You may have noticed that a series of interesting sculptures appeared on Morte Point over the summer. The five pieces, designed by local contemporary artist Jay Clement, are each displayed in a carefully selected location on the National Trust headland and celebrate the area’s long and complex relationship with the sea.
Clement has highlighted key points from Mortehoe’s fascinating history and relates them, through his sculpture, to a much broader context. The temporary exhibition aims to spark discussion on important issues such as locality, the environment and social change.
“It is important for all mankind to understand that it is inevitable that a perpetually accelerating system based on a finite resource will simply fail. We should, however, take heart in our ability as a species to adapt, particularly when in crisis,” says Jay.
Jonathan Fairhurst, National Trust Head Ranger for Croyde, Woolacombe and Mortehoe, adds: “Jay lives in Mortehoe and shares our love of this special place. The sculptures help to encourage us all to think in more depth about how the varied and interesting history has helped to make Morte Point the place it is today. The project will bring an extra dimension to the headland, and we hope that visitors will enjoy seeing Jay’s sculptures in this fantastic setting.”
This temporary exhibition runs until September next year, and features five contemporary sculptures in an array of mediums:
‘Coalition’ uses local slate to create a wall which incorporates the motion of a breaking wave, and reflects the volatile connection between land and ocean.
‘Speechless’ takes the form of an abstract map and holds the secrets of local lobster and crab holes found along this ancient stretch of coast, passed on to the artist by his grandfather. This work highlights the issues faced by a loss of community through socioeconomic effects and rapid change.
‘Eternal Sunshine’ depicts the varied sails used on the Bristol Pilot Cutter ships that were used to help larger vessels navigate the Bristol Channel and its rocky coastline. Made of Mortehoe slate, the sails feature non-functional compasses to reference the wrecked ships and great losses of life in these waters prior to the advent of the Cutter.
‘Untitled 1’ brings together flint tools and fragments believed to have been used by hunter gathers on Morte Point between 6,500 and 10,000 years ago. “Finding and handling these fragments I felt an instant connection with their creator,” says Jay.”
Salvage from wrecks and smuggling is well documented in the area ‘Totem’ made from withy poles and found rope, symbolises the poverty in the area where locals would salvage anything that came from the ships to enhance their basic existence. The artist asks visitors whether they want to embrace the inevitability of change and consider its effects.
The sculptures were constructed with help from National Trust volunteers and local schoolchildren. Jay says: “Morte Point was the inspiration for a lot of my early work. By involving the public, especially young people, I hope the project will engage with the local community and general public not just the international art world. I would like to thank the National Trust, the volunteers that worked on the project and the AONB for their support.”
Richard Butler, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) says: “We were delighted to provide some grant support for this project through the SDF. We feel the Exhibition is innovative and enhances the natural beauty of our outstanding landscape here at Mortehoe on the North Devon Coast AONB.”
For more information on the sculptures, the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty has helped to fund a guide booklet through its Sustainable Development Fund. This guide is now free to download from the AONB website, www.explorethecoast.org and Jay Clement’s website. Free printed versions of the guide book will also be available locally in some outlets.
For further information on the sculpture exhibition and to download the booklet visit www.jayclement.co.uk