Meet the Artist who goes to Work on an Egg...Literally

by Cass Art

'Go to work on an egg' is still remembered today as the UK's Egg Marketing Board's flagship ad campaign. Now a contemporary artist is taking the slogan literally, for a whole year.

Stephen Turner's unique workplace - and home - is a floating wooden egg pod no bigger than the size of a standard bedsit. Letting nature fashion art is key.

As Turner says: “I don't want to make art about nature. I want to let nature make the art.”

His energy-efficient, self-sustaining egg contains a workspace, small kitchen, cabin bed and chemical toilet - with an outside hosepipe for a shower. Baths should be no problem, either. Turner takes a daily dip in the New Forest's Beaulieu Estuary on Nicholas De Rothschild's estate in Exbury, where the egg is moored.

The Exbury Eggman’s one-year mission is to 'examine and reflect' upon the complex co-existence between man and the rest of the natural world.

Turner is fascinated with 'exploring a more empathic relationship with nature which reveals the precious and transcendent in everyday life'.

He visualised the egg as a sculptural element in a time-based happening amid a 'special landscape at a time of worldwide climate change that had a chance to be significant'.

The Exbury Egg artwork will develop from an understanding of local natural cycles and processes and the relationship of the environment to the narratives of human activity in the unceasing calendar of seasonal life.

These include 730 daily tides and 365 days of weathering by wind, rain and bleaching by the sun.

Turner is no stranger to spending lengthy timespans working in odd, abandoned places, recording changes in the intricate synergy between man-made and natural environments.

This involves sampling, collecting, annotating, editing and merging of historic, geographic and environmental data with other more subjective probes into the uniqueness of place.

Exbury Egg project

The Exbury Egg project builds on Turner's previous work, including:

- Tree Rings for Stour Valley Arts, which studied the ecologies of different trees during a 12-month residence at Kingswood, Kent

- a cairn of oyster shells built on Whitstable beach, then washed back into the sea close to the oyster beds, recognising an ancient custom

- 3,000 clay boats sailed for Time and Tide, then incrementally dissolved back into the estuary mud

Two webcams are tracking activity outside the egg 24 hours a day.

The project website, including Turner's blog, says the 'light touch and basic nature of the Exbury Egg aims to re-appraise the way we live; to properly consider sustainable and future use of natural resources'.

Such self-sustainability is emphasised by Turner's bespoke wardrobe donated by Solent University students.

This includes T-shirts, shorts, jeans and a cape which has a waterproof pocket made from a wetsuit and a collar created from an umbrella.

Mr Turner is releasing a dozen clear plastic Exbury 'egglets' on the outgoing tide each month for people to discover along the coast.

He told the BBC: "They might get 200 yards or they might get to Denmark."

Every one will have a different message about the project, a card detailing the contents, and a map reference.

Contents include a grey squirrel skull, whelk egg case and a shell.

Turner also aims to make salt, sloe gin and an abstract picture employing a gauze on the riverbed.

The £140,000 Exbury Egg project is funded by Arts Council EnglandThe Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Hampshire County Council, with local firms donating another £100,000 in materials.

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