timber, cardboard and mixed media tunnel that runs through the installation space, is the River Frome; a hidden river that runs underneath Bristol city centre. The tunnel maps out the path of the river.

As you make your way through the tunnel you experience a diverse collection of art; Lathwood chose to commission five other artists to exhibit alongside her installation. The mysterious parallel of nature and the city coexisting is a core theme of the exhibition and each of the artists has come up with a unique response to Lathwood’s project, the secret River Frome. A parallel theme of the exhibition focuses in on the elegant, rippling movement and reflection of water.

The exhibition’s various components are a lot to take in. To try and explain the sight and sense experience I’ll first lake you through the parts of the exhibition according to each Artist, and then go back to my thoughts on how it worked together, as whole interactive installation.

Jo Lathwood

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Photo credit: Paul Blakemore

Lathwood created the tunnel out of timber and cardboard. It acts as a winding path that directs you to various pieces of art and interactive stations and creates a exciting ambience as people adventure through the tunnel, shuffling along underneath its roof. It also acts as glue for the exhibition, creating a journey to experience the different pieces of art. As well as the tunnel Lathwood created various large and small interference patterns. The large backlit inference pattern is a great interpretation of the movement and power of water. As you walk past it the vertical waves seem to move as if ripples of water. And because the blue print and lighting is set behind the vertical waves, it eludes to the mystery of the River Frome lurking underneath Bristol’s city.

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Photo credit: Paul Blakemoore

The three small pull frames (“Flow”, “Ripple” and “Babble”) are more of Jo’s interference patterns and they add a fun, interactive element to the exhibition. Again the movement of the pull frames links to water movement and remind you of the central theme of the exhibition: the River Frome.

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Ripple: Jo Lathwood, £280

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Flow: Jo Lathwood, £280

In Lathwood’s own words:

‘You Move Me’ focuses on the universal fascination of underground spaces and the romantic notion of a forgotten river moving silently under a city – with only road names as clues and historical maps as proof. The power of a river is vast. They divide countries, create mountains and provide water for life. When a river is moved by mankind to develop urban landscapes, what role does a river then play?

For more information on Lathwood’s trials and tribulations in creating the exhibition, have a browse of Antlers interview with her.

Anna Barrett

Barrett specialises in theatrical lighting and designed these little lanterns to fit alongside Lathwood’s tunnel. I think the character of the bulbs suits the exhibition perfectly as it makes the tunnel seem a bit like a mine, with lanterns that seem to come from an underground excavation.

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Photo credit: Paul Blakemoore

The atmosphere of the exhibition room is definitely uplifted by Barrett’s work and in fact my friend thinks the lighting is the best part of the exhibition, which goes to show how it should be appreciated as an independent fixture of the exhibition. jo lathwood

Olivia Jones

What appears to be the focal point of the exhibition is Olivia’s wooden sculpture. The natural form makes me think of icicles or a sort of age-old, mineral composite in a cave, something like stalagmite . The inspiration for Olivia was in fact the term ‘root’. She looked at its different meanings and associated it to the River Frome, perhaps looking at the contrast between the old river and the new city; the city intertwining its roots with the river’s territory.

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Rot Rot Root: Olivia Jones

Here is a compilation of extracts from an interview with Olivia, posted on Antlers Gallery’s blog.

I’m interested in how we look and interact with structures in the landscape, how we can break down the components of our surroundings and reconstruct them to create new insights and perspectives. My work references and takes inspiration from aspects of architecture, engineering and geology; practices that relate to working out how structures are formed, composed and constructed. My plans for the piece focused on the word ‘root’ using its various meanings and visual associations as references for the overall behaviour of the structure and its interaction with Jo Lathwood’s piece. ‘Root’ is an active word: to root down, to establish deeply, to grow roots. As a natural form it is investigative but it can also be invasive, asserting pressure on its surroundings and driving down through other materials. It can also be the source or origin of something. This idea I found really interesting because it is suggestive of a larger unseen structure or body and it created the potential to play with elements of illusion and perception.

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Photo credit: Paul Blakemoore

Helen Jones

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Undercurrent I: Helen Jones

I love these two pieces by Helen, I think they’re beautiful in the way that they capture the power of water in nature. The method of layering up black pigment and pastel on tracing paper and then creating the image by scraping it away has made them full of depth and I think gives an vivid impression of the water. They also relate well to Lathwood’s project as imaginary scenes of the River Frome underneath the city.

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Undercurrent II: Helen Jones

I intended to take a trip under the city in a boat but this wasn’t possible as it is too dangerous. Instead I looked at blogs of those who had managed to make it under. I was interested in how water had been manipulated, and the walls and pathways that had been built to make it turn in a certain way to fit in the with the needs of the city – rather than letting nature take its course. I focused on the intervention of man with the River Frome. I wanted to show that despite human interference the river was still a powerful and epic part of nature. The drawings I created are actually two different imagined areas under the city – but when placed side by side they work together to create a sense of rhythm and flow. The charcoal pigment from my pieces falling down and collecting at the bottom of my works was not what I had first imagined – as I envisaged the bottom of the pages remaining crisp white. However, this element is now something I really like as it reflects the grey concrete of the city.

For more on Helen’s inspiration here is Antlers’ interview with her.

Laurie Lax

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River Silt, graphite on paper: Laurie Lax

Lax takes an interest in lots of aspects of nature but having previous created artwork from river silt, she wanted to follow on with this interest which provided the inspiration for her drawing. It is interesting to see how the drawing is presented, horizontal on a wooden plinth; it adds another perspective as you walk through the exhibition space.

Synnøve Fredericks

Fredericks’ installation plays with theatrical lighting to create dancing water reflections onto the floor. She wanted to explore how we can interact with water, but interestingly her title ‘Waiting, Watching & Waiting’ is alluding to water and not the viewer…

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Waiting, Watching & Waiting: Synnove Fredericks

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recycled wood, pyrex vessels. theatre light, cord

How Fredericks describes her inspiration:

The poem ‘The Dry Salvages’, from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets came back to me at the perfect time. He speaks of a river as a God that we have chosen to forget. He writes of the river continuing to flow, the will of the river. I started with that will.

The Exhibition Overall

I was surprised at first to see the simplicity of Lathwood’s tunnel, the structure itself I didn’t feel added any aesthetic quality to the exhibition, but it creates a unique atmosphere and turns the exhibition into an artistic playground. The surrounding pieces of art that Lathwood commissioned are more aesthetically pleasing. As a combination, Lathwood’s tunnel and Garnett’s theatrical lighting make an exciting ambience and in this setting, the artwork is brought to life. To single out my favourite part of the exhibition, Helen Jones’ charcoal and black pigment drawings really do evoke the power of water and I think her work fits the theme well. Her imaginary scenes of the underground River Frome are truly powerful.

“You Move Me” is open 5th-10th January at the Create Centre, Spike Island, Bristol. Make the time to go and see it for yourself! For more information and other exciting exhibitions have a look at Antlers Gallery’s website.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you’re intrigued at all: @hattiebottom.   xoxo

Most of the photos above are ones I took at the preview evening, 29th November. Where cited, images are by Paul Blakemore.
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