Tributary Wall Painting

Storefront, Bedfordshire

26th May – 29th June 2017

During her Tributary exhibition at Storefront Gallery in 2017, Spendlove worked in the space to paint a multi-authored poem directly onto the gallery walls.

Spendlove created 3 maps, detailing walks from the gallery to visible sections of the River Lea. Gallery visitors were invited to take a map, take a walk, and write a word or paragraph about the river. Spendlove collected the text contributions each week and edited them into a poem. 

The resulting text was a reflection of the town and its river:

“Look!  Rats, sticklebacks, childhood memories.  Marsh Farm and Tarzan swings at the source of the River Lea.  Hard and rocky dirty wet ripply hidden mudsmell.  Unexpected life.  Dark dank brooding.  Faded grandeur.  Gentle wind whispering trees.  Diversion and leisure fir the huddled urban masses.  A confluence of ripples caused by hungry birds.  Yellow iris hugging river bank.  The water is gone again, snaking away, unassuming, self-effacing, only describable as a distant trickle.  And a cool pool beyond the greens, rippled by the breezes, dappled by the light.  I played in it, chased rats, called up rat holes, generally got into trouble.  We built inflatables to get in and walk on the lake at Wardown.  My name comes from the river.  Muddy waters.  The river keeps on flowing, it makes its slow progress.  Past hills and mills and breweries and beds of watercress.  Lucky Luton, lapped by the limpid Lea.  Colours change every time you see the beautiful river Lea  muddy and litter strewn the rubbish flowing river, being strangled due to lack of water and space.  Best seen after it has rained and rained.  Life always finds a way.  There’s a green and yellow lemonade can, perfectly colour coordinated with the bank and the weeds.  The water is very shallow but it is also dark murky slow paced movement closed off, invisible, easily missed, shadows, shimmering light glistening peaceful water reflections.  Free-flowing community hide and seek walking along the river Lea.  Observe the alternating shades of green and blue sway in the gentle breeze.  Silent, still water reflecing noisy city.  Boating lake.  Bridge.  Patterns on the path.  Trees shade the water, branches reach towards the rippling plane.  Twigs reach out of the water and float on their own reflections.  Plastic bags, plastic bags feed the birds don’t kill the birds.  Rubbish rubbish plastic rubbish everywhere.  Contrasts: flapping, splashing, sleepy, relaxed, hidden, noisy, busy, stagnant unloved ditch like manmade conduit.  Winding, trickling, clear.  The ever flowing fountain of water drained by Waulud’s Bank.  Then out to pastures south through concrete corset the Lea finds freedom and stretches out.  Movement.  Shadows.  I wondered where that river went to, I guessed towards the sea.  We were chalky Chiltern children beside that sliver of the Lea on its way towards the beckoning enormity.”

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