THORN ‘Turning Tides’ – A Review


THORN is student run arts events organisation and an online journal, which aims to act as a platform for outstanding creative work, collaborating with young artists everywhere. Recently Thorn held an art exhibition entitled ‘Turning Tides’ at the Gates in Durham, which consisted of art, live music and poetry, as part of its weekend-long festival ‘Thornfest’. The focus was on human engagement with the sea, a popular theme throughout literature and art history.

The sea is a romantic symbol for humanity. Its allure is based on its complexity, its seductive movement, its danger and its power. The power and mystery surrounding the sea in our cultural history is no doubt down to the fact that in the past it was seen as a barrier to unknown foreign continents, full of places to explore, a promise of exciting adventures for our ancestors. Poets such as W.H.Auden have mused on the disorientating aspect and dynamism of the sea, describing it as ‘that state of barbaric vagueness and disorder out of which civilization emerged.’ The ocean is far more than a geographical feature; it is a metaphor for the human state of mind and our emotional stability.

These themes resonated strongly throughout the ‘Turning Tides’ exhibition where the power of the ocean and the emotions it can represent was highlighted by the juxtaposition of works that dealt with both turbulent feelings and solemn contemplations.

Libby Pattison’s painting aimed “to capture the idea of ‘Turning Tides’ as the changes people go through, such as the change from home to university, and the emotions these cause.” The upper half of a face is blighted by the turning tides of the ocean while black ink drops from the shoulders in the lower half to leave a sense of fading away, maybe a submission to the relentlessness and power of the ocean, and of change.

Painting by Libby Pattison
Painting by Libby Pattison

The dramatic photographs by Gregor Petrikovic at THORN’s exhibition were surreal and beautiful. Petrikovic features in many of his own photographs, which seem to tell a narrative and have a strong undercurrent of life and death. The piece ‘Decay’ is stunning and startling, Petrikovic appears to be dead, half submerged in murky water with a cockroach on his torso. Despite how gruesome this description sounds, the photograph is serine and is symbolic of nature itself.

‘The day when my childhood ended’ is an action shot of Petrikovic running towards the camera, arms outstretched, clutching a teddy bear in one hand and the newspaper in the other. It is most possibly based on the Peter Pan paradox, the fear of growing old, a representation of the uncertainty that we experience in this transition.

Olivia Verelst’s portraiture consisted of pencil drawings overlaid with 3-D pen, with which she had created a tangled mesh of plastic, cleverly spun into headphones. The delicate pencil lines were emphasised by the effective use this technology, cleverly contrasting the manmade headphones and the very traditional medium used in the main body of the portraits.

With very few artistic opportunities available in Durham, THORN provides a platform for artistic collaboration and for the appreciation and recognition of artistic merit. The online journal is available at where the Michaelmas edition includes beautiful photographs and poetry by Dion Dobrzynski and music by Will Tyas, a London based musician and sound designer.

Featured Image by Gregor Petrikovic

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