Living Landscapes

The Event

Living Landscapes was an exhibition with a difference. This event was produced by Common Ground Leaders, a group of 18-25 year olds from across East Anglia, who share an interest in heritage, community, production and the arts. Common Ground is one of 3 projects which celebrates the Festival’s 250 anniversary, and is doing year-round work to connect young people with their local heritage.

This mixed-media exhibition gave a platform to young people and invited them to reflect on the role of arts in heritage. The event offered a fresh take on the region’s cultures and communities, and the connections between people and place.

From the 24-29 May 2021, the Leaders took over The Undercroft Gallery in Norwich, transforming the space into a ‘living’ art installation. City, fen, coast, and farmland were all represented through a range of artforms – from quilting to sculpture. Above all, it was a loving self-portrait of Norfolk’s natural and cultural heritage by its inhabitants. The youth-led emphasis allowed underrepresented voices to comment on the role of heritage in the future.

The exhibition asked what we might learn about our relationship to the land around us after a year of isolation and confinement. It posed questions about who has access to sites of natural or historical heritage, who can talk about it, and how we can value it in the future.

View the full event details on Norfolk & Norwich Festival’s website here.

About the Artists

Working with found materials, Maddie Exton explores erosion as the meeting point of nature and fabricated structures, recalling the impact of the climate crisis on coastal landscapes in her spiralling arrangements. 

Laura Moseley connects to both the lineage of Norwich’s textile industry and to the surrounding landscape’s abundance in providing natural-dye practices. She uses traditional techniques to narrate a story in which this heritage creates an access point to the rest of the world.

Beeny Harwood-Purkiss travels through time, like an archaeologist uncovering layers of sediment and silt, in a large-scale appliqué wall-hanging that considers the past and future of farming on the fens.

Recycled paper pulp, soil, and plant materials are gathered by Joella Gardner into a vertical sculpture that plays with tracks and traces in this piece about walking routes and sustainability. As eyes follow the representative trails cross the monument, a sensory terrain unfolds of texture and colour.

Julian Fennell projects, distorts, and misaligns animations across a triptych of giant figures, using their background in set and prop design to consider the city’s architecture and construction overlooking a famously flat city and its inhabitants.

Meet the Curators

Living Landscapes was curated by the Common Ground Leaders, a group of 18-25 year olds based across East Anglia (see the smiley bunch in the photo).

The group is an open and evolving collective of young people that have an interest in being directly involved in the arts, heritage, activism, creating, producing, and more. With exclusive access to monthly masterclasses given by experts in the industry, they’ve been able to shape the event from the very beginning.

After deciding what format the event would take, they set about creating a theme, hiring artists and bringing it altogether.

To sign up to be a Common Ground Leader and see what else the group have been up to, visit the Common Ground Leaders page.