Tentative Words Change Everything

We’re honoured to share that the Rathfinny Vineyard has been chosen as one of six locations to take part in an incredible outdoor art installation across East Sussex in spring/summer 2022. The exhibition features works by the Turner Prize-shortlisted British artist, Nathan Coley which will be free to visit and open to all.

Over the last twenty years, Coley’s illuminated text sculptures have been exhibited in major visual arts festivals across the world. In a new exhibition titled, ‘Tentative Words Change Everything’, Coley chose to erect his sculpture on the site of our Vineyard which looks out over the Cuckmere Valley and into the English Channel.

The light installation at Rathfinny, titled ‘A Place beyond Belief’, is rather poignant at this time as we are all aware of the conflict and political unrest around the world right now. Although Coley was inspired by this phrase that he heard on the New York underground, the themes of tolerance, community and hope prevail. You can listen to Coley’s eloquent description of where he found the phrase in this moving video.

A Place Beyond Belief Nathan Coley Exhibit at Rathfinny Wine Estate

Found words

Coley adopts ‘found words’ from existing phrases from overheard conversations, tombstones, song lyrics, books and so on.

‘Though working in a wide range of mediums, he is best known for his light pieces; capital lettered proclamations in white bulbs supported on large scaffolding structures. The precision and simplicity of the sans serif text is juxtaposed with the distinctly temporary aesthetic of the structure. It recalls the signage of the fairground; here today, gone tomorrow. The voice behind the text is authoritative, accusatory, inspirational, demanding; yet anonymous.” Neil Lebeter From the essay ‘The Same for Everyone’

Place & Meaning

The beauty of Coley’s work lies in the endless possibilities of interpretation as the artwork takes on new meanings in response to the location it is displayed in. Although the words, ‘A Place Beyond Belief’ were found in a different context, at Rathfinny, we feel it very much speaks to our sense of place on the edge of the beautiful South Downs countryside and close proximity to the Seven Sisters cliffs which are integral to our winemaking. For us, the unspoilt views make this ‘a place beyond belief.’ But it is up to you, as the viewer, to decide what resonates most with you.


Without wanting to give too much way, (because we implore you to visit the sculptures in person!) here is a list of the locations taking part and each site has a different piece of illuminated lettering:

  • St Mary’s Church, Glynde
  • Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston
  • Brack Mount, Lewes
  • Charleston, West Firle
  • West Beach, Newhaven
  • Junction Road Car Park, Eastbourne

You could happily make a day or two of travelling between the locations, stopping for a refreshment at Rathfinny (book a table here) or exploring beautiful venues like Charleston. Don’t forget to tag us on social @rathfinnyestate @sussexmodern if you’re out and about!

We Must Cultivate our Garden Nathan Coley Credit Keith Hunter
Junction Road Car Park, Eastbourne

We Must Cultivate our Garden

Photo credit: Keith Hunter

You Create What you Will Nathan Coley Credit Keith Hunter
St Mary's Church, Glynde

You Create What You Will

Photo credit: Keith Hunter

About Nathan Coley

Nathan Coley was born in 1967 in Glasgow, Scotland. His work questions how we relate to public spaces and architecture. It is driven by research centring around the social aspects of our built environment and the communities and individuals who occupy it. In his text sculptures, Coley uses various sources such as historical documents, plays, and overheard stories to re-contextualise phrases or words.

Coley has had solo exhibitions held at Parafin London (2017), Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany (2013), Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam (2011), and Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004) among others.

In 2007 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize.

About Sussex Modern

The exhibition is being co-ordinated by Sussex Modern in partnership with Lewes District Council, South Downs National Park and Plumpton College, funded by UK Community Renewal Fund as part of a wider project to promote Sussex as a place for high-quality wine, world-class culture and breath-taking landscapes.

Sussex Modern brings together 36 destinations which each contribute to the county’s modern, independent spirit. From a range of Sussex-based wineries and vineyards to well-known art exhibits including Charleston House, Ditchling Museum, and Towner Gallery, Sussex Modern helps curate discovery experiences for tourists that all connect along southern England in Sussex. On their website, you can plot your visit to the South Downs – enjoy a wine tour, have some lunch, take a walk and enjoy an art show.