Sunderland - lines and colours

Sunderland ('sundered from the land'), also called Sunderland Point, is the only community in the UK that is on the mainland and yet dependent upon tidal access.

The quayside at Sunderland Point was the first legal quay in the area before 1739 - anything landing outside this boundary from abroad was classed as smuggling.
Sunderland was a port for both cotton and slave ships and is home to a grave with an inscription from 1796 that a life will be judged ‘not on a man’s colour but the worth of his heart'.

Its collapse as a port led it to be known as 'Cape Famine', but its fortunes revived as people came to drink the sea water and bathe in bath houses. It is now home to around 70 people in about 35 properties.

Phil and I visited Sunderland Point for the first time in June 2015. Our journal entry for that day captures our initial impressions: ‘the views were fabulous even in the wind and rain – it felt wild and edgy’. We loved it and soon after moved to nearby Overton, partly so we could visit regularly.

The lines of this riverscape are constantly changing. The light expands and fades whilst the river, impelled by its umbilicus relationship with the moon, is dragged in and out, back and forth, so that the road between Overton and Sunderland is sometimes available, sometimes not.

The road itself seems playful, engaging me in an ongoing game of hide and seek, disappearing under the water only to re-emerge several hours later - now you see me, now you don’t.

Since July, I have walked this road many times. It is a journey enriched with music – wind, sometimes gentle but often not, accompanied by the birds calling out as they go about their daily routine. Curlew, redshank, lapwing, heron and swan pick out small crabs and other food deposits offered by the tidal changes.

The lines of the buildings are strong and definite. They reflect the architecture of a community that has adapted and changed over many generations, each home echoing the palette of human stories that have been played out within.

Colours come and go as the light changes – sometimes lilacs, dusky pinks and greys and sometimes inky blues, charcoals and blacks – enhancing these dreamlike landscapes.

Lines and colours form the eternal backdrop to the community and its legends - enigmatic, mysterious and intriguing Sunderland.

An exhibition by Stephanie Province - paintings and prints (linocuts and wood engravings) inspired by Sunderland Point

29 January to 31 March