09 August 2012

'100 birds' synopsis

“100 birds” is an exhibition of one hundred small paintings of birds, using pigments sourced from local beaches. It captures my emotional response to my walks, observations and interactions with the Falmouth coastline.

I'm drawn to the fragile beauty found in the tiny details of the beach; the subtle colours of the rocks, shells, sand and earth; the delicate patterns and markings on a crab shell; flaking paint layered on driftwood and the salt encrusted rust on discarded metal. 

Some of these colours are used literally as I take pieces of shale, slate, clay and earth from the cliffs and grind them into coloured dust. Others form collections of carefully selected objects; driftwood, seaweed and pebbles, which are brought back to the studio for reference. All of these natural materials are changed by the sea; worn, smoothed, faded and graded over time. The colour of the water, the light in the sky and the feel of the day are carried back as memories.

For me these objects represent a frail beauty, the embodiment of passing time and impermanence. Tiny pebbles are fragments of larger rocks worn smaller and smoother with every tide, empty shells are reminders of their long gone inhabitants, and the sea erodes the land exposing layers of colour and time once hidden deep.

I love watching flocks of birds wading, diving and gliding around me; flashes of white as the sun dapples their backs, or misty shapes barely discernible. I've always felt that birds symbolise a freedom of spirit. They are often experienced as a flash of colour or form, fleeting and transient. Few of the sea and coastal birds I see live here permanently but visit for a season or pass through on their migratory route. They are our feathered tourists. Over 100 different species have been spotted in Cornwall since 1950. Some travel many thousands of miles and in doing so connect Cornwall to the wider world. Many of them are increasingly rare and rely on a delicately balanced environment for their survival. 

Observing these things brings me into myself and to a place of serenity. It reminds me who I am; both absorbed in the present and connected to the past.

“For whatever we lose (a you or a me)
its always ourselves we find in the sea”.

(E.E. Cummings)

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