Left: M2 Medway Services Eastbound 2013
Oil on shellac on linen 180 × 140 cm
Thank you to Edward Chell for alerting me to his forthcoming book, Soft Estate, featuring his words and artwork and also including an essay contributed by Richard Mabey.
The title derives from the Highways Agency description of the natural habitats on the edge of motorways and trunk roads. The book, which will be distributed by Cornerhouse, looks at how these borders offer a refuge for wildlife and a modern form of wilderness. In Edward's words:
“While 18th Century tourists travelled to areas such as the Lake District to capture images of wild places, in today’s countryside, uncontrolled wilderness only springs up in the margins of our transport networks and the semi-derelict grid plans of industrialised corridors. These soft estates invite a new kind of tourist, new ways of looking and new forms of visual representation.”
Alongside the publication of the book, the Bluecoat arts centre in Liverpool is holding a Soft Estate exhibition featuring the work of Edward and a number of other artists:
“Soft Estate features new works by Edward Chell that explore the interface between history, ecology, roads and travel. In paintings, prints, and objects, made using a variety of materials including road dust and etched car parts, he investigates motorway landscapes, linking these contemporary environments with 18th century ideas of the Picturesque.
Other artists interrogating similar ‘edgelands’ – familiar yet ignored spaces neither city nor countryside – exhibit alongside and in conversation with Chell. They present juxtapositions commonly experienced in edgelands, like beauty and pollution, wilderness and human agency”.
I will be reviewing the book in more detail in due course.