LIES A CALM ALONG THE DEEP

Lies A Calm Along The Deep explores my connection to the vast empty space of the seascape as a place of solace and solitude.

I suffer from misophonia, an auditory processing disorder in which layers of noise compete for attention, intruding on my internal monologue. Facing the horizon of the vast empty seascape, and immersion in the enveloping hold of the waves, a stillness is invited in, calming the internal chatter.

Here the sounds are soothing and meditative, calming the cacophony, evoking an inner quiet: a place to ‘just be’, alone with my thoughts until they too drift away into insignificance with the lapping of the waves. The vast is a place where my mind is freed of its claustrophobic constraints to expand into the moment and reconnect with the ‘out there’ beyond the confines of the physical body.

Immersing in the sea allows me to shed the ego of ‘the self’ and to reconnect with something bigger than myself – to find a liminal space where, as Solnit states, “the inside and outside are more intertwined than the usual distinctions allow.” (2017:119).

William Burroughs said that nothing exists unless it is observed. Lies A Calm Along The Deep however challenges this self-centred perspective as humans. The vast out there continues regardless of our gaze. Through immersion in the vast – or the sublime – the metaphorical barriers we construct between ourselves and the beyond, and the illusory frames through which we view the landscape as an object, dissolve and evaporate. Here we reconnect, reposition, recognise our place in the universe: acknowledging the paradox of our insignificance and yet our inextricable interconnectivity.

While we are unable to remain permanently in this state of being – to do so would be to recede from the world as we know it – we carry these experiences within us, in our memories and recollections, fragments layering upon layer, melding with cultural reference points, disintegrating, morphing and dissipating over time, until the pull to the sea calls us again, to quieten the discord and once again invite the stillness in, to be at one with our vast beyond.

Lies A Calm Along The Deep is a multi-media visual song and immersive reflection on my experiences of being in, connecting with, and recollection of the sea.


FRAGMENTS: An exploration of the abstracted nature of memories and associations of the sea

“Fragments tremble at the threshold between wholeness and partialness; the fragment engages the mind in imaginative reconstruction … [they] exist not only at the spatial threshold, but also temporally.” (Bowring 2017: 109)

Fragments is a photographic sculptural book exploring the abstracted nature of memories and associations of the seascape, mapping the time and space of the internal mindscape, unrestricted by geographic boundaries or temporal chronology.

It considers the metamorphic affect of time, memory and nostalgia on our relationship to, and experience of, the seascape.

Using objects scavenged from the strandline, with a recurring motif of rocks – symbolic as fragments of space and time and the paradox of constancy and flux – the series examines notions of abstracted memories and the threshold between the internal sense of the world and the external physicality. The series creates new, fragmented and reconstructed, otherworldly landscapes as a metaphor for the internal mindscape, mapping the transition from durational experience to deep-seated nostalgic associations.

Evoking an essence of remembered and half-recalled experiences and sense of place, abstract and semi-abstract imagery embeds the sea itself through the use of seawater in the process, leaving its imprint on the final image. Exposed negatives, negative photograms and polaroid images are soaked in seawater, documenting a process of distortion and deterioration as a metaphor for the impact of time on memories, peeling away the layers of emulsion, leaving only fragments of the original. The traces remaining in the final image map the conversation with time and the threshold between external experience and internal reconstructed memory.

Punctuating the ethereal quality of the colourful abstract imagery, seaweed developed black and white images of artefacts from the seascape act as totemic signifiers, their alienation from the natural environment underlined through the absence of colour. These solitary still life objects “invested with something of the inner experience” (Townsend 2016: 209) are interspersed with self-portraits incorporating the artefacts, performatively obscuring or revealing the face, symbolically referencing their significance as transitional objects or memory placeholders and placing the self back in the recollected sense of the seascape.

Presented as a sculptural ‘map’, the piece unfolds revealing and obscuring fragmented imagery that continuously shifts as the viewer moves through it, much in the way that both the physical seascape is in constant flux and time folds in on itself within the mind’s eye, creating new touchpoints and an ever-changing temporal space. Creating a transitional space where past, present and future can co-exist, the ‘map’ does not unfold to flatten and reveal the contours of the landscape or enable the viewer to find their way – images are deliberately untitled in their assembled format, without borders, frames, numbered pages or text to orientate the viewer –  but instead enables a glimpse into the evolving mindscape, where it is impossible to ground yourself and where time loses its linear perspective, enabling the viewer to immerse themselves, not in the sea itself, but in the memory of the seascape.


EBB/FLOW: A dialogue with between land and sea

Exploring the thresholds, traces and liminal states of littoral space alongside personal connection to, and place within, the seascape, Ebb/Flow is a handmade book that metaphorically considers the transitions and sense of self associated with the seascape.

Focusing on the dialogue between land and sea and the liminal state of the foreshore as it is reclaimed by the sea and relinquished to the shoreline with the ebb and flow of the tide, the images consider the the sense of timelessness and constancy of the sea, juxtaposed against its state of flux: a discourse on the ‘traigh’(Gaelic for both ebb and beach) – permanence and impermanence, inextricably intertwining this littoral space that is sometimes water, sometimes land, experienced through the layers of human perception. Enduring beyond human observation or presence, unconstrained by, and indifferent to, the manmade construct of time.

Introducing seawater into the development process embeds the sea itself in the images, the salt crystallising on the negatives and leaving its mark in the final image; while seaweed developed images of artefacts collected along the strandline and photographed in the studio signify traces of the shore, devoid of colour, infused and ‘brought back to life’ with seaweed itself – printed onto tracing paper to overlay images of the shoreline itself.

Seawater, seasalt, seaweed and cyanotypes of strandline artefacts are embedded in the fibres of the handmade book cover alongside tactile seaweed imprints.

The layers of memories and knowledge in our subconscious as part of our place identity are signified with maps, nautical charts, tide timetables and polaroids on acetate and tracing paper overlays, illustrating how memories shift and fade and transfer, the indefinitive nature of cartographic and geographic boundaries that shift with the tide, and our perceptual experience.

Inserted into the book is a small concertina pull out examining the threshold of crossing the North York Moors at the point at which the sea can be glimpsed, including pinhole imagery taken between spring and neap tides on the Moors and on the coastline.

The book can be viewed both forwards as Ebb and backwards as Flow, deliberately using the vernacular rather than technical terms, beginning with the lowest ebb of the tide and working towards its highest flow and vice versa.