Land/Water and the Visual Arts
'The Lawes of the Marches' – copyright Katie Davies 2015

Land/Water consists of artists, writers and curators who embrace a diversity of creative and critical practices. 

As a research group it operates as a forum for the interrogation of nature and culture, aesthetics and representation. 

Questioning imagery and practices relating to land, landscape and place is central to our ethos. As artists, writers, curators we work individually exploring space and place as a point of departure for experimenting in new modes of communication through picturing. 

We generate work that addresses a range of issues. These include environmental change, sustainability, journey, site and regional specificity.

In addition a forum for theoretical and methodological debate is constructed through research events, exchange exhibitions (with other HE Institutions), conferences, symposia and publications.

Find out more about the history of the research group.

Chris Cook awarded first prize at the Sunny Art Prize

The prize is a solo show in London, a month-long residency in China, a group exhibition in Sunny's Shanghai space and a £3000 stipend.

Premiere of Heidi Morstang’s 'Pseudotachylyte'

Heidi Morstang’s film Pseudotachylyte will have its premiere screening at Bergen International Film Festival, Norway, 25 September–3 October 2019. 

The film is in two competition programmes – the Norwegian Documentaries competition and the Golden Owl Competition

The black and white documentary film ‘Pseudotachylyte’ portrays how scientists explore landscape; through the microscopic view of the world to an understanding of deep time. 

The film was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth, part of the 2019 Creative Associates.

Upcoming external event

1 day symposium at RAMM , Exeter: Collecting regions - Photography and a sense of place

Wednesday 18 September 2019, 10:00 - 17:00

This one-day symposium at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter invites conversations on photography and photographic collections in the South West and wider UK in relation to aspects of place. Photographs relate to place in various ways including their documenting capacity and the direct inscription of the world on their surface. Therefore, photographs directly inform our imagination of a place. How do collections like this develop? In turn, a specific place can also inspire the work of photographers and photographic artists: the symposium includes a focus on Dartmoor, in particular.

Speakers include:
  • Liz Wells (curator, writer and Professor in Photographic Culture at the University of Plymouth)
  • Garry Fabian Miller (Dartmoor-based photographic artist)  
  • Bronwen Colquhoun (Senior Curator of Photography, National Museum Wales)  
  • Jo Bradford, (Dartmoor-based photographic artist and founder of Green Island Studios)
  • Emma Down, (Hidden Histories Project Archivist, Beaford Archive)  
  • Catherine Troiano, (Curator, National Photography Collections, National Trust)  
  • Brendan Barry (Exeter-based photographer, lecturer and educator, founder & director of Positive Light Projects)
  • Mark Haworth-Booth (former Senior Curator of Photography at the V&A)

The symposium will coincide with a small photography display at RAMM on ‘Rivers, Trees and Landmarks’.

For further information please contact Marie-Kathrin Blanck:

The symposium has been organised in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, made possible with Art Fund support.

Location Information
Name: Exeter RAMM - Gallery 20
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
Queen Street

Wayne Barrar: Deposited Ecologies and Archive Histories

Upcoming research seminar

Wednesday 25 September 2019, 14.00–15.30. Scott Building Room 102

Wayne Barrar: 'Group of diatomaceae, various.' Circular arranged slide of 278 diatoms from Oamaru, by Watson and Sons, c.1890. (Photographed 2014)

In his photographic project The Glass Archive, Wayne Barrar has used historic microscope slides, associated landscape sites and archives to explore connections between art and science, history and imagination.

The project focuses predominantly on diatoms, a type of microscopic algae. Avidly collected and traded in the 19th and 20th centuries, fossilised diatoms were regarded as a royal pinnacle among microscopic specimens – extremely beautiful, hugely diverse, and capable of being arranged in intricate patterns within the space of a few millimetres. 

Barrar has drawn on artifacts and samples in collections in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US, photographing the silica remains through a microscope, and contextualising their collection, dispersal and archiving. 

In this presentation, Barrar discusses The Glass Archive as a concept involving dispersed glass microforms from international samples, glass microscope slides held in a variety of collections, and the glass optics of microscopes and cameras that make the invisible visible – a mega collection which is the product of science, art and commerce.


Wayne Barrar is Associate Professor and Associate Head of School (Research) at Whiti o Rehua School of Art, Massey University, New Zealand. 

A selection of Wayne's work can be seen by visiting his website.

The Drift

The French artist-duo Hantu screened their film 'The Drift' at the Musee D'Art Moderne Grand Duc-Jean (Mudam) in Luxembourg on 9 September 2018.

The Drift was created in Plymouth during their artist-in-residency in 2014, hosted by the Land/Water and the Visual Arts Research Group in collaboration with the Marine Institute.

Hantu, consisting of Pascale Weber (Sorbonne University, Paris, France) and Jean Delsaux (University of Clermont-Ferrand, France) premiered The Drift at the Ocean City Festival, September 2014.

Discover more about The Drift

Environmental Arts Practice Research Conference

Thursday 25 and Friday 26 April 2019, University of Plymouth

The aim of this conference was to expand on and question how art can contribute to understanding contemporary environmental issues and challenges.

