I suppose I should have known better! A trip to the seaside sounded appealing and what’s not to like about Hastings, that historic fishing town on the south coast. Popping down to see Sam Peacock, a good friend of this blog, he’s moved down from South West London and is already making the best use of the extra space.
Of course our little art chat and wander around the town ended up taking in more than just the sights. Well, that is if you don’t include a tour around the local pubs, some of which are pretty historic and now par for the course when interviewing Sam. Our last interview went along similar lines. That was a few years ago and I’m still nursing the hangover from then.
We were meeting to discuss his latest show ‘Of the Land’ which will soon be exhibiting at the Curious Duke Gallery in London. Inspired by the landscapes of the Sussex coast it’s a body of work which Sam says is designed to be as “organic and true to the ruggedness of the south coast as possible.”
His landscapes are unique in that he uses raw materials which are then fired and burnt onto metal sheeting. The intensity of the burning mixed with the materials he uses result in a variety of different textures and colours. The main ingredient this time being his use of the local Wealdstone clay. Mixing it with coffee grounds and oils from the area the effect is his interpretation of the coast around his studio.
As we walk around the town he starts to tell me about the place. Clearly enjoying the country life he begins to talk about the history of the town. Inviting me up to see the castle which is accessed through a little alley beyond which is a steep stone staircase leading upwards. It’s famous for being the second castle built by William the Conqueror following his defeat of King Harold in the famous ‘Battle of Hastings’
Looking out from the castle over the sea there’s an impressive view of the landscape which Sam has been so inspired by. He points me in the direction of Pett Levels one of the areas that features in his new body of work, “it used to be a forest” he tells me. Apparently at low tide you can still see the tree roots submerged in the beach. It is this sort of lore that is his influence. That and how the landscape has changed and how things that are hidden can emerge once more.
“Of the Land comes from the notion that we are all from the land” says Sam. “Right from the early tribes who would hide around fire pits in the evening to guard off wild animals, through to the seafarers of the middle ages who used the coast to forge a living.” The link with the landscape and the past is clearly important particularly when so much of the past is hidden in the ground itself.
It isn’t just the coast though that provides inspiration. The town too plays its part and as we wander he talks about the architecture and shows me a row of grand Georgian buildings. These too are influencing the work and the types of steel he uses and blends together is meant to represent the organic nature in which towns such as Hastings found themselves being developed by the Georgians and the Victorians.
We eventually wander down to the shingle beach where boats wait, moored on the stones just waiting for the tide to come in. “People will see what they see… It is what it is, it’s not perfect but it is what it is” says Sam when I ask him what people might expect of the exhibition. Not only is the work itself from the land but from the way Sam speaks this is just as much about him. I get the feeling that Sam thinks of himself as being very much a part of the landscape that he creates in his works
We potter around the shingle and Sam suddenly stops. Coming across a piece of iron chain, his face lighting up in glee. It’s a rusty, weather beaten bit of metal with thick ringlets holding it all together, he clasps it in one hand and holds it up to the clouds like Simba from the Lion King. This I realise is where Sam is happiest. Scouring the outdoors, looking at the land and wondering what can be found there, wondering what has gone before and what he can do with it.
Sam Peacock was interviewed in Hastings on 2 April 2018. His latest exhibition ‘of the land’ will be showing at the Curious Duke Gallery in London from 3-18 May 2018. You can read more Inspiring City articles about the work of Sam by clicking on this interview from 2015 here and this feature on his work for Province in 2016 here.