Breaking out of the BRotS, although really a part of the same oeuvre, are the Fisherman’s Tackle paintings. They continue to explore the waste and decay of the Cuckmere and Seaford sea defences. Cuckmere is a river mouth so like Birling Gap it’s softer ground for the sea to attack. Much as the cottages at Birling Gap are reduced in number years by year as the sea takes them (as it has done for thousands of years) so the cottages at Cuckmere Haven will be taken by the sea if the defences continue to decay. The difference of course is the cottages at Cuckmere are occupied, in one case by descendants of the original Coastguard family, Coastguard who gave their name to these cottages nearly 250 years ago.
Whilst the rusting defences reflect the state of Britain today, sliding gently into a colourful decay before complete disintegrating, the Fishermans Tackle imagery reflects how one community dumps 40%+ of the waste in the sea, in the form of abandoned trawls, nets, even their balls (bright orange floats), with other detritus. The same community that were safeguarded by the lifeboat station the sea has already taken from the Cuckmere mouth. The first painting responded to the colour of the nets against the rusting steels.
My photographs record the decay. I continue to draw inspiration from my hundreds of images. On mornings where I walk through the garden during high winds, I can hear the sea battering the cliffs, so I continue to be reminded of their beauty and fragility. So far, the nets have formed a part of the BRotS series, but I am now breaking them out as a set in their own right, and the studio is gradually filling with their images. This first work on paper sold from the Celebrating Cuckmere exhibition in the South Barn in Seaford, an exhibition which looks as if it is establishing itself as an annual show, and is being set up again for September 2022
I started to look more deeply at the nets and their associated ropes, floats and other bits and bobs. One set of images are based in what remains I think of a trawl net. The initial acrylic painting on paper sold from the show, and I watched with delight as the pleasure of owning took hold of the buyer, who eagerly hugged the framed work to her. I’m sure every artist gets a buzz from seeing their work bought, and I know from recent correspondence from Louisiana that my work is treasured for the pleasure it continues to give. Art may be an investment but always buy what you like for its real rewards.
This whole series is about decay and the colour it brings to local environments. This decay is the marker of a society that no longer cares, no longer has pride, and is content for its past to dissolve into decay. There are exceptions (see The Past is Another Country ). The title of this piece, ‘The Net is Broken’ is about the broken grid of the fisherman’s net that my last large #canvas (#FishermansTackle) showed. Symbolic too of the now near universal way in which the World Wide Web is manipulated by governments and oligarchs. The breaking of the Net is a sign of the loss of innocence in civil society, all part of the constant decay and break down of order we see around us.
After the trawl parts came the net and I have started to explore both its colour and pattern. In the first instance I worked on my now happy familiar size on paper. This is fast and flexible, and enables me to work thorough ideas of how to handle the paint, the techniques and methods of application. the difference in scale of the marks pushes me onto canvas to explore the same imagery through the autographic mark, and this was the case here.
The second took its image construction and pushed the mark larger on canvas, The canvas and paper invite and interesting comparison don’t they?
The last of this set (but not the end of the series) worked the net more loosely . There is a conflict between my desire to tread that line between reality and abstraction that gives me a problem with taking this larger, and the canvas may well end up being destroyed.
So now the path is laid and new imagery needs working through. But I have not forgotten the Cuckmere and I hope to visit with the camera again soon. There is a move to remove the defences and demolish the Coastguard Cottages to protect some theoretical chalk based coastal environment and allow the #Cuckmere valley to flood. I laugh at this because when they left it alone for a short period the river mouth blocked with shingle and the river filled with dead fish etc. and stank. Nature is unpredictable.