A Rock From An Island
Maritime Distress flag (with sleeves): Embroidered shirt, rope, wooden toggle.
A Rock From An Island: Folded giclee print on paper.
Andy says: A rock sits behind a glass panel embedded in the wall of a museum in Turku, Finland. It has been moved 17,000km from the Island of Pourewa on the east coast of New Zealand. It’s surface looks sea washed, smooth and white, and it sits on a bed of light pink and grey pebbles (their origin is not recorded). This rock commemorates Herman Spöring Junior, a watchmaker from Turku in Finland. He sailed on Captain Cook’s first voyage, during which Cook re-named Pourewa ‘Spöring Island’. Herman was the first person from Turku recorded in this part of the world but he died on the way home and was buried at sea.
On Eastney seafront in Portsmouth, not far from where I was born, fortifications of concrete and steel, angled to repel hostile military forces, jut into the rising water, sliding, fissured, smashed smoothed and sinking. The tide races between this point and Hayling Island opposite, the water heaping up as it rushes to fill Langstone Harbour and the salt flats which cut Portsea Island from the mainland beyond. I lift a smooth lump of concrete from the water’s edge into my arms. Rounded pebbles of unknown origin are exposed on its surface. The rock is moved 127km to my friend Sam’s studio in London, where he helps me photograph it to make a poster as a reminder of the rock behind the glass panel embedded in the wall of a museum in Turku, Finland.
I printed this work for The Notice Board as I was thinking about time, territory and the sea. Studying the Flood Map website I could see that, left unchecked, rising sea levels would leave the flag and noticeboard on a promontory reaching into the North Sea at the wide mouth of the River Welland. By this time Portsmouth would be inundated, the rock in Turku would be under water and the Island of Pourewa would be divided into two, smaller, islands. Herman Spöring would still be buried at sea, but it would be a different shape sea and there would be different stories.
The Maritime Distress flag (with sleeves). Onboard ship, flags are a source of useful coloured material, and I have seen examples with shaped holes cut out to fashion other items at sea. One man I know used to cut all the white material from enormous naval flags to use as dust sheets. This work, a maritime distress flag which is 30 miles from the sea, takes this repurposing in a new direction. Its form as a shirt alludes to a missing body, its empty, flapping arms a frantic wave for help. The absent vessel suggests a wider context; a flag flown from the deck of a vast floundering vessel floating in space…
Andy Parker is an artist based in Somerset. He grew up in Portsmouth; his dad was a sailor in the Royal Navy and his mum is from the tiny South Atlantic Island of St Helena. With a nautical backdrop and a passion for unpicking and re-tangling history, his practice often turns toward the coast for its inspiration. He has been selected to exhibit at galleries including Arnolfini in Bristol, Outpost in Norwich and Studio Voltaire in London. His work is held in public and private collections including the V&A, the British Museum, and Deutsche Bank in London, and the Frangenberg Collection in Cambridge. andyp.co.uk