Susan Derges: Many Moons is showing across all eight spaces at Hestercombe Gallery from the 22nd July to the 22nd October, 2023. The show thoughtfully reflects on thirty years of printmaking, whilst also drawing on objects and artworks from Hestercombe’s own collections, as well as through the words of two contemporary poets, Fiona Benson and John Wedgwood Clarke.
Susan Derges’s artistic practice has involved cameraless, lens-based, digital and reinvented photographic processes, encompassing subject matter that is mainly informed by cycles of life in the natural world. Much of the work in this exhibition has been made in the landscapes of the North and South Devon coasts and Dartmoor, where Susan Derges has her studio and darkroom hut.
‘Many Moons’, the artist says, ‘is named after one of the works in the exhibition, suggesting a non-linear view of time where life unfolds in cycles echoing the monthly cycle of the moon as it orbits the earth - influencing tides, seasons, fertility, growth, decay and rebirth in the cosmos as well as here on the earth. Even stars recycle their existence many times through collapsing into massive supernovae that explode out into space populating new stars and constellations. Seaweed in rock pools that are emptied and filled, heated and cooled by the pull of the daily tides also change across the seasons, as much as trees, plants, animal and insect life does. The trajectory of a human life can be viewed through the lens of solar, lunar and planetary influences where their positions, cycles and relationships along with the mythologies connected to them can express subtle influences on an inner life that is as real as any external material unfolding. Similarly, water cycling through the atmosphere transpires from trees, evaporates from oceans and falls back onto the earth forming rivers, lakes and ponds.’
Susan Derges’s approach to image making has been an attempt to understand the whole by allowing the minutiae to imprint themselves into the various photographic processes she has worked with. Earlier prints like the River Taw, the Streens and Shorelines involved immersing photographic paper directly into bodies of water at night in order to record the traces of movement and forces defining a place; More recent work like the Many Moons and Many Lives or Seed Constellation prints have involved growing and nurturing a subject as it develops over time. Sometimes quite elaborate studio set ups are involved, as in the making of the Tide Pool prints where a large glass tank filled with moving saline water was suspended above the camera in her studio in order to experience the life of a rockpool from within rather than by photographing it from above. Whether working outside at night, or in the studio with more staged events, there has always been a performative element to the making that reaches an audience only once the work has come into existence.
There is the opportunity to purchase three new poetry books, printed specifically for the exhibition.