Longan woodland, University City, Chongqing, China, 2011. From Forest series, ©Yan Wang Preston

Artistic research practice has a unique capacity to offer crucial insights informing our understanding of environmental issues in the era of the Anthropocene. The reflexivity inherent in arts research along with an emphasis on expressive communication as outcome offers significant scope for bringing crucial yet complex relationships between vulnerable species, human action and climate change to wider appreciation amongst general audiences and key stakeholders. 

Placing artistic interpretive methods alongside scientific interpretive methods carries some risks and challenges, particularly as artistic approaches may invite an open-ended, contemplative engagement with the scientific, sensorial and political layering of the environment, that is not typical of mainstream science communication. Ways in which arts practice complements and extends scientific insight will be centrally addressed.

  • Keynote speaker: Professor Camille Parmesan,Global Change Biologist and President Macron's 'Make Our Planet Great Again' Laureate
  • Keynote speaker: Anne Noble, Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts (Photography) at Massey University, Wellington, and a New Zealand Arts Laureate
  • Book signing: Yan Wang Preston, ‘Mother River’ and ‘Forest’

This conference was the first of a series of research events planned by the international research network linking University of Plymouth, Massey University, New Zealand and Academy Valand, Gothenburg University, Sweden.

'Field Studies' winner of the Kraszna Krausz Best Photography Book 2018!

We are delighted to announce that artist Chrystel Lebas' publication Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives, designed by Hans Gremmen and published by Fw: books has won the Kraszna Krausz Best Photography Book 2018 on the 17 May.

Chrystel is an associate artist of the University's Land/Water and the Visual Arts research group.

“Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives by Chrystel Lebas is an engaging, multi-layered visual investigation of archival subject matter. Chrystel has used a fresh design for the delivery of this project in book form, reminiscent of a scientific journal.” 

– Christiane Monarchi, Judge, Photography Book Award

Essays by Nanda van den Berg, Mark Spencer, Bergit Arends and Liz Wells / Chapter texts by Chrystel Lebas.

Extract from Bergit Arends essay:

‘French Photographer Chrystel Lebas retracing the steps of famous botanist and ecologist Sir Edward James Salisbury (1886-1978). Salisbury’s glass negatives from the 1920s, where used for his research and served as an important tool for Lebas to (re-)visit the Scottish landscape. In ‘Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives’ she combines her own large panoramic photographs, with the negatives and texts of Salisbury. Lebas uses long exposures, mostly photographed at dusk, when colours become subtle. The photographs are printed on large size fold out pages, which show all works in great detail.’

‘Over 100 years later, Chrystel Lebas adopts this same state of travel, transported by Salisbury’s historic photographs. Her subject is—just like Salisbury’s was—the study of landscape environments and their inhabitant plants. Through photography and film Lebas traces the continual encounters between the forces of the wind and the sea with humans, animals, and plants.’ 

Professor Jem Southam recently returned from a stay in New Zealand, initiated by our long-standing relationship with the College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington. 

During the visit, he gave the annual Peter Turner Memorial Lecture at Te Papa, Wellington; participated in the second New Zealand PhotoBook festival; taught on a photography publishing workshop; led a session on planning for a national photography archive with museums from around the country; met with post-graduate students from Massey University; and began a photographic project in New Zealand; a start of a residency with the Photography department at Massey.

His was the third artist-in-residency by staff from 'Land/Water and the Visual Arts Research Group' to visit Massey University, after Liz Wells in 2010 and Heidi Morstang in 2012. Anne Noble, Wayne Barrar and Caroline McQuarrie from Massey University, have each made work as a result of artist-in-residencies at University of Plymouth.

Discussions also took place about extending the links between the two art schools through collaborative research, events and exchanges, which has been given potentially greater emphasis since Professor Chris Bennewith became Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture at University of Plymouth. Chris was previously Associate Pro Vice Chancellor Enterprise for the College of Creative Arts.

Professor Liz Wells awarded an honorary Doctorate

Professor Liz Wells has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, for her contributions within the fields of photography history, theory, curation and criticism internationally. This is especially significant as there is a particular interest in photography and environment at Valand Academy (Department for Film, Photography, Fine Art and Literary Composition) and also an established working relationship between photography and the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg. 

The honorary doctoral conferment took place at their annual University doctoral degree ceremony on October 20 2017. 

Liz Wells returned to Gothenburg to participate in a Valand Academy research day on 4 December 2017.

Professor Liz Wells receiving her honorary doctorate

Congratulations to Lu La Buzz who has recently completed her PhD 

The States and Status of Clay: Material, Metamorphic and Metaphorical Values

This doctoral project combines a performance-led practice with contextual research in order to demonstrate how arts practice can challenge historical perceptions of clay and enhance its material status. 

In terms of locality, the practice, which comprises eight performance-led works and related documentation, focuses on the China Clay and Ball Clay of South West England. Traditionally in the arts, these materials are associated with ceramics where through heating, clay becomes rigid and fixed. By contrast, Lu La Buzz' research investigates the textural fluidity and metamorphic potential of these clays in their original raw state.

