Exhibition of reed paintings by Jean Bacon
(with photographs by Ken Moody)
February 16 – 24 2008,
Exhibition opening hours, February 16 – 24
The exhibition can be visited whenever the Art Centre is open. At weekends
we shall be there from 11 am until 4 pm on both Saturday and Sunday (we may
start to take things down after 2 pm on the 24th). One of us will
also be at the Art Centre every day throughout the week between 12 noon and
2 pm. The Art Centre is at the top of A staircase, the entrance
to which is in the SE corner of the Front Court, see the
Its core derives from an exhibition
held in Blythburgh church near the Suffolk coast during August
2007. Note that the first group of paintings were photographed
in January 2007, and a lot has happened since then. Not many
people from the Cambridge area came last August (the weather was terrible!),
and Jean has continued to paint busily in the meantime. So it
seems worth doing it again at the Art Centre in King's. The
present selection combines work left over from the Blythburgh exhibition with
new material that Jean experimented with while she was in the church –
in particular the pew end carvings, and some of the architectural detail,
notably the font and the spiral stair by the screen. There are
also lots of new reed paintings, some in a style that has evolved considerably
from an essentially representational starting point; a number of these were
photographed at the end of December 2007, and put on the Web in January
2008. There will also be photographs showing how the paintings
looked when hung in the church, and some selected
reed photos. Summer
in Suffolk would not be the same without butterflies and dragonflies - we
have included both a
2x2 and a
3x3 tableau in
The Exhibition at Blythburgh in retrospect
The exhibition at Blythburgh came and went, and it's fair to say that it
was an interesting experience all round. The hours of opening
were much longer than we were used to from past exhibitions, and that was
tiring; but it never dragged, as the church is a wonderful space, and in
particular it proved easy to write there. The weather was pretty
awful throughout the two weeks, but even so Jean sold enough pictures to
make a decent contribution to our good causes. And all sorts of
interesting people turned up!
A number of reed photographs were also included in the exhibition, all taken
from the selection available above. The only ones on display
– as opposed to being in a portfolio – were two tableaux at the
entrance to the screen space. The
3x3 collection on the left
showed the range of freshwater marshes that had inspired the paintings,
from Covehithe in the north to Minsmere in the south. The
4x4 collection on the right
presented more detailed features – in particular, the second column
was a bird quiz that proved popular, particularly with the children.
Good causes for February 2008
The paintings are for sale, and there are related items such as gift
cards. The exhibition is essentially non-profit making, though
– once we've met the cost of the frames, any surplus will be split
between two good causes.
The south aisle roof has been leaking in recent storms – we had to
install one of our buckets during last August's exhibition. An
inspection has shown that it is in urgent need of re-leading. About
£300,000 is required, which is a lot for a small parish to
find. A formal appeal has been launched, see the church Web
site. If you enjoy the exhibition, please consider
making a contribution to the appeal.
A good place to learn more about the church is the
churches website, maintained by Simon Knott.
has a special place in his affections. There are lots of nice
photographs of the church there as well.
Reedbeds are an essential feature of freshwater marshes, which at present
are under threat, especially along the Suffolk coast. Each
winter brings new breaches of the sea defences, and salt water changes the
whole ecosystem. We often walk between Walberswick and Dunwich,
among marshes that are managed by a combination of the
Natural England and
Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
Many of the scenes in the paintings derive from this area.
While such organisations are doing what they can to protect the marshes
inland from the coast, Cambridge lies on the edge of the Fens, a huge area
that once contained great tracts of freshwater marsh, long ago drained
to create farmland. Isolated pockets of traditional fen remain,
notably Wicken Fen, managed by
the National Trust, and
Fen, now a part of the Great Fen Project.
The exhibition is taking place at a
for the Great Fen, who must raise matching funding by the end of February
to secure a grant of £8.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Background to the exhibition
Since moving to Blythburgh in April 2003 we have walked widely in the
surrounding countryside, mainly in the strip of Suffolk coast between Benacre
in the north and Minsmere in the south. During that time we have
become fascinated by the reedbeds, and in particular the changes of colour as
the year proceeds, and the shifts in the light as the angle of the sun changes.
Ken Moody was commissioned to document the changes of light and
colour in the reedbed for a complete year. The project got off
to a flying start on January 1st 2005, an exceptionally clear day with a
low winter sun. As luck would have it, January 1st 2006 was
another beautiful day, and in any case the project had its own momentum
by then. So the reed photographs have continued, but the sense
of discovery is gradually fading.
Jean Bacon started to paint her watercolours of the reeds in
that New Year of 2006. She used some of the photographs as an
initial reference, but relied increasingly on her memory and
imagination. As in the past, once the brushes that make reeds
had become a part of her, freedom of expression sometimes moved her work
in unexpected directions. For whatever reason, this has been
especially true of the paintings made since the August 2007 exhibition
in Blythburgh church.
The three thumbnails are directly related to that earlier
exhibition. The photograph on the left was taken on August
11th 2005, and so shows the reeds much as they were when it took
place. The scene is the artist walking down part of the Suffolk
Coastal path that leads from Little Dingle to the freshwater marshes south
of Walberswick. The dragonfly on the right is a male broad-bodied
chaser. The painting in the middle derives quite closely from a
photograph taken on January 1st 2006, showing the Blyth valley upstream from
Blythburgh church, with the church itself in the background.
Finally, the view of the interior of the church was taken on the afternoon of
March 20th 2007. The church escaped improvement during
the nineteenth century, and it is brilliantly lit on all but the dullest
of days. Depending on space, it is likely that a few of the
photographs will also be on display at the exhibition.
The Exhibition in King's Art Centre in retrospect
The exhibition has come and gone, and on the whole we're pleased both with
the way it looked and the
way it was received.
The hours of opening were much shorter than they had been in
Blythburgh, which came as a welcome relief. It was also good that
a significant proportion of our visitors were used to buying paintings, so
that we took more on the first Saturday than we had over the full 11 days
in the church. Jean was able to make a substantially greater
contribution to our good causes.
One point of interest was the arrival of Tony Eva, a local photographer
(among other things), one of whose current projects is 36 views of King's
College Chapel. He came back with some of his work on the
project later in the week, including many images that are both pleasing and
original. Tony contributed the final row of photographs making
up the original version of the Exhibition layout tableau, for which we are
Where do we go next? We're still big fans of the reedbeds,
but it's beginning to feel like been there, done that ...
Watch this space!
Thanks to all at Blythburgh Church for allowing this exhibition to take
place there in August 2007 and to King's for use of the Art Centre in
Rose and Nelson Rands
Rose died in November 2007 after a long illness. Rose was an
inspiration and support to Jean Bacon over many years, even when Rose was
already very ill. Nelson has always been at hand, helping and
encouraging, most recently by hanging the exhibition at King's.
There are various posters for the exhibition in .html:
River Blyth in winter
River Blyth in winter
In addition the following posters are available in .pdf:
River Blyth in winter
River Blyth in winter
August reeds (A4 landscape, will cut into two A5 portrait)