Sally Waterman

Wellow, 2020
From Our Mothers' Arms, 2020

Wellow

The ‘Wellow’ project (2019-2020) dwells upon place, ancestry, mortality and religion, triggered by the redevelopment of the artist's late Grandfather’s Baptist chapel in a rural village on the Isle of Wight. Drawing upon T.S Eliot’s poem, ‘Four Quartets’ (1935-1942), correlations are made between the temporality of human life, the changing seasons and her ancestor’s connection to the local landscape. This autobiographical work considers the role of faith within her mother’s family and the generational differences in their religious practices and attitudes. A sense of loss - of the building, of traditions, of heritage and of community is inherent, as the artist gathers and reflects upon the memories and artefacts that are left behind. Pivotal to the story, is her mother’s saved plot, positioned next to her parent’s grave, which raises questions of uncertainty in relation to the future of the site.

‘Wellow’ contemplates Waterman’s family history through a series of still images taken from the archive, juxtaposed with photographs of the derelict chapel and the overgrown graveyard. The self-reflexive exchanges between the artist and her mother, recorded during the coronavirus outbreak, not only allows the recollection of past experience, as well as the forgotten aspects to emerge, but also reveals the construction of the filmmaking process itself. The extracted quotations from ‘East Coker’ (1940), based upon Eliot’s ancestral village in Somerset and ‘Little Gidding’ (1942), informed by the historic Christian community near Huntingdon, help to illuminate themes of time, life cycles and renewal, creating a multi-layered narrative.

'From our Mothers' Arms' centres upon a telephone conversation between the artist and her mother made during lockdown, where she reflects upon her daughter’s last visit from London in March, before the enforced separation. The film explores the mother/daughter relationship, suggesting a close bond made difficult during the pandemic by a lack of technology and connectivity. The accompanying hymn, ‘Now Thank We All Our God’, from which the film’s title is taken, recorded at the last service at Wellow, reinforces the Christian belief in creation, resurrection and eternal love, which was upheld by Waterman's ancestors who frequented this village chapel. Broader notions of memory, ageing and family legacy is embodied within the photographic diptychs that capture her mother retreating into the same recognisable rural landscapes, encouraging us to follow in her footsteps in a spiritual journey across time and space.

The two short moving image clips at the beginning and end of each film, bring the viewer back into the present moment, experiencing the sensation of being connected to a place. Ultimately, the project is about the end of an era and an imaged future; “In my beginning is my end.”

 

N.B. A curated selection of photographs used in both films would be displayed as physical prints in future exhibitions.

Exhibition History
2020
Southampton Film Week, Screening of 'From our Mothers' Arms'
2021
Wellow, Clayden Gallery, Quay Arts, Isle of Wight