WalkSwaleMedway response to ‘Tokaido Toad’

Last night the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery at the University of Kent hosted a Private View of artist Hope Fitzgerald’s evocative exhibition, Walk Swale Medway. a response to Tokaido Road that embraces similar ideas of travel, of journey and landscape.

The exhibition, part of several ancillary events leading up to the next performance of the opera at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury on May 23, closes this weekend after a two-week run, and last night’s event was an opportunity to meet the artist and view her collection of images which respond to the area of Swale and Medway which Hope explored over a three-week period, photographing as she went.

The first of two uniquely-Kent-inspired responses to Tokaido Road which the gallery will host, Nancy Gaffield was also present last night to view the exhibition.

The second exhibition, Exploring the Saxon Shore Way: a response to Tokaido Road by Earthbound Women, runs at the gallery from 9 – 24 May; more details here.

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Tokaido Road: a commisioner’s perspective

Boy, am I proud of this. Here’s the score and instrumental parts for Tokaido Road.

The Road starts here...

The Road starts here…

Tokaido Road is Nancy’s words, Nicola’s music, but I have a strong bond with this work. I like to think that I gave it some space to grow and goals to aspire to. I’m like a surrogate mother or doting aunt – there’s a duty of care in commissioning a new work. You have to nurture it. You want to see it flourish, contribute to a culture, speak to an audience, to be representative of its time. And like all new things, you want it to develop, grow, mature.

Tokaido Road was born of an artistic idea, a deep curiosity and an ambitious desire to change things. The relationship between Hiroshige’s prints and Nancy’s poems was already rich enough in artistic possibilities. The opera quickly became a framework for a set of questions: what is the ‘complex and murky relationship’ that exists between the arts? Tokaido Road is a study in extended ekphrasis, a term that describes the use of one art form to ‘comment on’ or ‘illustrate’ another. How does this translate across a second culture? I wanted to present this powerful cross-cultural, cross-arts synergy as a rich and highly accessible source of pleasure, entertainment and education rather than a misunderstood and sometimes marginalized form of art. I wanted to make casual media labeling (such as ‘fusion’, ‘experimental’, ‘fringe’), often used as a result of uncertainty surrounding music that juxtaposes different cultures, redundant. I wanted to create a project that would appeal to as many people in as many ways as possible.

Anyone who had raised funds for new music will empathise with the immense hard work and perseverance needed to enable a project to happen. But the journey has fascinated me – there are challenges and opportunities to be creative at every level, even from a project-management perspective. Today marked the end of the beginning: now the journey takes a new path and I can’t wait to see where it will take us.