Speaking with the Artist: Maddie Exton
What does this work mean to you?
The work has a few meanings. Firstly, and as you state “our aim is that visitors are transported through the different environments of Norfolk as they walk through the gallery”, this work brings the landscape of the coast physically into the gallery space, and can be seen purely as an appreciation of nature’s power to erode brick, and the patterns we find along the Norfolk coast.
Secondly, my inspiration was the parable of wise and foolish builders, from the gospel of Matthew in The Bible, which observes that wise men build their homes on rock. To me, the eroded brick gives a sense of entropy, and goes against the parable, suggesting that we are all at the mercy of nature, and even the strongest rock is eroded by the sea, which feels particularly pertinent living in the state of climate emergency that we are.
Thirdly, my initial work mimics the shape of a loading symbol, or an ensō circle, with the bricks flowing in size order of erosion. This is to suggest that everything comes around in circles, and just as the brick is destined to erode to sediment, it is likely then to be remixed as clay and sand, in order to create a brick. In its larger scale, it resembles multiple infinity symbols and the pattern will mimic sand raking styles in zen gardens also known as ‘gardens of stones’. In Buddhist religion, the sand raking represents water on the metaphorical river of life, again bringing the imagery back to that of the coast. I hope for the installation to bring a new meditative feel to materials that we interact with daily.
How would you describe yourself, and your relationship with Norfolk?
I’ve lived in rural Suffolk for 20 years and Norfolk for 3 very formative university years on the fine art course at NUA, graduating in 2020, so it’s a really special place to me. I got really involved in the Norfolk cultural scene when I was awarded a scholarship to attend university from the East Anglian Art Fund. I have since worked in both East Gallery and Josey Gallery, was a Sainsbury Centre young associate in 2019-20 and am now a member of the Young Norfolk Arts collective. This July I will be artist in residence at Antony Gormley’s Norfolk estate, High House. I’ve exhibited locally, in East Gallery and Nunnsyard, and nationally, at Mall Galleries and Sluice Biennial.
I’m also a writer, with work published by Kunsthalle Cromer, Creeping Expansion magazine and UEA publishing project. In terms of who I am as a person, I like cherry Pepsi and my favourite film is Groundhog Day. In my practice and career, I have a particular interest in improving accessibility to culture and boosting youth engagement.