Cuckmere Haven shows water drawing through the landscape. Elegant curves and meandering lines take the shortest possible route. It helps me reconsider my own meanderings and wanderings, wonderings and shifts in thought. Water takes the path of least resistance. At Cuckmere Haven the river illustrates this to be a much longer path than you’d expect. It is not a straight line, not even close. It feels like the water is taking up as much space as it possibly can, that it’s taking the longest route imaginable. Geological structure gets in the way. The land is not uniformly created beneath our feet, making for a much more interesting environment – more varieties of flora and fauna are nurtured and sustained.
My walk alongside it feels like a useful pause. A day out in the drizzle of the summer holidays I am surrounded by water. I am filled with water. The immensity of the sea is often evident, it shouts at me and shows me, hurling itself at the shore and beating at the land. Running water has a slower pace, but in time it carves through stone.
For the last few days I’ve been drawn out into the August autumn that has shrouded the south coast, searching for mist. The view through the window suggests mist, yet when I reach the sea it is gone. A chill greets me, cool crisp air with a hint of muggy telling me summer has not given up completely.
Mist and rain have evaded capture so I have begun sorting out work in my plan chest. Stacks of prints and portfolios of work long since abandoned for shiny new projects, domestic demands and day to day humdrum. I’ve got round to repacking my prints from my MA show. Hurriedly tidied away five years ago they have been moved twice and sat languishing in their own debris ever since. I realise the significance – I have been here before. Right here. Asking water to draw for me.
Six months spent in a cave like space at the bottom of the cliffs of Hastings, was ‘Cave’. The back of Arthur Green’s, as it was, when it was the pier shop. The pier has since been (re)built and opened. The shop with all it’s beautiful Victorian fittings now passed to an antiques dealer. ‘Cave’ sat in the space beyond the shop. It was filled with the detritus from the previous owners and inhabitants. It was totally enclosed, barring the spaces that water got in. I sat on Saturday afternoons in this dark space, listening, writing, drawing and photographing. I was mesmerised by the constant dripping, the endless movement of water. A final task was to record this in some way. I made a sound recording of it and lay strips of paper on the floor, for the cave to make it’s own response.
Different weights of paper were left in different areas of the space for different lengths of time. A variety of decay and degradation took place as well as marks and lines created in the mud. These are some of the prints it made for me – drips and splashes, paper was soaked and walked on. Lovely long sweeping lines of tails and tiny foot prints of mice and rats crossing paths on the paper.
I found a sketch of a mind map, linking words on a diagram, right at the back of the case. A way of working out what I was doing. It’s oddly reassuring to see it could link to what I’m doing now too. Things are shifting but I’m circling around the same stuff.
Fraser Island, an island build of sand. This lake is created from rain water alone. The trees growing up through this body of water seemed significant for me when I took the photo a couple of years ago in Australia. They seem significant to me again now. I still am not entirely sure why.
There is a resilience about water, in all its forms. A never ending, enduring, persistent, relentlessness about it. Something about that is captured here for me. It is resilient and relentless but it bows and folds around otherness. It is wild and calm, restless and at peace. It can be held on an island of sand and will allow other things to grow in it and through it and flourish.
It is about how things grow in the most impossible places.
The sun comes out behind me in the water and I am reminded of my fascination with the light in the shallows. I remember paddling on an island beach near Greece many years ago. The shimmering glittering shapes that slipped across the sand. The water barely moved but it made the shapes underneath dance. I wanted to draw it, to photograph it, but could do neither with any satisfactory result. I chose to just watch, until the sun passed again behind cloud. I’m filled with joy each time I notice those same shapes in shallow waters with dancing light, equally hypnotised and grasping at an inability to capture it in any meaningful way.
Remembering the starting point for this blog, my under water drawings, brings me back to diving and the effect of depth on light. Partly my reason to draw was because I didn’t have a camera to take photos. Looking back through pictures I have taken when I have had a camera, I remember how bad I am at taking photos under water and how much the light is stripped from them. How unsatisfying a photograph I take when there is no red in the spectrum – this is not what I see.