On the 20 August, a group of cutting edge poets will bring new aesthetic visions of South London to Deptford’s APT Gallery. This is the culmination of South Speak, a programme by artist Sam Petherbridge that encourages poets to experiment with publishing their work as visual art. Ahead of their exhibition, Sam wrote about setting up this programme, the inspiration behind it and why you should go and see it…

Seven poets were chosen by open call to write about South London, in whichever way they found interesting. This act of mapping the diverse narratives in this bustling place takes us in all sorts of directions. Sometimes we celebrate and beautify, sometimes we criticise and mourn. But always we discover touchstones that unify and give us some sense of belonging in this dizzyingly quick world. Some of the poets exhibited are lifelong residents, some are just passing through, and all are keen to tell these stories in new ways.

Written poetry so often keeps to its austere world of white pages and little black marks. Why are our poems not colourful, kaleidoscopic depictions of the world they describe? On the stage, the modern spoken word movement has challenged traditions that dictate how poetry should be read. South Speak takes inspiration from this, and encourages writers to explore the written word as full of visual possibilities. Here you will find poems cut up and projected onto walls, scribbled onto found objects or listed as descriptions in an auction sale. Through this process, we hope to build towards a culture of poetry that enjoys the written word as beautiful in itself.

Such a culture can only be built if poets step out of literature and explore the creative wealth of other art worlds. The South Speak exhibition presents work that has taken this challenging step, and bridges the gap between art worlds. All the work has been made as part of a cross-arts collaboration, each poet working closely with me on the visual presentation of their poem. Doing so supports them in deciding for themselves how to integrate the tools of fine art into their own practice.

For me, this collaborative aspect is my favourite thing about the project; I think a lot about the process of collaboration as well as the marriage of words and images. I believe that a rich exhibition displays many minds and materials. This project shows that everyone has lots to learn from a shared creative practice.

South Speak is open from the 22-26 August at the APT Gallery, Deptford. This is part of August Collective, a residency of different collaborative artists exhibiting each week of August. It exhibits the work of Cai Draper, CIL, Esther Heller, Lauren Haine, Poppy Frean, Rosanna Hildyard and Slam The Poet. Entrance is free.

About the Artist
Sam Petherbridge’s practice is centred in conversation and collaboration between people. He is fascinated by the social realities that structure our interactions, and the role of art in revealing these. He enjoys working in a variety of mediums but has mostly worked in collage, bookbinding and photography. A relational artist at heart, Sam has a lot of experience working with non-artists to examining their own realities of life. This approach has seen him thrive as a teacher and resident artist in Colombia, London and Bristol. Most recently, Sam has sharpened this practice to examine the intersection of visual art and poetry through numerous collaborations with writer Slam The Poet. He is very excited to deepen this focus and meet new exciting poets through the South Speak programme.

Published 31 July