Press Release: 14 October 2021
Online exhibition with real-life counterpart taking place next year
Over the last year, artists and writers have been looking at Norwich through a magnifying glass – or rather through a property portal.
In this project part-funded by the Arts Council, locally-based artists have been paired with a writer and invited to make new works about a home or property on the market in the local area.
A hauntingly vast country pile, a church whose roof is falling in, and a 1970’s semi’s garden outgrowing its inhabitants, are properties that feature.
In the online exhibition presented in the guise of an estate agency website, viewers can browse these properties imagined through artists’ and writers’ eyes.
Next year, the exhibition of the artworks will be presented in a city centre estate agency. Sowerby’s have kindly signed up to the host the exhibition at their office on Queens Street.
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Artists and writers
All contributors to this edition are either based in Norwich, or have a strong connection to the city. Each artist-writer pair has taken up the challenge of collaborating with a fellow creative working in a different medium.
Anna Brass, an artist based at Outpost Studios, and UEA graduate (MA Prose Fiction) Linden Hibbert, were fascinated by the 18th century church on Princes Street, NR3. The building is on the market because the congregation cannot afford to fix the rusting nails holding the roof tiles on, the pair commenting, “something as seemingly mundane as a nail undoing the two-century-old link between the congregation and the church moved us both”. Their beguiling works for Unreal Estates explore this notion of the church as a box being opened to the elements, and how the sacred architecture of earlier generations recalls this link to the natural world.
Artist Ingrida Bagdonaité moved here from her native Lithuania for seasonal factory work, fell in love and never looked back. Or rather, she has been constantly looking back as her work is imbued with questions of ‘Where is home?’. Ingrida has been working with emerging horror writer Ellison Skinner, who recently graduated the MA in Creative Writing at UEA.
Ingrida commented on the process: “It was fascinating how the same visual material inspired both of us. But the writing that Ellison shared with me gave the soul to the house, a story, a feeling. I shared a dream in one of the emails as a vision, an illusion I projected to one of the paintings, I felt I could see a reflection of that dream in the written piece in the end too. I feel that in the end our work carries more than visuals of the house, it talks about modern fears, abandonment, expectations and struggle, entrapment and loneliness.”
Until recently, artist Anna Townley was a long-time resident of Norwich, but recently moved herself and her family to Portugal where her 3 children are now learning the language. Taking the idea of ‘remote working’ to extremes through her practice as a spiritual medium, as part of Unreal Estates she has attempted to contact poet Kathryn Simmonds’ recently deceased neighbour. Kathryn, a poet who won the Forward Best First Collection Award with her collection Sunday at the Skin Laundrette, has been ruminating on this change of hands that happens with every house move, reflecting that “There’s always an onward chain. Our desire for the solidity of brick walls disguises the metaphysical questions of life, and the unsettling possibility that we’re only ever renting.”
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Alongside the new writing and artworks individually, the project critiques the homogenisation of interiors – a concept described by writers such as Kyle Chayka in his description of ‘Airspace’, for example. Gathered as a collection, the works are a subtle commentary on the state of the property market and the trend of property as investment, rather than a place where lives are lived.
The organiser is artist and curator Amanda Lwin, who comments:
These evocative works bring together a few of the dreams and visions of Norwich beneath the bricks and mortar, clay and cobbles, past the standardised visions of domestic utopia we see in advertising and on TV. I’m delighted to present these new works by some of the most exciting artists and writers working in the UK today, who are all in some way connected to Norwich.
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Online exhibition launches 14 October
The physical exhibition will take place at Sowerby’s (Queen St, NR2) in 2022, subject to when business feel ready to open their doors to the public again.</br>
Amanda Lwin, curator