A note on my contribution
(as available, unillustrated, at the Gallery)
Painting arrived quite late in my life. I came to Suffolk, hoping to find those influences here which have inspired so many creative people. Whether I have or not shows in my contribution to this exhibition. I certainly found myself ‘viewing change’, something of a surprise in a way since like many incomers I came unthinkingly expecting the ‘unchanging Suffolk’ of the county’s traditional image.
It is the local truism about the changing East Anglian coastline that has most forcibly struck me. Coming with a background in field sciences, I find the nature and pace of coastal change both alarming and fascinating, and that shows in my paintings. Many are about the sea and more specifically about the changing relationship between sea and land. ‘Blakeney quay’, for example, is as much about the silting up of the prosperous medieval port, reducing it to a leisure facility, as it is about the white clouds at dusk mirrored in the still water of low tide; ‘Old mooring’, also at dusk as another day passes, is similarly about what was, rather than what (I imagined) I could just see (the image is entirely imaginary); and ‘Dissolving coast’ is self-explanatory, not of any particular place but a generality of almost anywhere around the East Anglian coastline. Where indeed is the coastline, now, in the past or future?
With interesting variables, similar stories accrue around and up the estuaries. I live on one at Snape, so am acutely aware of rising sea-level in general and changing tides each day. ‘Snape Bridge and the Maltings’ may be something of a painters’ and photographers’ cliché, but I see the historically-lowest practical bridging point of the River Alde, currently represented by a rather graceful mid-20th century structure, with a massively silted-up shallow broad valley beyond of international conservation interest. The Maltings themselves, the epitome of change as they translated themselves from beer-factory and inland port to internationally acclaimed music festival and concert hall, are changing again since this painting was completed.
Further down this estuary, the ‘Blue line’, along the top of the sea wall south from Aldeburgh to the Martello tower, is a metaphor for the fragility of ‘hard’ coastal defence, here stretched across the weak point at Slaughden where the Alde debouched into the sea before shingle deposited by the sea itself diverted it along the inside of the elongating Orford Ness. Change too lies behind ‘Jetties’, now marooned high and almost dry as a creek has become unavailable to even small ships; and the two ‘Sutton Hoo’ paintings – in my view, two of the best I have ever painted incidentally – tell not just of rather uninteresting-looking mounds in a field but of the significance of place perched above an estuary which was once a seat of power where big issues of governance, religion and identity engaged our ancestors.
My paintings, abstract and figurative, clearly carry much meaning for me. I hope others also enjoy some of the images and the messages behind them. I absolutely accept that a good painting should need no words; but then I like writing too.