Those Who Look Out and Those Who Look Back by Laura Eldret & Paul Vivian


Saturday 21st March – Sunday 22nd August 2021

God's House Tower, Town Quay Road, Southampton, SO14 2NY

About the Work

We humans consume the sea through objects and images – souvenirs, leisurewear, watercolours – as if to tame it. But it looks back, fiercely. Swelling and rolling, it carries precarious communities of humans in an embrace that is both nurturing and disciplining, a place of potential violence. Laura Eldret and Paul Vivian’s two-person exhibition ruptures the space of God’s House Tower, with sculpture, fabric works and video that reflect forms of the sea. Here the sea is mothering and scolding, returning our glances with a warning that her powers are oceanic.   

Paul Vivian’s works play with and upend clichés of the sea as a place of vicarious consumption or passive spectacle. Arranged in the space are a set of beach towels with specially printed imagery: a swelling ocean, an oversized pebble and giant droplet. Nearby are a suite of 30 identical sea-farers cast in plaster by Paul from an original ceramic collectible designed by the Bosson company in the mid-twentieth century. Their faces seem to pop out of the gallery floor, looking up with strange melancholy, as if gasping for air on the cusp of sinking beneath the waves. In these works, Paul inverts the logic of oceanic kitsch, revealing once more the deadly force of the sea through a judicious altering of scale, position and materials. Paul’s sculptures are both material facts and distillations of social narratives, retold with pithy brevity.

Laura Eldret’s works explore the sea from the perspective of its manifold inhabitants. A fabric piece hangs down, constructed from blankets and black neoprene (the material of wetsuits). The work opens up questions around bodies, nurturing and survival. Laura’s video work invokes the clichés of the sea-as-female – alluring, deadly or motherly. Featuring footage of bodies of water, boats zipping along, and a woman’s legs beneath the surface, the video is edited in rapid intercuts between vertical and horizontal lines, creating an intense and haptic rhythm. These edits are based on the dots and dashes of Morse code, a motif that also appears on the fabric work. Laura’s wider concern with social forms of communication is also evident in a staging of a performance in the gallery by an all-male sea-shanty choir. Laura’s works are visceral reflections on the embodied and gendered communities, rites and rituals of the sea.

The exhibition ran from Friday 9th July 2021 to Sunday 22nd August 2021 at God’s House Tower.

About the Artist

Laura Eldret makes installations, posters, drawings, textiles, videos, and events. Operating as an artist, researcher and educator she is interested in the commonalities that bring diverse things and people together and the productive tensions of togetherness. Her art offers a gentle nudge towards communal consciousness and action, bringing alternative voices to the fore.

Her projects have involved working locally and transnationally, in both metropolitan and rural areas. Recently, she has become interested in growing practices, communing, ruralities and the interconnectedness of humans and nature. Drawing on practices of ethnography, social ecology and conversation, she is exploring ways to contest art’s autonomy and affirm the value of social encounters.

Laura is founder/director of More Than Ponies, an ambitious though occasional artist-led programme of contemporary art for/ about the New Forest and surrounding areas. She was co-founder/director of CollectingLiveArt 2007-10 and for many years worked in art galleries and the public realm. Currently she is an Associate Artist on ‘Schools of Tomorrow’ at Nottingham Contemporary. She also works as an artist mentor and visiting lecturer.

Paul Vivian is a UK based artist who studied at Norwich School of Art and Design and Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Interested the animism of objects, Vivian’s current research centres upon encounters with Neolithic Stone Circles. Visiting sites across the UK and Europe Vivian makes field recordings directly from the stones themselves.

This sonorous audio work becomes the basis for an installation and performative  practice encompassing film, projection, objects and sound. Interested in capturing the interior animism of these stone circles Vivian aims to identify new ways of encountering these sites through sound. Alongside this work he examines these spaces and surrounding landscape through images and film.

The motivation behind Vivian’s Object and Textile based works is the theme of intersection, i.e. two habitually incompatible frames of reference (a meteor and beach towel). Vivian aims for this to be thought of as an incitement, a means by which the viewer may imagine narratives beyond the works modest dimensions.