Alexandra Leykauf 
Saturday 20 January, 2018
Focal Point Gallery, Southend


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May 2017 – January 2018

Alexandra Leykauf has been awarded the Artists’ Research Centre Essex Fellowship. Leykauf will work with the Artists’ Research Centre to develop a programme of events reflecting her thinking and creative practice. This project is a collaboration with Focal Point Gallery, Southend Libraries and Museums, and Essex University.

Research Summary

Since May 2017, Leykauf has been carrying out research into the social, historical and cultural context of Southend-on-Sea. Specifically, how is it possible to represent a landscape – through images, ideas, politics or the natural world – and what is it that informs our understanding of the landscapes which we move through, both in our minds and our day to day lives?

For her Research Fellowship Alexandra Leykauf has been visiting the landscapes libraries, museums and archives of Essex as part of her investigation into where the idea of a landscape comes from; how it can be represented and the ways in which writers and artists, academics and archaeologists such as JA Baker, Seamus Heaney and Ken Worpole have sought to make sense of our shared history through landscape. The ancient geography of Essex is one that holds within it the social and political history of our nation as a centre of trade and migration, a home of industry and innovation, radicalism and reaction. A watchful, sometimes war like, island shaped by the sea and the life of the people living at it’s edge. All this can be seen within the physical geography of the county from the docks in the estuary to the ancient barrows and crops marks which appear fleetingly over the summer and can only be seen from the air as layers of history reaching back to the Bronze age.

Leykauf’s research has centred on these landscapes around Southend; the history of their documentation and the ways in which artists, writers and archaeologists have interpreted them in literature, art and science. Beyond the physical evidence there is also the landscape of the imagination – the how the idea of landscape came into being, how it has developed from ancient sagas to the writings of Seabald, Ackroyd and Lichtenstein. This exhibition brings together some of Leykauf’s thinking and discoveries made during the course of her fellowship from forgotten aerial photographs to annotated maps of the haunts of peregrines to the paintings of Alfred Munnings. It will also feature new film works, and an epic series of photograms made at night using the architecture of the Forum building itself to produce a vast new swirling monochrome landscape for Southend.

The exhibition will be previewed by a live event, recorded with a studio audience in a rarely seen space within the Victorian museum in Southend. Recently stripped back for renovation and unseen for 40 years, the reading room of the old library will be the stage for a panel discussion on imagined landscapes, readings and a presentation from Leykauf on her research into the landscapes of the county.


Research Material 

Below are a collection of images, scans and material taken from Leykauf’s research project in Essex. During the next six months Leykauf will be visiting archives and museums, interviewing academics, writers and artists and conducting field trips.The material shown here is a reflection of her activity and will feed the connected events programme taking place in Southend during the course of the Fellowship.

Photogram testing process at The Forum.


Making field recordings in North Essex at a Neolithic burial site.


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A selection of arial photographs from Southend Libraries showing crop marks and estuary coastlines across Essex. The scanning process bleeds through printing from the printed pages below, creating layered images which themselves reflect the historical layering in photos of crop marks where it is possible to see neolithic, bronze age, roman and saxon traces in a single image and landscape.

Images taken from films short in 360 degrees by Leykauf on tours around Essex. Here we see Wallasea Island and West Canvey Marsh.

JA Baker, who’s seminal work The Peregrine continues to influence contemporary nature writing today and is sited as an influence many leading naturalists, took few photographs. However he was in the habit of cutting out images he selected from magazines and keeping them instead. Above is a selection made by Leykauf from the archive at Essex University.

Listen to film maker Werner Herzog discuss The Peregrine here

Baker's map of Essex 3.jpg

counting birds 2  counting birds, dates 2  counting birds, dates

This map and log books, taken from the JA Baker Archive held at the University of Essex, records Baker’s sitings of birds in his travels across the county.


The Lobster Smack, Canvey Island  The Lobster Smack
Two views of The Lobster Smack Pub, Canvey Island. The image on the right is by an unknown artist painted c.1900. The Pub, actually built below sea level, along with much of the rest of the island was prone to regular flooding until the sea wall was built in towards then end of the last century.

Below: RSPB badges

another mystery solved, kestrel  another mystery solved, wren



Rosetti poem scanned from JA Baker’s notebook containing many such copies of his favourite works. An introduction to Rossetti’s work and life can be found here