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Surrey Hills Landscape Assessment


Jenifer White, The Countryside Commission (now the Countryside Agency)

  • The project not only considered past cultural associations with the Surrey Hills but also provided a contemporary perspective. The artists challenged perceptions of the countryside and provoked a fresh look at the landscape
  • Everyone was keen to explore what could be achieved through a multi disciplinary approach and enjoyed, and were challenged and stimulated by working together
  • The same creativity in approach is being used in the management strategy for the Surrey Hills, and the Countryside Agency understands the value of artists in helping to establish that dialogue
  • The Countryside Commission would have liked to have continued its involvement with the artists through to commissioning them to guide the presentation of the final publication so that it reflected the cultural qualities of the landscape too, however funding was constrained

Gillian Binks, The Centre for Environmental Interpretation (now Prospect)

  • It was a positive, creative exercise
  • CEI was able to appoint a team of seven sympathetic people who were prepared to work as a team with the consultants within the structure of the landscape assessment
  • The experience has significantly influenced her way of working by opening her up to the value of the subjective response as well as the scientific and objective
  • It is a cause of great regret that better use was not made of the artists work with a more attractive published report, and an exhibition as a point of discussion during local consultations and to inform village design statements, countryside character statements and so on

Vicki Berger, Art Project Management

  • It was a strength that the consultants' team was able to choose the artists themselves, without having to do it by committee. The consultants felt that they had chosen well.
  • The artists' presentation of their work was an exciting and important occasion, with some challenging and critical insights into past management policies. Although political, this was considered valuable. If the consultants had known how good it was going to be they would have invited a bigger audience.
  • The whole project was dependent on the vision of the Countryside Commission at the outset - without that, it would not have been possible
  • It was disappointing that the publication is not in the spirit of the project and that there was no money for an exhibition of artists' work at the publication launch or for subsequent use.

The Artists (combined comments)

  • It was a great opportunity to have such an unfettered brief - to simply respond and practice one's own art, and to be paid a proper fee for the work
  • Working with the other artists on the team was fascinating, seeing how artists from different disciplines approached their work and responded. The process of discussing and working as a team was very stimulating.
  • The layered impressions from the varied artists matched the layering evident in the landscape - an appropriate process
  • One of the artists found it difficult to give away her sketchbook of unresolved work, although she completely understood at the outset that that was what was required, and that the consultants wanted 'raw' responses
  • The presentation of the publication was disappointing and did not follow through on the exciting new ground that the project had broken, and because of this it lacks immediate appeal. It was disappointing that there was no subsequent exhibition of the artists' work
  • It is rare, as an artist, to feel one is having an influence and an effect on social matters. In this project, art was accepted as another tool for interpreting.
  • The artists were not expected to produce completed work which freed them to concentrate on exchanging and developing ideas
  • It was important that the project was organised by someone who understood, and that the landscape team were open to the conceptual elements of landscape as well the factual and practical information
  • The fact that the Countryside Commission owns copyright of the artists' work was quite a draw back for some of them, especially poets wanting to perform the work or visual artists wanting to following up the ideas they had started

© Copyright Joanna Morland 2000