With over 50 now works completed my fascination with the rusting sea defences on the Cuckmere and at Seaford’s Splash Point continue. Initially it was the metal plating and its changes in colour under the impact of tides that were the driver, but the more I have looked at the defences the more I have become fascinated by their decay and the patterns this makes both in the metal and in the concrete forms beneath it. I continue to respond to the environmental changes with both the camera and in paint.
Decay is in many ways a symbol of the end of life, although my recent heart attack is another. I came to Seaford 8 years ago, running a business, travelling, writing, and using the camera to make a decent living. Then the first four of the last eight years became filled with my own decay as I fought through illness, including cancer (see Towards Journeys End | PatrickGoff.com for articles about my struggle). The next four have been about finding myself as an artist again, and now I continue the fight to work and stay healthy, much as the owners of the Coastguard Cottages continue a seemingly never-ending fight to preserve one of the most iconic scenes in Britain.
Much as the illnesses I fight are common (many of us will have cancer as a visitor and I have now had a heart attack to add to the tally) so the Coastguard Cottage fight belongs to all of us. The view was used by Microsoft as a screen saver in one iteration of their software, was used by a Korean pop singer in a popular music video, by tv producers in crime programmes, and may have been the last piece of England seen by rear gunners in bombers, like my father, as they flew the missions against a continental enemy from which 55,000 failed to return.
The decay and carelessness of them as a national inheritance (one conservationist in a public enquiry response said the view would be improved by their removal) is typical of a woke generation that does not value our past. Here is only the second cable cabin ever to be built for an international telegraph cable, this one connecting England to France. Here the cottages are the remnants of a lifeboat stations and Coastal guardian homes built in 1811, and which should be listed buildings by any standards. The fight to save this view should be as international as its popularity.
The decay I see in the sea defences mirrors the decay I feel in my ageing, exaggerated by the attack that has led to stents being fitted to major arteries. The beauty I find in that decay is part of the beauty I find in living here, that sustains my own will to go on living. The rusting is a metaphor for personal and national life, my efforts to reflect it and present its beauty reflects my own view of our country and its history. Doesn’t all art do this? If that is so, how do you judge much of what is presented as art, in all art forms, today?
That people involved with the campaign have sought me out to buy works is gratifying. That they too can see the beauty in the metal is also encouraging. The opportunity for more photographs has also encouraged me. Finding direct parallels in the work of artists like Max Ernst is amusing but I need no encouragement to continue to explore the beauty. The latest work looks at the subtle colouring in concrete – which when examined closely turns out not to be so subtle contains strong spots of red, blue and green, all making an interesting contrast to the orange and browns of the rust.
I may be barred from working in the studio for a week or so as my body recovers from the latest hit but my enthusiasm for treading the line between representation and abstraction continues. I love the colours I play with and whilst Hockney may feel there is landscape, portraiture and still life I continue to place my trust in rust as I continue to explore what I see around me, the final canvases being the ritual process of realisation of beauty.
All the works are available, including photographs which would be printed onto Bockingford paper with museum quality archival inks. All from me and can be seen on a visit to my studio where I welcome visitors by arrangement using the email on this site. Alternatively contact me via twitter (1) Patrick A. Goff (@patricktheart) / Twitter
To donate to the saving of the iconic Coastguard Cottages go to the Cuckmere Haven SOS website.