F i r e   a n d   W a t e r

The Dashwood Gallery, Hall Place, Bexley, 2002
24 August to 20 October 2002

The Dashwood Gallery is a part of the superb Tudor mansion, Hall Place, in the London suburb of Bexley.  The title Fire and Water was chosen partly because of its resonances in alchemy, poetry and song typical of the Tudor period but more particularly because Sir Francis Dashwood (after whom The Dashwood Gallery is named) had owned Hall Place, having inherited it in 1772.  The three Fire paintings involved many weeks spent throwing cupfuls of paint, starting with the bright oranges and reds and building layer upon darker layer and, towards the end, using gravity by tipping the painting to make the paint run away from the centre.  Accounts that Susan read of Dashwood, the notorious rake and leader of the famous 'Hellfire Club', of his propensity for cruelty and the darker aspects of humanity that the 'Hellfire Club' represented had a strong impact on her while she was working on the Fire paintings causing them to develop into the more harrowing and visceral Hellfire paintings which have a strong relevance to existing concerns in Susan's work with human vulnerability and pain and the recognition that references to sexual imagery and blood in paint seem be able to express this vulnerability.
 
Both the Fire and the Water aspects of this exhibition came together in Susan's exploitation of the liquid nature of paint.  The work acknowledged the fluids of water and blood and the crossover from paint to blood, paint to water and blood to water.  The fluidity of paint was made use of by throwing, flicking, dripping or squirting it (by using a glass medicine dropper) and then once it had fallen using bleeding, blotting and water tension.  Apart from areas of wash, all the forms were made by falling paint, and individual brush marks were not used.
Susan began the Water paintings by responding to Hokusai's famous woodcut The great wave (1830-33) and as the work developed she forced the capabilities of the droppers so that their projectiles spanned as big an area as possible, culminating in the large-scale Water polyptych.
Collaboration:

Through Hell and High Water, a play by Katie Kingshill exploiting the legends and history of Hall Place, performed by Cyclops Productions, a theatre company made up of disabled and non-disabled professional actors, directed by Kevin Robinson.

Piano recital by Christopher Willis who played his composition Fire and Water and Colours of Lentua by Nils Schweckendiek, both written for Fire and Water, with works from earlier collaborations.  The music was interspersed with readings of poetry written in response to the paintings by members of local poetry groups led by Ted Walter.  A recording of the music by Christopher Willis and Nils Schweckendiek played in the gallery throughout the exhibition.

Consequences, a collection of poetry written for Fire and Water by Jane Kingshill with music and improvisation for cello and voice by Danny Kingshill.

Meditation amongst the paintings led by Karen Best with improvisation for cello and voice by Danny Kingshill.

A one-day painting workshop (right) took place in the gallery for students from Erith School led by Susan Haire.
Collaboration with sound clips