Magazine article Times Higher Education

Verging on the Unexpected: Get a Glimpse of Life beside the Fast Lane

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Verging on the Unexpected: Get a Glimpse of Life beside the Fast Lane

Article excerpt

Matthew Reisz is carried along by the beauty revealed in neglected parts of our landscape.

An artist and academic fascinated by "edges, borders and the scraps of land people tend not to care about" has completed a book and exhibition project devoted to the unexpected "untrammelled and untrod" landscapes around motorways.

Edward Chell, senior lecturer in fine art at the University for the Creative Arts Canterbury, grew up near Halifax and remembers cycling along the not-yet-completed trans-Pennine M62, where the vast signs gave the motorway a "monumental, even sublime" feeling.

He was astonished by the amount of wildlife around him when he was once stuck in a traffic jam on the M2. And he is intrigued by how motorways such as the M40 consist of "a succession of staggering 'reveals'", as each bend opens up a new panorama.

Since the 18th century, Mr Chell argued, sightseeing has meant "going to places with views, which are in some sense edifying. Motorways aren't like that, because we rush through them and they are very utilitarian. But, similar to a lot of places we tend to ignore, there are hidden gems when we look for them. I am fascinated by the beauty of their utilitarianism, finding the extraordinary within the ordinary, which is visually very refreshing."

This interest in "neglected territories" had led Mr Chell to study environments such as stairwells, connecting corridors, doctors' waiting rooms and supermarket car parks.

He secured an Arts and Humanities Research Council fellowship for the academic year 2012-13, which released him from teaching and enabled him to carry out the research for the exhibition and book, both titled Soft Estate. …

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