Intervention is about the groynes on Bexhill beach that run to Groyne 121 and I have photographed them since 2002, both fascinated and amazed by their change over time. This work forms the primary source for a solo exhibition to be held at Martyrs Gallery, Lewes, in March 2018.
Intervention 2018 will see me back on the beach, finding and recording what has changed and rediscovering what remains. The work on this project continues, photographs are being taken, notebooks and charts filled in, files organised and backed up.
Fascinated by change, what better way to spend time than photographing groynes of the inter-tidal zone of Bexhill beach.
These images are of one post top, situated in Groyne 76.
This piece explores intervention on our shoreline, using two temporal distortions. Compressing time, I present one post top, photographed over six years, with seven images. Slowing time, I concurrently present the same post dealing with the waves of a bi-diurnal and lateral tidal flow.
Much of our landscape exists in its current form as a result of our intervention. Groynes are an example of this, existing in the rigours of the splash and inter-tidal zones.
This exploration has only just begun, the more I look the more I see and the more I want to know. Exploring and recording both for its own sake and for the metaphors it gives me with which to consider our relationship with this planet – our beautiful, powerful, fragile, life support system.
Click here to see a collection of prints showing the changing face of a post top.
The sets of posts and planking running down the beach to the sea are an intervention in a dynamic system. They stand in the flow of sea and shingle and change the way it moves. Eddies of shingle build against them, flow over them and are battered against them by the sea.
This collection brings together images of a single post top, photographed over a number of years. The title of each piece identifies the groyne number, and the years in which the post top was photographed.
There is often a tendency to hold on to the idea of permanence and not recognise change that happens gradually over an extended period of time. Gradual change, often unobserved is a core element of this work and acknowledges how the `natural’ world is changed in a managed environment and provides a perspective of change and the requirement to maintain an intervention in a dynamic system.
This work records the necessary tenacity of life and any structure on the beach in the intertidal zone, the dynamics of changing systems and the impact of coastal management.
Shingle is constantly moving. On the eastern Channel coasts, this movement – called longshore drift – is generally eastwards. However, some parts of the shingle beach beyond the inter-tidal zone can become fairly stable, and areas may develop where plants grow. These shingle plants have adapted to cope with little fresh water and few nutrients, fierce winds and the salt spray of the wind and waves.
These pioneer communities consist of individual plants, widely spaced. They typically consist of sea kale, yellow horned poppy and sea pea. By autumn the remaining vegetation is very sparse and are patches of plant debris.
As part of my long-term interest in the groyne fields of Bexhill beach, I recently spent the day with an Art and Environment Study Group on a roaming workshop, led by artist Sean Roy Parker. We cycled and stopped to sketch the vegetation that grows above the high water mark on the coastline between Bexhill and Bulverhythe Fishing Yard.
I collected samples of seeds and brown, desiccated plant stems that I photographed and sketched. When I returned to the studio I photographed them again and then digitally draughted the resulting images combining my sketches with the digital photographs.
Intervention. When and why did this begin? My personal ease of access to the beach meant that I built an intimate relationship with this particular section of seashore over an extended period of time. At the time I was seeking a connection with the physical world to balance the academic needs of the teaching profession. I feel an enormous sense of purpose and well-being when I spend time on the beach observing and recording the condition of the post-tops.
Ideas explored in Intervention:
Environmental impact. Changes in our climate are discussed and predicted but are we ignoring the everyday impact of the weather systems upon the landscape around us? What is man-made is often perceived as a natural landscape. The seashore I see at Bexhill is a man-managed environment disrupted by the forces of the sea.
Who started this intervention? Historic intervention has defined the coastal environment we experience. We are now taking responsibility for the complexity of the outcomes of past decisions.
Concept of relative time spans. Time spans hint at empirical reasoning – maths and science – measurement. We often have an internal story of a place that is essentially static; a single snapshot which we edit to maintain its credibility. Yet places are systems with multiple and distinct functions providing protection and adaptation of the environment to more closely match our perceived needs. To develop a more appropriate awareness of a system requires multiple, timed, documented, snapshots of the system. Systems are not static, they flow; they are in a process of constant and often complex change.
Living on the boundary of the land and sea you can see clearly that our attempts to control the beach are only partially and temporarily successful. The interval between the end of the late winter storms and the mechanical intervention to regrade the beach demonstrates how much the shingle moves. It is a constant challenge to our belief that we have control.