Our subject scout Sarah Gomes Munro visits Fine Art Exhibition ‘Frack Off’.
Close to the Purbecks, the Swanage Protection Camp popped into existence on a Natural Heritage site. Why? To discourage oil companies that were trying to get a hold of the land for fracking purposes. It would destroy not only beautiful country but also further destabilize the land which was already being put under strain from the nearby limestone California Quarry.
The occupiers call themselves protectors, not protestors and Emily Lucas and Alexx Haley (3rd Year BA Fine Art) joined them by coming together in their efforts and friendship to showcase this friendly, open camp. The exhibition focuses on sustainability and projections of what would happen should the oil companies get their way.
Lucas’ work is directly inspired by the natural elements of the camp. From paints made from the vegetables that grow in the area to plants that were collected on site, her series of paintings have a warm and homegrown feeling to them. On the other side of the wall Haley’s work has a stark contrast with paintings exploring the black oily world that could exist. Poisoned plants and self made toxic concoctions passing the message effectively.
Another dimension is added to the exhibition space through a sound installation of California Quarry. The audio transportation as well as the small studio space make it quite an intimate experience which, as Lucas put “I like because it relates to the theme of the project”.
This whole exhibition has spawned directly from Haley’s and Lucas’ collaborative approach to similar themes and was taken on as an extra endeavour beyond their uni projects. Their passion for the project is also evident with such an active involvement in the cause, going out to the camp to talk to the protectors and lend a helping hand where they could. They also worked with Stuart Lane, head of the Fossil Free Dorset to whom they are very grateful for lending them his political voice and insight throughout.
In spite of this political influence, Haley and Lucas were adamant about making the exhibition an open showcasing platform, “we’re bringing real world subjects in for discussion in our institution” stated Haley. With all the worded information kept in a leaflet you can pick up when you walk into the space, the actual artwork is simply hung on the wall leaving you free to draw your own conclusions.
The day the exhibition opened, 5th December 2016, as well as a pleasing turnout of about 30 people and Stuart Lane in person, the Swanage Protection Camp found out that their efforts had not been in vain. They had succeeded in protecting the land from fracking! This gives credence both to the hard work and perseverance of the protectors who put their life on hold to go live in a sustainable camp made out of wooden pallets as well as this type of exhibition. It gives meaning to the importance of raising awareness.
Both Haley and Lucas want to keep developing these ecological themes, it is an ongoing exploration which will potentially feed into their Final Major Projects as well as future political involvement.
Words by Sarah Gomes Munro // Photographs by Kate Wolstenholme