Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner are Shropshire-based artists who have worked together to create sculptures sited in the landscape at a range of different locations across Shropshire, Telford and further afield. During 2020, we began a conversation about making some work at Fenn’s and Whixall Moss, and we discussed these ideas with Shropshire Wildlife Trust. We were all excited that the National Lottery funding I secured from Arts Council England would enable these ideas to be turned into reality during 2021.
Ashford and Turner’s work often explores the ways in which people look at and experience their surroundings and their place on the Earth; sometimes there are strange shifts in our perception of scale and distance when considering the near and the far. For example, previous work has investigated the image of the moon observed through a telescope, the rectangle of sky seen through a roof skylight, the panorama of landscape viewed from the roof of Shrewsbury Market Hall, or an amazing encounter with a replica of the giant spire from the Market Hall tower, which in reality seems comparatively small when viewed from ground level.
I walked the Mosses with Keith and Liz and listened as their ideas evolved. Then later, we walked again to view larger scale prototypes for the sculptures in the landscape and to find suitable locations, that also tied into the route for the sound trail.
“It is very rare in Shropshire to find such a large open flat space; I can turn round and see the horizon in all directions, and sense the curvature of the Earth. You don’t get this in South Shropshire. It reminds me of the landscapes I saw in Australia.”Liz Turner
The artworks Ashford and Turner will install at Fenn’s and Whixall Moss will be a series of temporary sculptures as place markers on the new audio trail. The artwork will relate to the flat expanse of the Mosses, its changing water levels and the wide horizon line, inviting visitors to reconsider their relationship to this unique place.
Walking through this landscape can give rise to a feeling of unknowability and disorientation; where is the centre of the Moss and how far is it to the other side? The artists make sense of this unusual experience by equating walking with the mapping process. Inspired by measuring tools such as the Centre finder and Inclinometer the artworks explore the idea of distances across the Moss and our own scale in this landscape. Enlarging these tools will contrast something held in the hand with the act of looking to the horizon, a place beyond reach.
The Mosses are littered with fragments of industrial past; perhaps these sculptures too are discarded tools once used to measure this landscape.
“We started thinking about how we measure or survey the landscape – triangulation sketching from an A to B datum line, points and straight lines. Thinking about how people impose lines on land, like a blank canvas or large sheet of paper. And where is the centre of the Moss?”Keith Ashford
The sculptures will be made from a mixture of corten steel and reclaimed railway sleepers; materials that echo the industrial heritage of this place, part of the language of fragments left from the peat industry and military use of the land.
An inclinometer measures elevation and slope across a horizontal plane. The sculpture uses this shape to explore levels across the Moss, drainage and movement of water, the pull of gravity and walking across the landscape.
Viewers will be able to look through the curved aperture to the horizon line.
The sculpture relates to the experience of slowly turning your head to take in a wide view and how we sometimes can sense the curvature of the earth.
During the development of the Art Trail, we have maintained careful consultation with Natural England to ensure that the scale, materials and locations for the sculptures will not cause any adverse disturbance to wildlife.
The sculptures are in the late stages of production and will be transported to site for installation in late June ready for a launch of the Art Trail on 3rd July 2021.
The artists Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner will be with me, Andrew Howe at Whixall Moss 11am to 3pm if you would like to meet them and discuss their work.