Photography and fine art students inspired by Langdale Valley and the Merzbarn

Photography and fine art students inspired by Langdale Valley and the Merzbarn name


A wide range of images taken by photography and fine art students from the University of Cumbria who spent three days studying the contemporary landscape in the Langdale Valley have been produced.

Based around Elterwater and artist Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbarn in Langdale, their project 'Land Matters’ was a site-specific residential research project providing the students with the opportunity to investigate the landscape. Applying a range of approaches, both practical and conceptual, students created visual art and contemporary photography, in response to the environment of Chapel Stile village and the Langdale valley.

Martin Fowler, senior lecturer at the university’s Institute of the Arts describes the project:

“The Land Matters project provided a unique opportunity for our students to spend three days in the heart of the Lake District National Park, working directly on location and in collaboration with the internationally renowned Merzbarn. The students presented a 'pop-up' show which brought their contemporary art and photography into direct contact with the social, political and topographical factors within the exceptional environs of the Langdale valley.”

As well as digital imaging, photography students employed traditional film, which was then processed on location using an improvised darkroom, while the fine art students developed their research findings through a variety of media including paint, bones, scaffolding poles and charcoal.

Year 2 fine art student Suncana Milic staged a performance in Cathedral Cave in the Little Langdale Gallery, while the physical art work created was displayed by the group in a pop-up exhibition they created on site within the Merzbarn, where Modernist artist Kurt Schwitters created his final Merzbau, a room-sized, living sculptural construction, which is now in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.

Second-year fine art student, Poppy Cookson said of the experience:

“I feel that I have learned how to go into a landscape and use the historical and societal context of the location to create work which responds to these elements. The trip really allowed me to open up my mind and let go of convention and work with what I had available in such a short space of time. It was really interesting to see how my ideas started to flow and I found I was making connections with my current practice despite going into the location with a different question altogether.”