Endless Voyage

Endless Voyage, 2011, was made as part of a project with Figure Ground. The setting was the redundant lightship LV21 now moored at Gillingham pier. LV 21 with its jaunty air and interesting history is a fantastic setting for an art project. I imagined that I would find the ship very matter of fact and orderly; which of course on one level it is, but I was overwhelmed by the evocative nature of its decayed surfaces and the obscured and constrained views to the outside from within the vessel. The dual nature of this experience, orderly, rational…nuts and bolts and labels, contrasted with the romanticism of the landscapes / seascapes which emerged when you looked at it in a different way.

Photographs of the interior taken as reference shots emerged on printing them to be like views of distant planets looming into view, in sight but impossibly distant. Something like glimpses of the shore must have been for the men who worked on the lightship originally. So I decided to make my work about the contrast between these two aspects, the ordered ‘stuff’ of everyday experience and the isolation, which must have accompanied it.



Endless Voyage installation in the engineer’s cabin on LV21: Found objects: old bottles, photographs, silt and Medway water

Film By Gary Weston of day 3 of the Figure Ground Project on LV21: 20 Artists Commandeer Light Vessel 21

Track Changes, an artist’s book by Figure Ground documents the work of all the artists taking part in the project. The book was launched at Bookartbookshop, www.bookartbookshop.com

Some words of Derek Grieve, from the original crew chimed with this and inspired the title. He described being on the lightship as like ‘a sea journey that didn’t end’ and added ‘many looked at the time spent onboard as time standing still. Everything stopped when you stepped from the helicopter…’

The bleak and beautiful natural and post-industrial landscape of the Medway also fed into the work and supplied much of the materials of which the piece was made.

Some feedback from visitors: 

“Jane’s idea of an endless voyage began with thoughts of how a crew member would be feeling when on board the lightship: detached, out there, in a world full of little worlds. From ships in bottles, the idea evolved to include water from the Medway, seaweed and those amazing lights, suffusing the blackened hull into an otherworldly space.”

“Interestingly most of the work that really resonated with me was that produced by artists who were working individually in response to the space. I loved Jane Ponsford‘s Endless Voyage, a flotilla of internally lit-up bottles each containing an image or object relating to the lightship. Presented in a glossy black room they appear both isolated from each other but also connected, alone but communicating across the vast dark sea.”


Figure Ground website