Wild Nature And Military Bunkers - The Art Of Orford Ness

By Richard Moss | 01 August 2008
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a photograph of an expanse of shingle beach with two pagoda style military bunkers in the distance

Orford Ness. © NTPL Joe Cornish

The beautiful but desolate landscape and ghostly military bunkers of Orford Ness are the inspiration for a new art project by London-based artist Matthew Roberts.

The National Trust property occupies a remote shingle spit on the wild and remote extremity of eastern England, which was once a top secret Cold War military testing ground.

Today a series of concrete military ‘pagodas’ attests to the secret goings on there, while visitors who take the ferry to the isolated spot are immediately struck by the strange and ethereal atmosphere of the former military site, which is now an important area of flora and fauna.

It is this unusual juxtaposition of bleak military bunkers and wild nature left to its own devices that has drawn Roberts to it as a fertile ground for his latest artwork.

“It’s the dynamic between the natural forces at Orford Ness and the scars of past military intervention that is central to my artwork,” says Roberts, who first visited Orford Ness in 2004.

The images he has been working on are a mixture of iconic military symbols from the years of military testing and the sea and its impact on the landscape.

a painting showing the outline of a pagoda like structure in a landscape etched in yellow against a black background

Matthew Roberts, Pagoda Project. © the artist

Many of the eerie buildings that were once used as laboratories for testing atomic weapons still remain and it is one of these landmark buildings, Laboratory 4 (one of the Orford Ness ‘Pagodas’), that will house the new art exhibition.

“I feel that it is pertinent that the very building built for atomic weapons testing can now be used to house a fresh and optimistic experiment which has regard for the natural location,” adds Roberts.

The art project is open to the public from Tuesday August 12 until Saturday August 16 August. (This is during normal opening hours and therefore subject to the normal arrangements and charges).

Access to Orford Ness involves a five-minute ferry, crossing the River Ore from Orford quay, from 10am – 2pm, approx every 20 minutes (last return ferry at 5pm). For more information, call Orford Ness National Trust Office on: 01394 450900.

For information on The Pagoda Project visit www.matthewroberts.co.uk

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