Borders: A Creative Collaboration

The River Stour rises in Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire and crosses into Suffolk near Great Bradley in the far west of Suffolk. From there the river forms the county boundary between Essex and Suffolk. As the Stour meanders across the soft rolling countryside it flows through some of the most beautiful, iconic English landscape made famous by Constable and Gainsborough. With the river boundary in mind the Ipswich and Colchester Art Societies decided to collaborate in exploring their mutual border and present a joint exhibition celebrating the flourishing creativity of the region.

Earlier this week I popped along to see the exhibition ‘Borders’ and photograph a few of works created by the artists as they considered what are borders, what are their purpose and what do they mean to people politically and emotionally?

The earliest known habitation on the River Stour dates from 5,000 years ago at Great Bradley and I’d like to begin my sequence optimistically looking forward to a further 5,000 years of responsible and considerate habitation with a painting titled ‘Hope’.

‘Hope’, Sarah Milne. Oil and pastel on canvas. £550

The pictures from here flow on downstream all the way to the North Sea at Harwich in a personal selection beginning with ‘The Stour at Connard’ capturing a melancholy scene.

‘The Stour at Cornard’, Carol Webb. Oil on board. £140

Then we have ‘Wiston Mill in Nayland’ showing the river waters flowing passed the mill. A situation which is not always guaranteed these day. In July 2019 the river in Nayland temporarily ran dry in the hot weather and drought of that year.

‘Wiston Mill, Nayland, Suffolk’, Christine Thompson. Oil. NFS

Not all the pictures on display painted realistic imagery for their ‘borders’ interpretations. There were several striking abstract works such as this crossing of the river at Flatford, a route that Constable would have known.

‘East Bergholt to Flatford Crossing’, Annabel Ridley. Mixed medium acrylic paint with screen print. £1,200.

An interesting painting that tackles the politics of borders very clearly is ‘Borders and Barricades: Mistley Quay February 2022’. The painting shows the tall metal fence denying access to the river at Mistley Quay. The most recent update (local newspaper, March 2022) on the ‘Free the Quay’ campaign reports “An eyesore fence on a picturesque quayside is still spoiling the view for residents despite being deemed an unlawful obstruction in Supreme Court a year ago”.

‘Borders and Barricades: Mistley Quay February 2022’, Wendy Brooke-Smith. Acrylic on canvas. £1,700

Eventually, the River Stour merges with the River Orwell and flows out into the North Sea between the Port of Felixstowe on the Suffolk side and Harwich on the Essex side.

Detail from ‘A Sail on the River’, Cherry MacGregor. Oil on canvas. £450

And finally, I’d like to finish with my favourite from this show, a painting that sums up the river border between the two counties.

‘The River Flows Through’, Valerie Armstrong. Acrylic on canvas. £1,150

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

18 thoughts on “Borders: A Creative Collaboration”

  1. I did enjoy your post and the pictures you chose. If I had to pick a favourite I think it would be the detail from ‘A Sail on the River’ which reminded me a bit of Dufy.

    1. Yes, I was rather taken with ‘A Sail on the River’ as I particularly like the estuary part of the river. I think the Dufy feel is probably the palette, don’t you think?

  2. What a fascinating exhibition, Agnes, and great interpretations of borders. I was drawn to the tryptich of that mill

    1. It was an interesting show and, of course, there were too many works to photograph all of them. Also, some paintings were at awkward angles and with lowlight didn’t make for usable photos (rather a pity). However, the Wiston Tryptich had a wall to itself in a small room off the main gallery.

  3. Now I have Wind in the Willows banging around in my mind. And a memory of a poem I wrote when I was eleven that actually won a prize. It was all about a river on its course. I’m not known for poetry usually so perhaps I was simply inspired by the flow, as these artists have been also.

    1. Aha winning prizes for writing at 11 years old was obviously an indication of your literary success to come. It’s nice to see talent eventually being rewarded.

      1. My career as a poet was short-lived. I’m working on a short story at the moment to enter a competition. The short form is not my strong suit either 🙂 Unless you count blog posts, which are really more an essay.

      2. Oh my goodness get well soon. I was expecting to catch it last week when I was a couple of hours at the hairdressers, but not yet. Everybody I speak to now has had it, some even two or three times. It’s only my brother-in-law and I who haven’t. End of this month I’m going to a couple of concerts as part of the Aldeburgh Festival and I’m guessing that’s where I’ll finally get it. Hope you’re over it quickly.

      3. In one sense it’s a relief to have got it out of the way. So far I haven’t come across any of my network having it twice. Enjoy the concerts and to heck with the consequences! LOL.

    1. I think we’ve hit a glut before the famine as this community gallery is about to close in connection with the nearby Ipswich Museum. The museum closes in August this year for full re-development with a re-opening scheduled for Spring 2025.

      1. To be honest I’m not holding my breath. It is currently a quaint throwback museum, but I am not sure it’s core collection can stand up to a grand, 21st-century, all singing and dancing upgrade!

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