Nature is beautiful, and doesn’t benefit from or deserve the indignity of my meddling, clumsy interpretation, abstraction or replication. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to play with what I find.
I believe that landscape art can add to its surroundings, especially where work is placed wisely within the scenery. It can enhance rather than ruin the beauty of some magnificent views, especially when skilfully applied, using natural abundant natural materials close to hand, like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Avebury Stone Circle, and anything by Andy Goldsworthy. But again, I am not a funded artist and am currently staying in a commercial sunspot, not a humbling wilderness, so must curtail my soaring ambitions.
At least am close to the seaside. I began casual beachcombing, hoping to discover found objects to use as material, harvested carefully for a work to be lovingly made, but intended to vanish when waves wash it away. I admire the transient nature of most landscape art.
I found myself on a shore where found objects are anything but natural: nature is covered by a carpet of cigarette ends, littered with lolly sticks, paper cups and empty cans. Every morning, a massive tractor arrives and churns up the crystal sands (beautiful to look at, painful when found later where it doesn’t belong.) I had to look hard for nature, rather than come across it. I tried using the rubbish, but it looked horrible. I couldn’t even find any seaweed, and had to rise at an ungodly hour to see the beach where humans had (sometimes literally) left their shit lying around.
I wanted flotsam: floating branches, or a few jewel-like pebbles, shells, fresh and also rotting seaweed, mermaid’s purses and empty crab shells. Seashores are always overflowing with material and supplies. Not this one. More than anything, I wanted some stones, but even the beach pebbles were man-made: crumbling fast-food chicken bones, shards of polished glass, and some eroded red bricks. So I gathered what I could, and made the work above.
The sea was rough, and the shore had a steep incline after which it was too deep for me to paddle safely, and I didn’t want to drop and lose my camera. I made one small piece but the minute my back was turned a terse and fearsome, topless Brunhilde trampled and crushed it, deaf to my shrill objections.
And so I got up early, and placed my planned creation on the shoreline close to a clear but empty rockpool. I gathered the stones, which changed colour as the water touched them and created a footprint in the sand, pressing them into the earth. Slowly, the sea washed them away.
This is one experiment that left me unfulfilled. I need an empty beach or landscape, or at least more space. Even the photo had to be cropped savagely to remove the shadows of curious onlookers, who were entitled to watch but did get in the way. And do you know, I never saw a single seashell on that seashore.