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(in)finite Beginnings

Photography by Greta Zabulyte

(in)finite Beginnings was a participatory artwork for the University of Hertfordshire’s Festival of Ideas in May 2024.

“UH Arts + Culture commissioned artist Abi Spendlove to create a unique participatory artwork for the Festival of Ideas. Members of the public joined us to contribute to a growing painting, created using ice and ink, to explore and celebrate our relationship with the environment.  This interactive, live creative process invited everyone to add their input to an artwork aiming to be both beautiful, and emblematic of the incredible minds present at the Festival of Ideas.

Abi will created two large-scale paintings outdoors over the course of the Festival, inviting participants to contribute to the each of the works following a simple set of instructions. The work will grew and developed based on the number of participants, the impact of their bodily interaction with the placing of ice, and the ever-changing climate of the outdoor environment. The interactive artwork invited participants to connect with the present moment and notice the environment around them.”

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Washed Out

Washed Out, 2022, Installation at Robinson College, Cambridge. Cotton, copper, steel, river ice, marigold, madder, chloropyllin, turmeric.

Immersions: Into the River Cam, curated by Mattie O’Callaghan and Holly Pines. Washed Out was installed above Bin Brook, a tributary of the River Cam, which runs through Robinson College in Cambridge. The work was made from river ice collected at Bin Brook and a selection of natural dyes. The sculpture, titled ‘Washed Out’, references the history of women’s labour and the washing of linen that happened upstream in The Cam.

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Glacial Movement One

Photography by Greta Zabulyte

Glacial Movements was an Arts Council Funded project undertaken in 2022. The project involved research collaborations with glaciologist Dr Bethan Davies and V&A sculpture conservator Sarah Healey-Dilkes. The research culminated in a site-specific ice sculpture made from found water and found materials.

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Mediator

Mediator

Broadway Gallery, Letchworth

23rd September – 14th November 2021

The mediator. An in-between, a go-between, a space for transmission, an aide to changes. The mediator is the water, the floor, the paper, the silk, the ice as it turns through liquid to air, the ink which traces its movement. The mediator in this body of work is the material, connecting work and action, idea and creation, they create shape, carry meaning, reflect light and change.  

Much of the work in this exhibition has been produced through natural processes such as melting ice embedded with pigment. The molecular movements of water can be unpredictable and surprising, the flowing shapes produced by water are always unique. Spendlove embraces this chaos, treating nature as a collaborator, utilising the random flow of ink to create paintings on paper, pvc and plaster.

Water can be permeated by light and can also reflect it. In Mediator, light plays in the gallery space. In the daytime light streams in the gallery windows through Spendlove’s standing glass paintings and projects coloured light onto the floor. Down the length of the gallery, natural light wanes, leading to a darker space, assimilating the underground river or hidden pools of water. 

This work is about water, place, connections. It is about the passing of time and changing environments. Like the passing of time, water moves and flows in its own way, drawn by gravity or evaporating into the air.

Curated by Kristian Day

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Underfoot

Photography by Greta Zabulyte

Underfoot

Departure Lounge, Luton

10th December 2020- 30th January 2021

Underfoot explores the underground river as it flows beneath our feet, focusing 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, Spendlove undertook specialist training to enter, wade through and explore the dark underground river culverts, where she collected video footage, photographs and found materials to inspire her new work. By turning the city inside out conceptually, she draws our attention to the things which are so often overlooked as we go about our daily lives.  
Much of Spendlove’s work is made on the floor. Working with frozen water taken directly from the River Lea, she allows the ice to move and melt on paper with ink, forming unique shapes that 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 artist’s 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 accompanied the exhibition was recorded during the artist’s underground walk across Luton.  The sounds of her 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 in the space which invite visitors to stay a while.


Spendlove’s exhibition at Departure Lounge coincided with the screening of her 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 Abi’s underground exploration of the Lea. 

Supported by the Luton Arts Fund.