Karen & Paul Rennie
Sink or Swim
Captain Webb (1848-1883) was the first person to swim the English Channel in 1875. This feat of endurance established Webb as a legend across the Empire. Webb used mostly breaststroke in a swim that lasted nearly 22 hours. The tides and currents, of which he had no experience, extended his swim to a distance of nearly 40 miles (twice the 22 miles that separate England and France). It is rumoured that Webb rested briefly at halfway and, whilst remaining in the water, took a restorative brandy and cigar.
Webb's achievement remained the defining act of human sporting endurance until the successful ascent of Everest in 1953.
The objects collected here provide a glimpse into the organisation required to support a successful cross channel swim. Notwithstanding the massive advances in diet, equipment and sports science, the effort and support required remain virtually unchanged since Webb's first heroic effort.
Webb's popular status endured well into the 20C. Accordingly, he was a suitable subject for the pop artist Peter Blake during the early 1960s. Joseph Beuys and Joseph Cornell each established the narrative potential of the inventory and suitcase.
We acknowledge Captain Webb, the swimmers who have followed his example and all of these artists as inspirational.
A limited edition pin-up silk-screen poster (printed on chip-shop paper) is available please mail for more details. Paul Rennie's Mermaid Walk took place on Sun 26 Aug.
Karen & Paul Rennie specialise in British Art and Design of the Twentieth Century and run the shop, Rennies in Folkestone.
They are interested in all the things artists have made that aren't painting, drawing and sculpture. The willingness of artists to create new kinds of work has its origins in the avant-gardist desire to escape the bourgeois values of salon painting and to engage with audiences beyond the gallery. Coincidentally the 1920s and 30s was a period during which different forms of modernism emerged in consequence to the political and social upheavals of WW1. The character of English modernism depends as much on the landscapes of garden and seaside as on the vistas of the metropolis. It's a comfy modernism distinguished by a modest, low-key scale that finds expression in the beach hut, garden shed and artist's studio.