S e a   C h a n g e

Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury
January 22 to 19 March 2005

A sea change is a profound or notable transformation (Compact OED).  It is a gradual change such as the effects wreaked by the sea on the drowned body in the poem, Full Fathom Five, in The Tempest, from which the expression originates. Sea change is sometimes used nowadays for radical change which can be more rapid.
In Sea Change, Susan is collaborating with a number of composers; Christopher Willis and Nils Schweckendiek with whom she has collaborated many times before, Andrew Gower and several past and present students from Canterbury Christ Church University Music Department; Stephen Clee, Stuart Duncan, Simon Henry, John Pell, Livia Sevier and Paul Terry.
In the course of the collaboration Susan and the composers have each brought their own individual ideas to the project through meeting for discussion (in addition to exchanging emails, CDs and JPEGs) and, amongst other topics, the many aspects of the sea have been thought about, including its dark, organic, primal, mysterious and dangerous quality as described by Paul Terry. In ancient creation myths (including those of Vedic literature) the Great Mother Goddess gives birth to all creation from the primordial watery chaos of the oceans. The quarters of the sky live on the oceans that flow out of her in all directions. The whole universe exists through the undying syllable that flows from her. This is a verse from the Rig Veda, quotations from which append each movement of Bhakti (1982), by Jonathan Harvey (1939 –) which Andrew Gower introduced Susan to. Bhakti has an incomparable atmosphere of vastness; a vast sound and a sense of vast space. It expresses a sea change that is far greater than anything Susan had previously imagined which she intends to embrace in the large-scale installation paintings in the exhibition.
The biblical/mythological act of creation is the most extreme example of kenosis, meaning self-emptying or self-giving, as described by WH Vanstone who uses the artist’s endeavour to illustrate it: ‘As the artist exceeds his known powers, his work is precariously poised between success and failure, between triumph and tragedy… that, in the moment when he exceeded his tried and known powers, his work was, in the strictest sense, ‘out of control’. We see, at the moment of lost control, the most intense endeavour of the artist: and his greatness lies in his ability to discover ever-new reserves of power to meet each challenge of precarious adventure.’ Through ‘the chaos, the accidents and intuitions of the creative process’ (Ben Shahn), we are on a knife-edge. A sea change could come about through confusion, crisis or loss of control.
We are all subject to ‘the changes and chances of this fleeting world’ and ‘as individuals we are in the process of changing in every moment of our lives. We are always, it seems, at the fork of a road, and we are in every waking moment – and even in our dreams – deciding which path to take’ (June Singer). Artist, Helen Chadwick expressed her desire to 'weave loops, twists and turns…' intending her work to suggest 'the self as flux'. The sea is also constantly in flux; a metaphor for the 'winding path' of life with its ever-changing form and the ebb and flow of a tide which can be the gentlest lapping or the most devastating destruction. The power of the sea is all-embracing and awe-inspiring against which man is defenceless and inconsequential. And yet the sea, symbolised by the Great Mother Goddess and the Eternal Feminine and, offering a sense of protective serenity, enveloping and engulfing, is a giver of life and energy.
A comprehensive catalogue accompanied the exhibition.
Recordings of the music written for Sea Change were played continuously in the gallery.
Amy Page and David Ncube, students from the Christ Church Media Department made a film about the collaboration which was show in the gallery projection room throughout the exhibition.
Concerts and other events (see collaboration page with sound clips).
Sea Change was the first exhibition to take place in Sounds New, the festival on the cutting edge of new music established in 1996 by international conductor Nicholas Cleobury.

A series of concerts for Sea Change took place in the gallery and in St Gregory’s, Christ Church, including a performance by The Bergamo Ensemble conducted by Michael Downes.
Artist-in-residence: Susan worked on paintings on the floor in the middle of the gallery space in response to the music for Sea Change for three weeks during gallery opening hours. Members of the public were invited to engage with her when visiting the exhibition.
A programme of lectures and a workshop with St Peter’s Primary School took place in the gallery.