A new exhibition by Allan Grainger explores the South Downs at night. Downland Gloaming is on at Towner Art Gallery from September 17.
The ongoing project sees Grainger capture the beauty and mystery of the Downs during his night walks.
“I have been night walking on the Downs for about 20 years and around two years ago I started to think about looking at it from a photographic point of view,” says Grainger.
“Prior to that it was just the pleasure of walking at night.”
Letting imagination take hold
The project takes inspiration from Eric Ravilious, Edward Thomas, Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways and Ann Wroe’s Six Facets of Light.
“I have always been attracted to the poetic,” says Grainger.
“I think the gloaming is the perfect time for that because you get absorbed into its atmosphere”
That sense of absorption is emphasised by a lack of light in the images.
“When you are walking at night you have to allow time for your night vision to adjust,” he says.
“Similarly with the images I haven’t helped the viewer in any way. You need time for the eye to adjust to slowly reveal the patterns of the landscape.”
With these gloaming images, Grainger is opening up an experience many people would otherwise never have.
Normally on his night walks the only people he sees are those returning home.
“I think all art really is about giving a way in, opening a door to an experience,” he says.
“The gloaming is that liminal space in time when you leave the clarity of the day and enter the realm of imagination.
“I think sometimes people are a bit afraid of that – when imagination takes hold.”
Finding the meditative
At first sight, Downland Gloaming may seem like a departure from Grainger’s previous urban tableaux.
However, there is still the same undercurrent of psychogeography.
“I think the same approach is still there,” he says.
“It goes back to a psychogeography encounter. When you enter a landscape or an urban-scape you are entering its myths, the rhythm of its poets, the eyes of its artists.
“They all come together in a moment of recognition.
“It is that moment when an action almost reaches a state of grace or a transcendental moment. I think that process, that psychogeography, still stays the same.”
In both settings – urban and natural – Grainger’s images are about recognising the spirit of the place.
“I don’t see it as a huge difference.
“Both environments have a different pace to them but my engagement with them is always meditative during the making of the images and at the printing stage.”
The Downland Gloaming exhibition is on display in the Eric Ravilious Room of Towner Art Gallery from September 17 until November 10.
For more information visit www.allangrainger.com