A Journey into the Heart of the Fens
Part of a touring exhibition: October 2014 – May 2015
The curious title of this exhibition was inspired by the great Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf. Beowulf is possibly the earliest surviving poem written in Old English and is believed to date from the 7th or 8th Century AD. Although it is set in Scandinavia, many historians believe it was written in East Anglia, probably at Rendlesham, in Suffolk. The poem makes reference to ‘fens’ and some of the descriptive passages about the landscape call to mind the vast area and very particular geography of the place known to us as The Fens, or Fenland.
This is a land on the margins. It is the land which bred the Fen Tigers, a feared race of people who, even within living memory, lived a harsh existence as outlaws, meting out their own brutal justice to the unwary trespasser. This too may well be the imagined landscape of Beowulf and the haunt of the monster,Grendel, from which he emerged to terrorise Hrothgar’s great mead-hall.
But however tempting it is to lose oneself in myth and romance, Fenland is a place of living, thriving communities whose relationships with this remarkable place is no less vital than that of their forebears. In Grendel’s Footsteps takes us on a journey into the complex, hidden heart of those relationships. This project is not simply a re-telling of Beowulf. Rather, we have taken some of the themes and imagery from the poem as a starting point for a creative exploration into The Fens.
About the photography:
Rebecca Hall Green’s eloquent social narrative photography documents the lived experience of fenland in the 21st century. She combines digital technology with a ‘painterly’ approach that results in an image in which controlled areas are saturated with colour, while other areas are left in brooding darkness.
Hall Green is gifted with an instinctive ability to find the hidden and overlooked spaces and present them to the viewer in a way that expresses their beauty and strangeness. It is entirely unforced and natural. She has a similar instinct for drawing out her human sitters, eliciting an unselfconscious response to the camera lens.
About the text:
The text fragments which accompany the images have been taken from original works by local and regional poets. They were written during a series of creative writing workshops led by author, Sue Burge, MA, at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum during June this year. We are also fortunate to have been able to use some of the poems submitted for the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, 2014.
They offer another dimension to the photographs and, indeed, to the Fens themselves. We have selected fragments which support the mood of the images – but they are not a literal commentary and, in some cases, have been chosen deliberately to mislead or intrigue. We leave it to the viewer to decide what is myth and what is fact.
This exhibition, and the book which accompanies it, are supported by Arts Council England and the DiscoverBabylon bursary fund.
Preview: 6-8pm Saturday 2 May
Exhibition continues: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-4pm until 30 May at Greyfriars Art Space, 43 St. James Street, King’s Lynn
Everyone is welcome Admission is free.