Site specific

The coast has long inspired artists of all kinds – this year there are some exciting chances to see their work outside, says Lucy Galvin

From local schoolchildren working with local artists to a globally famous land sculptor, this year’s the time to catch some amazing outdoor art on the coast.

A unique exhibition by groundbreaking conceptual artist Richard Long at Houghton offers the chance to introduce children to this radical art for free.

The first exhibition ever to present the Turner Prize winning artist’s outdoor works in the landscape, the show will be the largest since Long’s retrospective at the Tate in 2009 and is an opportunity to see new site-specific works set within the historic landscape and gardens at Houghton alongside permanent artworks by a range of contemporary artists, including James Turrell, Zhan Wang, Jeppe Hein, Stephen Cox, Rachel Whiteread, Anya Gallaccio and Phillip King.

Jennifer Taverner of Houghton Hall said: “Richard Long is one of the most influential figures of conceptual and land art, part of a generation of distinguished British artists who extended the possibilities of sculpture beyond traditional materials and method; his work is rooted in his deep affinity and engagement with nature.”

The artist’s new works, in the grounds of the hall, use a variety of materials, including local Carr stone, flint from East Anglia and tree stumps from the Estate. They accompany the permanent Long sculpture, Full Moon Circle, which was commissioned for Houghton in 2003. There will also be large mud works in the outdoor colonnades, and smaller-scale works in gallery spaces, as well as historic material relating to the artist’s career. 

Out and about, and free open air art that adds to the interest of a walk can be found at a number of sites on the Norfolk Coast, including Salthouse churchyard, the back garden of Kelling Primary School, the garden of Kelling Tea Room – a good place for walkers to get refreshment, and at Cley Wildlife reserve. All of these can be reached on the CoastHopper bus. Also look out for sculptures in Kelling Heath Holiday Park, Albert Street in Holt, and in Fakenham.

John Millwood organised a trail of outdoor art on the coast some years ago. Still in place is  ‘Monument to Salthouse Mariners’, by Kevin Lee, standing dramatically against the skyline above Salthouse. He said “it can be seen from miles around – the site is a splendid viewpoint, easily reached in a few minutes’ walk westwards up the public footpath from the village through two kissing gates.”

The Norfolk Coast Partnership has worked with local artists to mark some of the places on the Glaven River where the mysterious eels and pass through and live.

In the spring, when the moon is full, if you look carefully you may see glass eels climbing the sluice gates at at Blakeney – arriving in Norfolk from their long journey from the Sargasso Sea. A sculpture by Henry Stephens now marks their struggle.

Eels are also celebrated in art at NWT Cley Marshes centre in a film by local natural history film maker Josh Jaggard; at Natural Surroundings in the Glaven Valley through a panel on the life cycle of eel in tea gardens by Susan Purser-Hope; and colourful glassworks by local schoolchildren, also facilitated by Susan Purser-Hope. At  Bayfield Lower Meadow picnic spot there is a sculpture by Henry Stephens, and at Leatheringsett Mill, where eels pass by on land there are more artworks by local schoolchildren facilitated by Susan Purser-Hope.

The Glaven eel art trail is part of a Norfolk Coast Partnership Heritage Lottery funded project to protect this threatened creature, delivered with the Norfolk Rivers Trust.

In the future, more work will appear in the landscape, as plans are afoot to use an imaginative variety of art on a route to explore the heritage of the peoples of sea and shore in and around Wells-next-the Sea.

Land and Sky: Richard Long at Houghton  30 April – 26 October 2017 Open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays only 11am – Last Admission 4pm (one hour before closure) Tickets: £18 Richard Long Exhibition, House, Gardens and Grounds; £10 per adult Gardens and Grounds. Children 16 years and under free.