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Visual Arts: Exhibitions


The Ancient Mariner prepares for sea (detail)
Mariner prepares to leave port (detail)

The Ancient Mariner

Dramatic illustrations to the Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, form an exhibition at the Church Street Gallery in Cromer throughout August 2005.


The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is the basis of this year's summer exhibition at Cromer's Church Street Gallery.

The dramatic illustrations represent the result of several years work for local artist Lewis Davies.

"I became fascinated by the story of The Ancient Mariner when I realised that almost every verse contained a visual image," said Davies.

"The mood of the poem changes rapidly with very imaginative passages that seem to cry out to be illustrated. Once I started I couldn't stop and produced more than 50 pictures: almost one per verse," he added.

History of the poem

The Ancient Mariner becalmed (detail)
Becalmed seas for the Mariner (detail)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was first published in 1798 and although not specifically of any time, its ballad form suggests that it may derive partly from the tales of early explorers.

Lewis Davies has chosen to set the pictures in Tudor times, providing dramatic scenes of galleons and the backdrop of a Tudor wedding where the Ancient Mariner accosts a guest with his tragic tale.

In addition to the exhibition of Davies' works at the Church Street Gallery, Lewis and his wife Hilary will be giving an audio visual presentation of the paintings, poem and selected music in Cromer at the end of the month.

"We have produced colour slides of all the illustrations and set them to music by Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten as I read the poem," said Davies.

"It took around 15 months to illustrate the entire poem, squeezing them in between other works. Once you get the imagination going, one thing leads to another. I was playing the music and painting away.

"The works are created in Gouache, which is similar to watercolor but heavier and more opaque. I also use colour pencils, wax crayons, inks - almost everything apart from oils.

"Once the illustration is finished I then use a colourless varnish to give the works a richer colour," he added.

Encounter with an albatross (detail)
Encounter with an albatross (detail)

The poem of The Ancient Mariner is a parable, telling of sin, loss, suffering and redemption.

The shooting of the albatross may or may not have led to the terrible disasters which follow, but the Mariner is eventually absolved by blessing the strange creatures he encounters in the unknown regions of the cold seas.

As well as providing a multitude of imagery, the poem provides some of the best known lines in English literature.

Cromer exhibition

The exhibition of Lewis Davies' work in Cromer comes after the gallery's curator, John James, saw Davies' audio visual presentation of The Ancient Mariner in West Runton, earlier in the year.

"One of the nice things about living around here is that there's always something going on in the evening. When I saw the presentation about the poem, using Lewis' pictures in a creative way, I thought it would be good to get them together as a body of work for people see," said John James.

"Some of the pictures are really quite scary. I thought it would be good fun to present them during the holiday period when children could come in and see them. It's not a selling exhibition as such, but it's certain brought people into Cromer and into the gallery.

"Water, water everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"We hope that somebody will see it as an interesting collection and who knows, might want to pick up for publication," he added.

Exhibition and presentation

The exhibition at the Church Street Gallery in Cromer runs until Wednesday 31 August, 2005.

The audio visual presentation of The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Lewis and Hilary Davies takes place at Cromer WI Hall, Garden Street, Cromer on Thursday 25 August at 7pm.

For further information on both events, contact John James on 01263 510100.

last updated: 09/08/05
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