December 2020

Underfoot, Departure Lounge, Luton. 10th December 2020- 30th January 2021. Christmas closure: 19th December- 6th January (inclusive)

Gallery opening hours: Thursday-Sunday 13.00-18.00

Departure Lounge, 64 Bute Street, Luton, LU1 2EY

Photography by Greta Zabulyte

Solo exhibition Underfoot explores the River Lea as it flows underground through Luton. The work focuses on the movements – seen and unseen – made by nature, people and time. 

The Lea flows mostly unnoticed through Luton, beginning its journey in Leagrave Park, snaking through housing estates, behind allotments and underground beneath the Central Library and the Thistle Hotel in the heart of the town, eventually connecting with the River Thames in London. 

In preparation for this exhibition, I undertook specialist training to enter, wade through and explore the dark underground river culverts, where I collected video footage, photographs and found materials to inspire the work. By turning the city inside out conceptually, the work aims to draw attention to the things which are often overlooked in daily life. 

Much of my work is made on the floor. Working with frozen water taken directly from the River Lea, I allow the ice to move and melt on paper with ink, forming unique, infinite shapes which stain the paper and seep into the floor. The resulting patterns have been painted and traced onto acetate to create a large-scale installation which covers the entirety of the gallery floor. Mirroring the making process – moving and walking across the artwork as it was created – visitors are invited to walk over the paintings and navigate paths through them. 

The soundscape that accompanies the exhibition was recorded during the underground walk through Luton. The sounds of feet dragging through the river water echo in the gallery space. Pathways, layered journeys and layers of time are laid out as a template for contemplation, encouraged by the presence of bean bags and seating throughout the space which invite visitors to stay a while. 

Underfoot at Departure Lounge coincides with the screening of my film A River Runs Under Your Feet at The Hat Factory Arts Centre opposite the gallery for the month of December, as part of their #FactoryWindow film programme. Funded by the Luton Arts Fund, this video collage about the river features footage from my underground exploration of the Lea. 

Supported by the Luton Arts Fund. Departure Lounge’s exhibition programme is delivered in in partnership with The Culture Trust Luton.

December 2020

A River Runs Under Your Feet Film screening

Since moving to Luton in 2010 I’ve been developing work inspired by the River Lea. The Lea, which has its source in Leagrave Park in Luton, gradually grows in size and strength until it connects with the River Thames in London.  However, through Luton town centre the river is mostly culverted. This means that large sections of it run underground. In 2019, I received a grant from the Luton Arts Fund to extend and develop this work by walking through the underground culverts. After months of planning and a specialist training course, in December 2019 I walked in the River Lea from New Bedford Road to the Vauxhall estate.  I carried three cameras – one handled, one attached to my helmet and one attached to a floating raft on the water. The resulting footage formed the base of the film, which seeks to uncover Luton’s hidden river.

A River Runs Under Your Feet will be screened on The Hat Factory Arts Centre’s street-facing screen for the month of December 2020. The film can be viewed online here.

Photograph of artist Abi Spendlove painting with ink on her studio floor

September 2020

After a 6 month period of juggling projects around full-time home schooling I’m now back in the studio and enjoying making new work.  The Hat Factory Arts Centre, where I am Bursary Artist in Residence is currently closed to the public, and I have therefore cancelled my fortnightly open studios. 

My solo exhibition, curated by Kristian Day at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth has been postponed until further notice.

My solo exhibition, curated through collaboration with the Departure Lounge team at Storefront Gallery in Luton has been rescheduled and will open on 3rd December 2020.

This project has been made possible with support from Arts Council England, Luton Arts Fund and the Culture Trust. I’m hugely grateful for their support, enthusiasm and flexibility. More details to follow soon.

Please do continue to keep in touch via email or Instagram.


Photograph of artist Abi Spendlove dipping a brush in a pot of ink on her studio floor

Photography by Greta Zabulyte

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