AOH artist Gavin Peacock’s cycle tour of French water towers


Hi Gavin – it sounds like your exhibition is a great reflection of your twin loves of making art and cycling. First, can you tell us about your involvement in the world of long-distance cycling?
About 10 years ago I was writing a blog for a cycling apparel website and one of the guys behind that company was involved in the world of audax: Long distance endurance riding against the clock. My interest in cycling is predominantly about landscape and travel so I was intrigued by this discipline, so I started a “Diary Of A Novice Randonneur” for their website. There are some local audax events but I started to travel around the UK to take part in rides, and this led to longer cycle touring trips in Europe. What I particularly like about long distance riding is seeing the landscape and cultures change. Cycling puts you right in the middle of the landscape, you feel, hear and smell it. There is definitely a sense of travelling through it rather than simply across it.

How does this feedback in to your artist practice? What similarities and synergies do you find between print making and cycling?
Initially my cycling was informing writing and photography about landscape and place. Despite having done a fine art degree I hadnt painted for a long time, and had given up my studio a few years ago. Through riding and writing and taking photos I gradually realised I wanted to make images that weren’t photographs. As I no longer had a studio I needed something that was easy to do at home and fit around a day job. Linocut printmaking fitted that bill. It was pragmatism really. The work has since extended into screen printing too and I’m currently a member of East Side Print in Kemptown.

I get to see a lot of landscape riding long distances so I have a library of images on hard drives and in my head to draw upon. What I like about printmaking it allows editing and interpretation of the landscape as well as being able to incorporate maps and notes into the images I make.  Also I tend to ride solo which is a lot of time with my own thoughts. Cycling gives me the mental space to think about words and images and for ideas to develop. Many ideas are sparked mid-ride and tapped into notes on my phone during coffee stops.

Can you tell us specifically how this relates to your current body of work?
I’ve been using the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry regularly to travel to Normandy to ride (the roads are quieter than here and the pastries better). Audax UK have a challenge called Randonneur Round the Year which is to ride one 200km ride per month for 12 consecutive months. Due to the ease of getting to France and the fact that ‘randonneur’ is a French word I’d had an idea in the back of my head to attempt the challenge in France for a while. Between September 2022 and August 2023 I successfully completed the challenge. The works in the current exhibition are based on those rides and all incorporate images of water towers that are a common feature across the northern French landscape. There’s also a book of words and 35mm photographs of the rides.

What plans do you have for the future?
Having been so close to the work recently I’ve realised I’ve missed riding in France so in the immediate future I’ve booked a day trip in early June once the festival is over. I won’t be riding 200km though! I’m a bit out of shape for that. There are still a lot of water tower scribbles and photos that haven’t turned into finished prints yet so I think this may be an ongoing project. Having made a book of words and photos I’m interesting in developing a book centred around printed images.

Where can we see your work in the Artists Open Houses?
There are some screenprints at East Side Print in Kemptown (only open Sat 18 & Sun 19) and the full set of work is on display at Porteur on Church Road in Hove. It includes lino, screen and riso prints. The book is also available at Porteur.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
If you can, get hold of a bike and go explore.

Photo:Michal Serafin

See Gavin’s work at:
210 Church Road, Hove, BN3 2DJ
On the Hove trail

And at:
Unit 2, Arundel Mews, (entrance on Eastern Place), Brighton, BN2 1GG
On the Kemptown trail

Find out more about Gavin Peacock at:
Instagram account @themanfromicon