Mosses and Marshes

The Mosses and Marshes project brings together artists, land managers and environmental specialists in the UK and Australia questioning how we think about and value natural environments through works centred on the raised peat bogs of Fenn’s Bettisfield and Whixall Mosses NNR on the border between England and Wales and the iconic Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales, Australia.

Full details can be found at:

In 2018, I began working with digital media artist Kim V. Goldsmith (NSW, Australia) as part of the international art programme, Arts Territory Exchange.

With a common interest in environmental issues, we explored how we might create an international project presenting these wetland landscapes alongside each other, reimagining their future and the place they have in our communities.

On the surface, these areas are vastly dissimilar – one is a raised peat bog inundated with water, the other severely impacted by ongoing drought. In addition, the landscape, the issues and management of the Mosses and Marshes all differ in response to their respective climatic and environmental conditions. However, both are natural sites of international significance, and both have an impact on or are impacted by land uses.  

The interpretation of water data for both sites, along with access to them from field trips, provides an opportunity to present these spaces creatively through a new lens, in a way not routinely experienced. This in turns gives managing bodies, and those with an interest in the Mosses and Marshes, a chance to put the spotlight on why they are so important and how they might be managed in future. As Ramsar-listed international wetlands of importance, these sites “are recognized as being of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.” Recent events, such as the bush fires across Australia, demonstrate how fragile and vulnerable these landscapes are to climate change.

In 2021, public funding from the National Lottery awarded by Arts Council England combined with funding secured in Australia enabled us to work with five other artists:  Elizabeth Turner and Keith AshfordSue ChallisKate Johnston and Lydia Halcrow, artist/curator Gudrun Filipska of Arts Territory ExchangeMediaactive Projects CIC and local partners Wem Youth Club. The project was supported by Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England via the Marches Mosses BogLIFE project.

Events include:

  • Mosses and Marshes exhibition of work by Andrew Howe and Kim V. Goldsmith at Qube Oswestry (1st – 30th October)
  • peat – surface – sky: an exhibition by Wem Youth Club featuring three 7m long banners and other artworks, including prints by Andrew Howe and works by Sue Challis (15th Sept to 30th October)
  • Art Trail of sounds and sculpture at the Whixall Moss from July to October 2021
  • Wem Sound Trail from October 2021
  • Mosses and Marshes project book launch
  • Artist talk online (14th October)
  • International online panel discussion “Alternative ways of understanding and valuing special environments to help shape their future” online via zoom on 11th November 2021

See OftheMosses/events for more information

The artworks are my response to the multitude of different observations and viewpoints from the Mosses. These appear as motifs, traces or in lines, drawn from monitoring data of groundwater levels, land drainage maps, state boundaries, digital sound recordings of birds, documentation of found objects, photographs and other records. It is this multiplicity that emphasises that there are many hidden narratives in any landscape.

Work comprises video and sound recordings, paintings, prints and photography presenting views of the interdependent relationships between humans, the land and its ecosystems. From numerous visits for walks across the Mosses I gathered field recordings and natural materials for use in making handmade paper and botanical dyes.

Hawker, sloe, alder and oak gall inks on canvas, 95cm x 61cm
Territory, collage with papers made from silver birch, heather, bracken, purple moor grass and reeds

One of the initial focal points was the restoration of a former car scrapyard back to wetland habitat by Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Here I gathered a number of found objects which inspired several artworks.

Whixall Forms, oil on canvas, 61cm x 61cm

A publication about the Mosses and Marshes project was launched at the start of the Qube exhibition. The book goes beyond the artworks and allows the two collaborating artists to expand on the various themes of their research in the wetlands in texts and an array of beautiful images. 

Edited by Dr Liz Charpleix, with a foreword by Dave Pritchard (Ramsar Culture Network), the book features contributions from curators Gudrun Filipska (UK), Jamie Lea Trindall (AUS), ecological, environmental and cultural writings by Tim Hosking, Fleur and Laurance Magick Denis of Milan Dhiiyaan, Sooty Welsh (Wayilwan Elder/artist), Cathie Sleigh (Shropshire Wildlife Trust), Robert Duff (Natural England), and many other project partners and people from the communities around the Mosses and Marshes who have been generous with their time in engaging with the project.

A5 landscape, 112 full colour pages on 130gsm uncoated paper, with 300gsm soft touch laminated finish paperback cover, with graphic overlay design by Wayilwan Elder, Sooty Welsh.

The book is on sale in UK at £15 (+P+P)