Experience & Motivation

Again, I would like to thank Bath Spa University (BSU) for helping to fund this Online CCANW Archive. In many ways, I owe my career as a curator and experience of the countryside to my time at Bath Academy of Art, then based at Corsham Court in rural Wiltshire, where I studied visual communication 1967-70. Corsham Court is now home to BSU’s Research Support Office and currently houses CCANW’s art and ecology library, with the University spread over five other campuses/sites.

Jeremy Rees, who had co-founded Arnolfini in 1961 in Bristol, taught me typography at Corsham and it was thanks to him that I became Arnolfini’s Gallery Coordinator 1974-79. Over the years, Jeremy gave me advice and encouragement and he and his wife Annabel were among the first visitors to Dunsland, the first possible site considered for CCANW.

Corsham Court is in private ownership but open to visitors. It has a notable art collection and lies in a park designed by Capability Brown.

After Corsham, I had hitch-hiked across America (as one did) visiting Native American reservations along the way; an unforgettable experience of wilderness and social injustice.

A number of the first exhibitions I curated or hosted at Arnolfini reflected my interest in the land and environment, for example Artists Over Land (1975), and solo exhibitions of work by David Nash, Jan Dibbets and Richard Long (all 1976) and Robert Smithson (1977).

Moving on to become Director of Mostyn Art Gallery in Llandudno 1979-85, its inaugural exhibition Our Native Land showed artists’ work which celebrated the landscape of North Wales from 1699 to 1979. In addition to curating solo exhibitions of young artists living in Wales, such as David Nash, Peter Prendergast and David Woodford, I invited art historians to curate exhibitions, notably Andrew Wilton’s Turner in Wales (1984).

As Managing Director of Fabian Carlsson Gallery in London 1985-89, I helped develop the early career of Andy Goldsworthy and initiated his projects in Japan and the North Pole, as well as dealing in British and international contemporary and modern art.

From 1989 I worked as an independent curator, compiling the catalogue raisonn√©s of Andy Goldsworthy’s photographs (1989) and Peter Randall-Page’s sculpture (1992) for the Henry Moore Centre for the Study of Sculpture. In Japan, I coordinated the exhibition Sun, Wind and Rain: the Awakening of British Landscape Painting (1992), with major loans from the Tate and other National Collections.

In 1995, I was a Commissioner of Korea’s first international biennale in Kwangju, and this involved travel across the Middle East and Africa. The work was both exhilarating and exhausting but marked a year when, having become increasingly concerned by the escalating environmental crisis and the vacuousness and commodification of emerging contemporary art in the UK, I began to look into the feasibility of establishing what was to become CCANW.

From my past experience I felt I had the ability to deliver a major project, so my vision was ambitious but predicated by the need to work with a partner who had resources I lacked in the form of land, buildings and funding, together with the motivation to work in partnership with me.

The viability of the first options we explored at Dunsland and Poltimore depended on balancing substantial self-generated income in the form of admission charges from around 120,000 annual visitors with grant aid, whilst the latter options at Haldon, in Exeter and Dartington excluded the possibility of income from admission charges but had the more realistic chance of being sustainable with more modest resources.

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