Image title: Parent Rock 2. Photo credit: M Balmforth 

Upcoming touring exhibition: Layers of Visibility

Artist residencies facilitated and funded jointly by the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC) and the research group for Land/Water and the Visual Arts.

NiMAC, Nicosia, opening October 2018, available for tour, UK, spring 2019 onwards.

Learn more about the exhibition

Sally Waterman: Exhibition and seminar

'So Cheerio for Now', Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, London (11 November–16 December 2017)

Private View: Friday 10 November (18.00–20.00)

‘So Cheerio for Now’ features video and photographic works by Sally Waterman and Jacqueline Butler. Both artists use their personal archives as source material, reflecting on familial relationships, love and mourning. Drawing on analogue photographic albums and hand written letters, each artist reconstructs fragmented narratives from their past. Having moved away from their family homeland as young women, the exhibition traces the recurring journeys they make to their ancestral homes of the Isle of Wight and Glasgow. 

Information on the University of Greenwich Galleries website

'Journeying Home' 2 December 2017

There will be a seminar event organised by the Family Ties Network on Saturday 2 December called 'Journeying Home' and will include presentations by Sally Waterman, Jacqueline Butler, Matthew Humphreys and Celine Marchbank. 

Past events

  • Kayla Parker / Stuart Moore ‘Father-land’ Work-in-progress from NiMAC / Land/Water Cyprus residency – 22 November 2017

  • Research seminar – Esther Johnsen, 1 November 2017

  • Kayla Parker’s ‘On Location’ screened in the In the Open exhibition at Sheffield Institute of Art Gallery from 6–28 September 2017.

  • 'Critical Issues in Photography Today' 18–19 May 2017, University of Westminster, London UK. Photographies is co-edited by Liz Wells

  • Annual Summer Symposium – 'Territories' 22–23 June 2017 – Speaker Emeric Lhuisset

  • Research seminar – 15 March 2017 – Speakers Fedra Dekeyser and Claudia Pilsl 

  • Research seminar – 10 May 2017 – Speaker Esther Johnson 

  • Safekeeping bees – 'An interdisciplinary exploration of the future for bees in Britain’ symposium 

  • Speakers: Nick Bentham-Green, Mark Edwards, Dr William Kirk, Professor Andrea Liggins, Amy Shelton – 18 January 2017

  • Journeys and Transmission – 16–17 June 2016

  • Traffic: movement / place / flow / mobility – 14–16 April 2016

  • Wilderness / Wildness symposium – Speakers: Liz Wells, Eva Cooney, Daro Montag, Jay Griffiths, Stephen Huggett, Temujin Doran and Angus Carlisle – 25–26 June 2015

  • Flow – 30 November to 26 December 2014
  • 2014 ‘Nocturnal’ symposium – Speakers: Nick Alfrey, Angela Kingston, Susan Derges, Jem Southam, William Arnold, Milo Newman, Liz Nicol, Louisa Fairclough, Tabatha Andrews, Fergus Heron and Chrystel Lebas 

  • 2013 ‘Mapping’ symposium
    Speakers: David Chandler, Jean Delseaux, Caitlin Desilvey, Justin Partyka, Yan Preston, Susan Trangmar, Oliver Udy, Martin Warren, Pascale Weber and David Wyatt

  • 2012 ‘Water: Image’ International Conference Key note speakers: Deborah Bright (US), Per Bak Jensen (DK) and international speakers

  • 2011 ‘No Man’s Land’ symposium
    Speakers: Alev Adil, Anthony Haughey, Anne Noble, Emma Stibbon, Liz Wells and Anthony Caleshu

  • 2010 ‘Land and the Metaphysical’ symposium
    Speakers: David Williams, Jo Love and Mike Evans, David Rayson, Jane Grant and Peter Cusack

  • 2009 ‘Land and Expedition’ symposium
    Speakers: Anne Burke, Melanie Challenger, Neville Gabie, Vicky Long, Jorma Puranen and Stephen Vaughan 


Associated members

  • Susan Derges
  • Liz Nicol
  • Stephen Vaughan
  • Chrystel Lebas - Independent artist

Artist in residence

  • Wayne Barrar - Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Deborah Bright 
  • Caroline Mcquarrie - Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Hantu (Pascale Weber - Sorbonne University, Paris and Jean Delseux - University of Clemont-Ferrand)


  • Rachael Allain - PhD
  • Lu La Buzz - PhD 
  • Jennifer Crowther - PhD
  • Fedra Dekeyser - PhD 
  • Jose Emanuel Bras - MPhil/PhD 
  • Laura Hopes - PhD
  • Karol Kwiatek - MPhil/PhD 
  • Mary Pearson - PhD
  • Claudia Pilsl - PhD 
  • Yan Preston - PhD 
  • David Wyatt - PhD

  • Nicola Curtis - MRes Photography, completed 2010
  • Jason Hirons - MRes Landscape, completed 2010
  • Kate Isherwood - MRes Photography, completed 2010
  • Jess Maslen - MRes Photography, completed 2010
  • Laurie Reynolds - MRes Photography, completed 2010
  • Martin Shaw - PhD, completed 2010
  • Sally Waterman - PhD, completed 2010