Echoing the Guildhall through Art –
a conversation with Julia Groves

25 Mar 2021

“The Guildhall were immediately on board
and excited about the project.”

Founded in 2014, Echo Arts is a Suffolk-based arts group comprising artists that explore a diverse range of mediums, subjects and ideas. From painting to printmaking, collage to ceramics, Echo Arts represents a broad array of work that is showcased in their exhibitions, one of which was held at the Guildhall in September 2019. As the exhibition was site-specific, informed and inspired by the Guildhall itself, this collaboration was a unique opportunity for new and creative perspectives of the venue. For Julia Groves, a member and fellow artist of Echo Arts, it was the Guildhall’s gardens that sparked inspiration for her work.

Julia Groves works across mediums. Blurring the boundaries between historical and contemporary traditions of botanical art and illustration, Julia uses paints, pencils, photography and even collected specimen to explore our relationship with the natural world. Given her ethnobotanical focus, Julia was especially drawn to the Guildhall’s apothecary and sensory Tudor Knot garden when given a tour by one of the volunteer guides. After working closely with gardener Sue Thompson and collecting specimen from the garden, Julia created two works for the exhibition that fully encapsulated her multidisciplinary practice.

“The Guildhall is a really special place.”

After Echo Arts proposed the exhibition to the Guildhall in 2018, they had almost a year complete their work. With a positive response right from the start, the Guildhall supported the artists in their projects, from allowing access to the venue whenever they needed to helping promote the event online. Julia expressed her thanks to the whole Guildhall team and said she could really sense their genuine love for the place.

Julia’s exhibited work was a sculptural installation and a photography series. Harvesting ‘hybrids’ from the hidden garden, Julia constructed boats of poppy heads filled with herbs and other dried specimen which was largely informed by the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm. Imagining these boats going on a journey back in time, her piece reflected a deep connection to the Earth and the past.

Julia’s second artwork at the exhibition was prompted by a particularly moving inflorescence of corn poppies along the garden wall, which Julia described as ‘beautiful intruders’. Collecting and then pressing them, Julia watched the petals change shape and form. As intricate details surfaced, from shadowed creases to layered veins, she photographed the poppies and produced a series for the exhibition. Given the building’s presence through both world wars, Julia’s work was a reflection of its longstanding history and like the exhibition as a whole, echoed the fascinating narratives that surround the Guildhall.

Click here to find out more about Echo Arts. For more on Julia Groves’ work click here.

Quotes from Interview with Julia Groves. Interview by Rosie Grant.