By Amanda Mitchell, Nottingham Visual Arts
A journey into memory, an acknowledgement of lives that have long since passed, but through their words and images these lives are still very much present in Nicholas Hedges’ Mine the Mountain. There is a sense of passed time and historical presence, a constant reminder that the people you are viewing in the photographs have now gone, leaving me with an eerie sense of voyeurism. Hedges’ collections of photographs represent a lost time and a lost generation. The photographs work together to create a new piece of work, viewed as a whole, not as individual.
The work is in response to the artist’s visits to historical sites, including Auschwitz and Ypres. Hedges draws upon his feelings and thoughts whilst visiting these places to create pieces such as Mine and Correspondence. He is influenced by the impact of sites that have memories of historical trauma as he starts to relate his ideas with his own ancestors in the Welsh mines. With this work he is finding a way to remember people who can be traced back and shown to have existed, if anonymously, as many of the workers at this time were illiterate and would sign their name with a simple ‘X’. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the work; a divider in the postcard piece, a marker for the grave of an unknown soldier.
As an exhibition spectator I feel methodically steered through the work, by the detailed descriptions of the development and history of the pieces, each clearly titled. Although an important contextualisation, I feel almost dictated to, with no room for personal interpretation.
There is much tenderness and sadness inherent in the works as Hedges approaches and deals with this challenging history sensitively; in one piece he uses extracts from the diary of a soldier in the trenches during World War I. The soldier has not been identified, the words are poetic and melancholic, he is a man resigned to his fate. This piece is an acknowledgment of the sacrifice he made, and the sacrifice made by millions of others like him.
This exhibition is a commemoration of the past, a perhaps forgotten story told through provocative photographs and text, it moves and informs you and you cannot leave feeling the same as you did when you entered the exhibition.