Soft Estate

An exhibition and publication
The Bluecoat, Liverpool

6 December 2013 – 23 February 2014

Installation Images


laser-etched stainless steel, 3D work by Edward Chell

Above: Poker Smoker Mantle Piece (one of a pair) laser etched stainless steel, 2013

Exhibition opening | book launch| Thursday 5th December, 6pm

Edward Chell with invited artists Tim Bowditch & Nick Rochowski, Day Bowman, Jan Williams & Chris Teasdale (The Caravan Gallery), John Darwell, Laura Oldfield Ford, George Shaw, Robert Soden, Simon Woolham           

Prints made using road dust, etched car parts, a film of roadside shrines, and a new essay by environmental writer Richard Mabey are some of the highlights of a new exhibition and accompanying publication launching at the Bluecoat.

Soft Estate, the title of which derives from the Highways Agency term used to describe the natural habitats that have evolved along motorways and trunk roads, looks at how these borders offer a refuge for wildlife and a modern form of wilderness in the midst of intense urbanisation and agro-chemical farming.

Artist and academic Edward Chell investigates these contemporary motorway landscapes, linking them to 18th century ideas of the Picturesque and exploring the interface between history, ecology, roads and travel through a series of new works including an installation of 60 silhouette paintings of motorway plant life.

Launched in conjunction with the exhibition, Soft Estate the publication will feature a number of the photographs and paintings shown in the exhibition, as well as essays by the artist, the Bluecoat’s curator and the writer and broadcaster Richard Mabey.

Other artists who interrogate themes of ‘edgelands’ – those familiar yet ignored spaces that are neither city nor countryside – exhibit alongside and in conversation with Chell. Their works present juxtapositions commonly experienced in edgelands, such as beauty and pollution, wilderness and human agency.

Chell said: “While 18th Century tourists travelled to areas such as the Lake District to capture images of wild places, in today’s countryside, uncontrolled wilderness only springs up in the margins of our transport networks and the semi-derelict grid plans of industrialised corridors. These soft estates invite a new kind of tourist, new ways of looking and new forms of visual representation.”

The Bluecoat’s Exhibitions Curator Sara-Jayne Parsons said: “When Edward approached us with the idea for a show we saw the opportunity to make a bigger exhibition to encompass his solo project but also to include the work of a selection of artists working in similar territory. In this way Edward’s work acts as a critical centre for a wider discussion about space, place, memory and identity in our contemporary landscape.”

The exhibition Soft Estate tours to Spacex in Exeter, from 8 March – 3 May.

Soft Estate, hardback, 160 pages, 100 colour illustrations, £16

Published by the Bluecoat, ISBN: 9780953899678

Distributed by Cornerhouse