Utter Journal, Issue 001. Spring 2019.
Between River Port and Sea
This body of new work, a synthesis of photography and paintings, is the outcome of a conversation between Mark Cator and Bruer Tidman that has continued over many years, circling around the same preoccupation and determination: "We should do something about Yarmouth". What they have created can be understood as many things - observation, record, research, homage, and an unexpected love letter to the town that they have claimed as their own.
The roots of this material run deep. For Cator, a childhood in the Norfolk Broads drew him to the work of P.H. Emerson, whose images of life in the Broads and, later, the port of Great Yarmouth, along with his pioneering writing about the nature of photography as an art form, provide an important context for Cator’s move to Great Yarmouth in 2015 and his most recent photographic projects in the town.
Cator’s images capture a precarious balance between a moment snatched from time and composition perfectly and painstakingly orchestrated. These works are deceptive documents that are not intended to tell us more about Yarmouth than they do about the nature of photography or the aesthetics of the photographer. And yet they do tell about a great variety of people and places, without judgement and with humour and affection. Cator has tirelessly hunted these images, from the deserted streets of first light to the crowds of the mid-summer seafront. Once or twice the subject looks back at the photographer, a moment of eye contact as the observed engages in the game. More often, people play a part within a broader scene. In the arcade, a female figure is cropped to the left, leaving the striking diagonals or torso and arms within the technicolour lights.
Bruer Tidman has worked as an artist in Great Yarmouth for over 50 years. His current painting studio, in the industrial headland between river port and sea, was once a loft of mending nets in such the herring industry – the artist’s mother had been a “beatster” mending nets I such a loft. Now Tidman’s studio sits above a metal workshop, directly across the road from Cator’s atelier and the home of Utterbooks.
As a young artist in the late 1950s, studying at the Great Yarmouth College of Art, Tidman drew scenes of the working life of the port, unknowingly echoing Emerson’s images of the late 19th Century. In recent decades, Tidman’s artistic preoccupations have been introspective, looking to the people, artists and music that have held a lasting fascination for him. This project has drawn him out again, to the streets surrounding his studio and back to the Hippodrome Circus and the performers that have been a recurring subject. Tidman’s most recent paintings feature the recognisable rooflines of the buildings beyond his studio. These are haunting nocturnes that have a sense of the fantastic, and dreamlike quality that conjures up the power of this particular location for the artist.
For me, the beauty of this project lies in the fact that words are not needed to reveal or amplify the images. Cator and Tidman allow us to glimpse something of this time in Great Yarmouth, from which we can read signals and glean information that begins to feel like an understanding. Arising from their thoughtful immersion in Great Yarmouth, the material featured here tells us much about the significance of this place to these artists.
Amanda Geitner, Director of East Anglia Art Fund