If a picture is worth a thousand words, then imagine how many pictures are unrevealed in the thousands of words in the 12,500+ volumes held in the library at Blickling Estate… Artists Neville Gabie and Joan Gabie have explored this opportunity in the new contemporary art installation, The Edge of Things.
Neville Gabie has an established reputation as an artist whose work is borne out of ‘dialogue’ with places, peoples and situations. He was artist in residence at the London 2012 Olympics.
Joan Gabie bases her practise around the action of drawing, working in ink and paper to capture events from the sublime to the ‘everyday’.
But how do you choose which books to work with, when faced with the National Trust’s oldest and largest book collection? With John Gandy’s expert guidance (it’s John’s job to catalogue the books in the library, so he knows a thing or two), and after hours of careful consideration. Neville and Joan finally settled on a fascinating selection of books that represent the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ (an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe from around the mid 1600s).
This period in history was characterised by its great ‘thirst for knowledge’, and The Edge of Things focuses on the themes of language, natural history, astronomy and early natural science. Rare books from the library that represent each theme are brought into the open, and given life in a contemporary context through sound, film storytelling and an intricate, collaborative tapestry project.
The chosen books all belonged originally to Sir Richard Ellys, who was an accomplished scholar and was interested in everything: theology, politics, the arts, classical texts, history and antiquities, maps, travel and science.
Without giving too much away (no spoilers here – go see the exhibition for yourself!), the singular word I would use to describe The Edge of Things is: fascinating. The work is so multi-dimensional that it deserves to be a complete success this Summer.
With works that range from The Eliot Bible (1663), one of the first books ever printed in British North America, to Harmonia Macrocosmica (1661), a spectacularly illustrated star atlas, the range of subjects and talking points explored in this exhibition is vast to say the least.
Interested in history? What you’ll see here are beautiful, important books that are usually never seen in public, given an evocative modern narrative by Neville and Joan. If your interest is literature or words or books – bingo, you’ve hit the jackpot. A science-buff? There’s lots for you here too. And it’s wonderful. A fan of contemporary art? These installations encompass film, sound, storytelling and a live on-going project that will see volunteers from Blickling Estate put their hands to a long, concertina tapestry over the course of the summer.
Perhaps you simply love the National Trust and Blickling? You’re in for a treat. As the ambitious exercise gets underway to safeguard the library’s contents from damp and death watch beetle, The Edge of Things offers you the opportunity to get up close to a handful of the very treasures that the five-year conservation project is hoping to protect.
Running until late October, The Edge of Things is displayed in various rooms within Blickling Hall, and out in the Orangery.
There will be an exciting programme of events to support the exhibition, including a children’s literature festival, interactive discovery days, talks and moon-gazing evenings.
Joanne Bosch, Blickling’s Visitor Experience Manager says: “We’re thrilled to be embarking on our second Trust New Art project at Blickling, which celebrates art inspired by the places we look after. Our visitors are fascinated to see what lies within the book presses at Blickling and this installation will enable more people to get up close and find out more about the collection in our care and why we need their support to save it.”
The Edge of Things opens on Friday 17th May 2019 and runs until Sunday 27th October. Find out more at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling