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Outrider commissions

Outrider is a series of Herefordshire Council & Salt road artists’ commissions exploring the Alfred Watkins archive of bee-books, pamphlets and photographs housed in Hereford Library.

The exhibition has been curated by Dr Sally Payen from an open submission process and managed by Salt road in collaboration with Hereford Library and Museum Services.archive shot

The artists include Cath Keay, Megan Powell, Ron Haselden, Jane Tudge, Jaime Jackson, Elisabeth Bond, Anneka French, Becca Harris and Sally Payen. Outrider has been funded by an ACE Library Fund with support from the Elmley Foundation and Herefordshire Council and is touring to The Woolhope Room Hereford, the Commandery Worcester, Winterbourne House and Gardens Birmingham, Haden Hill House Museum Sandwell, and Leominster and Ross Libraries in Herefordshire.

artist research day

Commissioned artist research with the collection

Alfred Watkins (1855-1935) lived in Hereford and originated the idea of ley lines, he formed a postal club to test-bed his theories and wrote The Old Straight Track in 1925. He was also well known as a populariser of photography, drawn out of his own photographic processes and experiments, he invented and successfully marketed photographic aids like the bee meter. He was also a passionate bee keeper and toured the county giving magic lantern presentations in a bee van. Waktins was a true innovator and his open and enquiring mind is the inspirational
basis for this exhibition.

This archive was bequeathed to Hereford library in 1935, on Alfred's death and so the bee books sat in the underbelly of the library until April 2013 when a chance conversation between the librarian Anne-Marie Dossett, also a bee-keeper and the Salt road artists revealed a glimpse into the extent of the collection and possible directions. 

megan bee portrait

Commissioned artist Megan Powell 'untitled' from her Ourtider residency at Winterbourne House and Garden, University of Birmingham

There was immediately a purposeful duality between the feeling one was uncovering buried treasure, taking things out of stasis, the impulse to rehabilit ate, look afresh and also the discovery that some of these books dated back to the sixteenth century. This was matched by a sense of urgency about the current environmental crisis – would it be possible to open the books and find a clue about what to do in the now with the very subject of the collection - bees and the environment, maybe not but its an interesting place in which to start reflecting on this exhibition.

Dr Sally Payen

The commissioned work will become part of the permanent collection of Hereford Library and the Hereford Museum Service. The tour started in September 2014 showing in Museums and Libraries across the West Midlands, including The Woolhope Room, Hereford; The Commandery, Worcester; Winterbourne House and Gardens, Birmingham, and Haden Hill House Museum and Art Gallery, Sandwell. For more information visit the Outrider Blog

Engagement community quilt
2014 Digital print, textiles, collage

quilt making workshop

Quilt making workshop with participants from the Hereford Womens centre. The quilt was made using artworks by young people and vulnerable adults. Over 1000 participants took part in Outrider workshops across Herefordshire, Worcestershire Sandwell and Birmingham in schools, Universities, art galleries and libraries. This particular quilt was made by pupils from Aylestone Business & Enterprise College and a special adults quilting group set up for Outrider in Hereford library. Participants used images from the Watkins bee keeping archive and some of Waktins bee keeping photographs to create collages, which were printed onto textiles and sown together to make the quilt.

hive quilt

Quilt, part of the Outrider exhibition, Worcester Hive.

A digital quilt using the collages and interactive touch screen software has also been made which has been projected as part of the Outrider exhibition tour.

Exhibiton install hereford

Outrider at Hereford Archive and reocrds office

Outrider commissioned artists:

Ron Haselden

I see bees before my eyes   Led Lights, transparent structures 2014

Go and talk to the bees, paper

I see bees before my eyes continues a series of small works using animated Led lights embedded in transparent structures. They have evolved with my beekeeping activities over a number of years. To date, they have included works entitled Bee, Robber Bees, and Bee Dance. 

A pamphlet, Go and talk to the bees, accompanies the work, produced through participation in the Outrider project,  which explores the book collection and life of the beekeeper, photographer, writer,  and inventor Alfred Watkins who lived in Herefordshire from 1855 to his death in 1935.  Beekeeping, from ancient times to the present, has fascinated and absorbed the interest of many, often prompted by the desire to align human values with bee behaviour, much of which continues to remain unexplainable.

Jane Tudge

BOOK TITLE:  Better Late Than Never, 2014
Cedarwood, metal, beeswax, paraffin wax, digital print, watercolour papers, draft paper

Jane Tudge is a visual artist who received her first class degree from Hereford College of Arts in 2006.  She has exhibited with The Crypt Gallery, London; TROVE, Birmingham; The Robert Phillips Gallery, Walton-on-Thames; with her most recent solo, I saw this and thought of you, 2013 at three gallery, Birmingham. She was shortlisted for the National Open Art Competition 2013 and has been selected on a regular basis for the Royal West of England's Autumn exhibitions and the Ludlow Contemporary Art Shows.

Her book pushes at the interpretation of book art: it is a beehive (the book covers) with the frames acting as pages.  Spellbound by her time turning the pages of Alfred Watkins' book collection and what she found, she presents an archive of that archive.  It is a cabinet of curiosities containing images from the books, now made into specimens, trapped in beeswax, preserved forever.  Viewers are invited to engage with the piece, take out the frames and see her idiosyncratic delights.  She has emulated the task of the bee, visiting each page of the collection, bringing back what she found to the hive, and making something new within its frames.

Cath Keay

Bees are social animals with complex communications and perceived hierarchies and emotions. I searched Hereford Library's Watkins collection for examples of writing where the author projects human morals or righteousness onto bees (or the evil temperament of bees' enemies), examples which say more about each author and the era in which he wrote, than any fact about these insects. Such anthropomorphising reinforced their vision of society, and was delivered as rather high-handed attempts to improve the behaviour of the masses:

'They are temperate in diet, no gormandizers or drunkards among them (the drones excepted); decent in apparel wearing always homespun gowns and those always neat and clean.' (James Bonner 1789)

I selected images from Watkins' glass photographs showing men and women holding lengthy poses for the camera amid swarms, skeps and smokers. I reproduced selected quotations in pen and ink, the medium most likely used by each author. This painstaking process lends a sense of austere righteousness to the text. 

I have compiled a Book of Hours comprising thirty -one 'lessons' for every day in a month. The quotations I have selected are interspersed with Watkins' images to conjure fresh connections between these early observations and how we live today. 

Megan Powell

‘Untitled' moving image portrait, 11 minutes 55 seconds, HD video & photographic prints

Megan was awarded the open commission for Outrider and her work followed a week’s residency at Winterbourne House and Garden at the University of Birmingham. The Birmingham and District bee keepers association are based at Winterbourne, Megan worked with one of the bee keepers filmed here who also works as a gardener at Winterbourne.  Megan produced a moving image portrait studying separateness and solidarity, the individual and the whole.

The viewer is taken through the motions of the hive, captured with beautiful cinematography, slow motion tracking and delicate focus to create a painterly aesthetic inspired by Richter. The portrait shows a world which mirrors interior and exterior patterns. Mediating between reconstruction and staging of beekeeping and the photography of Alfred Watkins. 

Sally Payen

Becoming Huber  2014   Ink, gouache and spray paint on vellum, borrowed maps and texts from Alfred Watkins Postal Club

I have used the working-men bee photographs of Alfred Watkins to suggest aspects of the story of Francois Huber (1750 – 1831), a blind scientist who trained his assistant Burnens to become his eyes and conduct experiments on the life of the honey bee.  Becoming Huber is inspired by the limits of what can be known, what is seen and what is felt. Both Watkins and Huber are big dreamers who shared flashes of darkness (by which I mean both seeing in the dark, the photographic dark space, the shutter) that led to the dawning light.

Becca Harris

1. 'The First Encounter', inkjet on Rag and Fibre handmade paper

2. ‘Book', inkjet on Rag and Fibre handmade paper

3. 'Thought-sentences', inkjet on Rag and Fibre handmade paper 

The work explores the Alfred Watkins collection of books as a mass of objects. Their visceral and tactile qualities are exposed and emphasized through the use of critical-creative writing that considers not the content, but the very being of the book-objects. Their 'whatness' is brought to light, their context reinvented. The physical act of putting ink to paper, marking the page with gestural and active movements, reflects the time and precision invested in the creation, collection and storage of these objects, whilst the exposed texture of the paper emphasizes their authentic physicalness; something precious in this very modern world.

Anneka French

The roll of hillsides and the humming of bees'

Materials: paper, card, photographs.

My writing explores four images from the Alfred Watkins collection of beekeeping photographs. As well as a visual and contextual exploration of these specific photographs, the work incorporates my experiences of viewing them and my experiences of visiting Hereford itself. Although displayed as separate pieces, the texts are interconnected, operating as one text in four parts.

Jaime Jackson

‘Of De Bees Enemi’s’ moving image installation 10 minutes 43 seconds HD Video

The Bees Enemies is shown as a series of looped films in a hexagon cells set horizontal in a display case, as if it was an object displayed from the collection. Watkins with his inventions and his position in the period of the midlands enlightenment together with his interest in ley lines is compelling. I filmed in an orchard owned by Butford Organics a mile from Blackwardine cross roads, where Watkins original inspiration came to him about leys. For him the leys demonstrated an advanced system of trade routes across the country, the figures walking in ‘The Bees Enemies’ reference his ideas and the land artists who were influenced by him.

I am fascinated by the Bee Van – which Watkins rode around the countryside using magic lantern presentations to persuade bee keepers not to ‘kill the bees’, but to adopt his modern and sustainable approach to beekeeping. When harvesting the honey the bee keepers used to burn sulphur under the hives. The idea of having to protect ourselves from nature a sense of a dangerous and uncivilised nature intrigued me. Charles Butlers 500 year old publication ‘The Feminin’ Monarki’s section entitled ‘of De Bees Enemi’s’ opens ‘the good bee as other good things, have many enemies; from which she needs your help to defend her.’ Now we are in a global ecological crisis, with millions of bees, I believe, dying from neonicotinoid insecticides, put there to protect us from nature.

Elisabeth Bond

I was asked to concentrate on the problems currently devastating the bee population so read through scientific papers, Guardian reports etc. But how to turn varroa mites and neonicotinoids into art? That required a lot of sideways thinking. My first print was inspired by a visit to a group of London bee keepers who mostly kept their hives on rooftops high about the city. Interestingly they told me there were almost too many bees in London, despite the pollution that gives we humans sore throats and dry coughs. But there is no mass chemical spraying!

The second print ‘Dead Bees’ was one of those ideas that come in a flash. It reflects the fact that bees near fields of oil seed rape, sprayed with neonicotinoids, die outside their hives, which is unusual. Fortunately, along with the flash, an old friend came for supper and posed for me 3 times, as in the print.

The third print, ‘Finding out Why’ was more a matter of chewing over the idea. A lot of trawling through Google images produced almost nothing in the way of photos of bee scientists, so in the end I had to reply on my imagination and sketching a quick pose from another helpful art friend. All 3 prints are printed by hand. Another ‘flash’, this time in the middle of the night, gave me the idea to print them in brown rather than the usual black. I have to say it was a problem making up the colour as inks such as yellow ochre are difficult to deal with. But I think it’s worth it and that the brown colour gives the images a quality that hopefully fits in well with the collection.


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