The hospital commission by Susan Derges, The River Taw, is located outside the Maternity Unit on South Wing Level 1. It was commissioned in 1997.
These photograms represent a journey which follows the length and life of the River Taw through five stages, charting it from source to sea and winter to summer. For the artist the river is a living entity reflecting the human microcosm in its changing liquid states of growth, maturation and dispersal. The five stages can be seen as metaphors for internal, psychological states and transformation. We see the source, or point of origin of life; the stream with meandering eddies and vortice patterns; the waterfall or decent; the river increasing in depth and breadth and finally its end with the merging and dissolution of boundaries in the ocean.
The process of making the images is one where the landscape becomes the ‘darkroom’ in a very literal sense: the photograms are created by placing cibachrome paper into the river at night, exposing them to flash light and so recording the various chance patterns that become visible on the developed paper. Ambient moonlight varies the hue of the prints between blue at full moon to green at new moon.
The first one was made in winter and what we see is the ice on the surface, in another the surface is agitated by a small waterfall, then we have the leaves of spring and the meeting of the river and the sea at the end. The series of works form a journey and a representation of the cycles of nature which the artist likens to the internal journey of pregnancy and birth making the work very appropriate for this area of the hospital.
Susan Derges has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and spent a period of time living and working in Japan. She has work in collection including Arts Council England, Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
This commission was part of the Arts in Hospital Project 'Bringing the Outside In' funded through an Arts Council England Lottery Award.
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