Wadden Sea, Denmark, May 2022
Wide sandy beaches, immense dunes, enormous dikes, and endless tidal flats — the Wadden Sea straddles the Danish, German and Dutch North Sea coast and is of inestimable importance for a large number of bird species on the East Atlantic migration route. Since 2019, The SWLA has collaborated with the Danish Wadden Sea National Park to create an exciting and innovative project that attempts to communicate the natural values of this unique landscape by the means of art and education related activities.
Back in October 2019, twelve artists from the SWLA visited the southern part of the Danish Wadden Sea, where they immersed themselves in the saltmarshes and dunes surrounding the historic market town of Tønder, close to the border with Germany. A selection of sketches from this first residency were subsequently exhibited in the Out of Frame room at “The Natural Eye” exhibition.
Sadly, the COVID 19 epidemic caused the second residency to be postponed for two years, meaning it was not until May of this year that the second group of 12 SWLA artists finally gathered on the island of Fanø, situated in the Northern part of the Danish Wadden Sea. In contrast to the autumnal storms and windblown saltmarshes of the first residency, the artists were treated this time to clement and balmy Spring weather as well as a more diverse range of landscapes and habitats. Once again, however, emphasis would be on attempting to understand and express the intricate relationship between the natural processes of the endless movement of wind and water, and that of the cultural landscape created by the region’s inhabitants over many millennia.
When managed correctly, there is space within this dynamic environment for both people and wildlife to flourish. On the island of Fanø, several artists were lucky enough to spend extended periods observing and recording local Bluethroats, Little Terns and Kentish Plovers, all of which are breeding as a result of protective measures implemented by the National Park. The group also visited the neighbouring island of Mandø, which houses important breeding populations of waders and ducks, thanks to a recently completed major nature restoration project undertaken with the support of the island’s 30 or so inhabitants.
In the northernmost part of the Wadden Sea, the artists visited the Skallingen peninsula, where the Varde Stream empties into the Ho Bay. The untouched dunes and saltmarshes here are one of the only areas in the Wadden Sea where the regular storm surges are not controlled by damns or dykes, and the area has been a subject of biological and geological research for over 100 years. Here the artists worked for a whole day and were treated to, amongst other things, an energetic flock of Sanderling at very close quarters.
During the week, the public had several opportunities to look over the artists’ shoulders and interact with them at close quarters. At an ‘open air’ event on Sønderho, Fanø, the public were encouraged to observe and talk to the SWLA artists working along the coastal dyke. Later the artists delivered several workshops to school classes in the region where, despite the language barrier, impressive work was created by enthusiastic students. Lastly, at the end of the week, a festive event and exhibition was held at the hotel, where the mayor of Fanø and the National Park offered the SWLA artists a warm official welcome.
The SWLA Wadden Sea Project will result in a travelling exhibition, showcasing some of the fantastic work produced by 19 SWLA artists across both residencies. Furthermore, a book about the project is currently in production, and will be ready for the opening of the first exhibition in Tønder in June 2023. The writer Colin Williams has been involved in the project from the start and participated in both residencies and will be providing the written content for the book.
Haunted by the Last Tide is available to order online.