Neither Land Nor Sea brings together a series of works from Grundy Art Gallery’s permanent collection and a selection of images by contemporary local photographers to form an interesting exploration of Blackpool’s identity as a seaside resort.
The logical starting point for the show – ‘View of North Pier, Blackpool from South West’ (c.1900) by Thomas Huson – is animated by the sound of Yannick Dixon’s video installation on the opposite wall. The sounds of the sea, the birds and distant voices from today fit perfectly into the painted view of more than a century ago, creating a curious and highly absorbing synthesis between the two forms of artistic documentation. Alongside this, a second painting, ‘Pavilion Fire North Pier’ (1921) by H. Burrell, acts as a counter to the idyllic view of the first canvas – perhaps a subtle reference to the instability of the industry on which the town is based.
Following on, Albert Eden’s black-and-white photographs take us back to a time before living memory (taken during the late 19th and early 20th century) from which the seaside town emerges with a kind of innocence. This ‘innocence’ is perIn a similar way, Yannick Dixon’s film ‘Murmurations’ (2018) shows a more peaceful side of the town’s piers and, indeed, Blackpool itself. A swarm of birds hovers around, shifting its shape against the sunset, almost interacting with the artificial structure of the pier; capturing a tranquillity not normally associated with the clamour and noise of a busy holiday resort.
The contemporary photographs, taken by a selection of local artists, carry a similar kind of stillness – a stillness not so easily achieved in photography – which not only grants the architecture of the town, but also the elements of kitsch and decay (usually seen as distasteful), a kind of beauty and legitimacy. In Karl Child’s piece ‘Hotdog Character, Central Pier’ (2016) a giant, anthropomorphised hot dog, apparently intent on devouring itself, stands in front of a Ferris wheel, creating a continuous compositional line down the centre – converting kitsch and absurdity into something else entirely. Simon Roberts’ aerial photograph ‘Blackpool South Pier’ (2008) achieves a similar affect; the various fairground rides it depicts look almost like monuments from the camera’s elevated distance.
In these small ways, Neither Land Nor Sea re-contextualises Blackpool. Offering a tranquil, perhaps even sublime perspective on a place and a culture which may not be readily associated with either of those words.