About

Artist Jo Atherton has exhibited her unique weaving and printing around the UK and beyond, at venues including the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, London Luton Airport and the University of Edinburgh. In 2017, Jo was invited to speak at the University of Cambridge in support of their Curious Objects exhibition, and subsequently Being Human, the National Festival of the Humanities. She also produced a weekend of activities beneath the iconic Cutty Sark as part of the Totally Thames Festival which she will return to deliver again in 2018.

This year, Jo has been invited to The Harbour Gallery on the island of Jersey to lead a week of flotsam inspired workshops. She is a creative advisor to University College London for their plastic-free campaign and has also been invited to speak about her work at the international PetroCultures conference at the University of Glasgow this summer. She has been invited to spend World Oceans Day with The National Maritime Museum in London, and will be involved in an Ocean Matters event at Bristol Aquarium. She will unveil ‘High Water Mark’ an installation piece for Art Materiality & Representation, a conference with the Royal Anthropological Institute and The British Museum this June in response to their Stories in the Making theme.

Jo has been delivering workshops for five years and is a Verified Provider with the educational service, The Culture Challenge, along with being an Arts Award Advisor. Jo has a BA (Hons) in English Literature and MA in Cultural & Critical Studies, and is currently writing www.fifty-things.com, an anthology of objects collected on the UK coastline.

Statement

Jo Atherton is an artist who works with objects gathered on the UK coastline. Her practice highlights the diversity of plastic washed ashore and how the ubiquity of this material characterises our current geological age of human influence – the Anthropocene.

For most of my life I have been mesmerised by the transient beauty of the beach. For me, this environment will always be an exhilarating and wondrous place where the bracing wind is flavoured with spindrift and the ceaseless pounding waves remind me that I walk the most temporary of environments.

The lost, discarded and forgotten lay strewn along the high-water mark; their enigmatic arrangement a beguiling story, testament to unseen lunar forces. These innocuous remnants are imbued with an inexhaustible supply of stories, a modern tale of material culture to be muttered and embellished along the shoreline with each rising tide.

To harvest these resting relics is to puzzle over an anagram where letters are familiar but the arrangement is baffling. That which was once commonplace is presented in a new context – a syntax which speaks of anecdotes bound up in the objects that once filled our homes, destined to enter the geological record as nothing more than a marker to identify our fleeting place in ‘deep time’.

Using these found objects in my practice began as an exploration of material culture but has become an appreciation of something much more complex. The most significant patterns and processes continue unnoticed in our busy, modern world and it is only our steady accumulation of discarded materials which are making these visible. Our detritus is simply tangled up in these ancient rhythms which are made visible on the high-water mark of any beach.

As I walk our coastline now, so much more in invoked than the simple joy of discovering an unusual trinket. I embrace the liminal frontier, engaging with an elemental force so much greater than ourselves in a space where I feel anything is possible – until the next high tide at least.