Here we see the flotsam and jetsam of twelve of our hours deposited as if for our appraisal, as the tide recedes, lapping back and forth organic material along with our discards are left.
But before each character finally comes to rest it has a final gesture, a flourish. Its mark upon the sand remains, waiting for the tide to return to write a new story on the strand line. Shot in 'the golden hour' in the last heat of the sun. The black deposits in the sand might be manganese, iron or other heavy minerals.
I have begun to build an 'ocean tank' to attempt to simulate the interaction of the components found on the beach. Initially large steel plates will be etched. Work in progress.
Our stretch of the North Cornwall Coast really begins at Trebarwith Strand, on past Boscatle, Beeny cliffs, Strangles, and so to Crackington Haven. Here we find the contorted strata of ancient rock formations edging the coast, then on to Widemouth Bay. As its name suggests, a wide bay of sand and shingle, but once again backed by rock formations that at twilight might convince the visitor into thinking they are in another world. Beyond the beaches of Bude we enter Devon to find the coves of Northcott Mouth, Sandymouth and the romantic Coombe Valley. Leaving the listening station of Morewenstow we arrive at Hartland with its huge spherical rocks, so similar to those of Priest Cove, Cape Cornwall. We have seemingly come full-circle.
One could make drawings of the rocks, stones, and marine life and them produce paintings to resemble the images seen here. But during countless visits to these beaches I came to realise that it was not simply the beauty of the formations as we see them now that interested me. The geology behind these forms has been at work for millennia, laying down sediment, compressing the rock, folding, fracturing. Then hard quartz and other minerals have been forced upwards, along the weaknesses and fissures lying at angles to the beds. The layers of rock may then have undergone more movement, more disruption, cracking and folding creating new lines of weakness. These, in turn, were injected with crystalline material which slowly cooled over thousands of years. Finally the action of the ocean took its turn to find new opportunities to sculpt the rocks to create the forms we now see.
For me, this describes the ideal creative process, which in a way I attempt to mimic in my working practices. Clearly it is impossible to harness the powers of nature but it is the idea that what we see here is 'consequential' that interests me. That is, whatever remains visible to us is as a result of an action - a process. The results of the earths powers are not contrived, there was no grand design at the outset, no plan. This, I strive for in my creative output. Process is all, barely in control and seeking to make interventions only where invitations appear.
Spending weeks on end in this place is hard to describe, it takes you over, the days merging into a continuum. In the summer we have a soft benign landscape in the coves and inlets between the islands, yet only metres away beyond the the point the sea churns, waves crashing on the cliffs then sucking pebbles through the almost spherical rocks in the gulleys, hissing and crackling. Back at the caravan these sounds are just a murmer, almost a memory. In winter the full force of the Channel makes itself felt, almost another world.
Lying between the rocks the weed could be considered lifeless, limp, and passive. But with each succesive tide its true nature is revealed, the sacs of air in this 'popweed' lift the mass through the depths of salt water, swirling with the currents. paddling a kayak through these reaches is a unique experience, and later when taking a dip in the evening one can actually enjoy the sensation of the weeds slipping across the skin. Childhood fears of the unknown long forgotten.
These photographs were all taken in June 2022, in 2023 we will spend a whole month here, witnessing a complete cycle of the moon and tides.
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