top of page
The Salt Marsh 03

The Salt Marsh

At the very moment of the lockdown - hopefully the last one -finished, I jumped on a train to Penwith. I found it increasingly inconceivable that I "long for the coastline back in London, but still long for the coastline after moving to a maritime town". A rhythmical white noise can always be heard around midnight when seagulls stop crying, a mixture of waves splashing and breeze over crowns. Sea, is within reach of fingertips but still gapped by a dividing valley.

I needed a site sketch of the sunset upon the West Hamstead station in Cornwall. Penzance was so flooded with people. I looked down from Market Street, a cloud of people, looked almost parading, were flowing slowly on the coastal walk that connects the Jubilee pool with Newlyn. I spent some time on an untraversed beach, rushed to the Newlyn Gallery for the show, then strolled relaxed along the Longrock with a bagful of cherries. The budget hotel room was fine. It has a shared bathroom and toilet outside; the opened window straightly faced A30, where trollies and buses frequently ran by, left a thin layer of dirt on the bedsheet. 

Grotesquely, the interest was suddenly developed over the ironic comparison between restricted living space and the bottomless sightseeing guide that dotted an incredible amount of sites on this wide peninsula. Touristic magazines and posters encourage visitors to break up the preset route and discover cultural heritages hidden among villages, but this infinite space does not seemly demonstrating its potential in creating a utopian living experience, and of course, let's be realistic, it cannot. Space is real, but it is capable of faking deceptive experiences for those individuals within; the linearity of the sequence decided how information was narrated, and eventually collapsed into an illusional event: I am on vacation. I lied on the bed; a damp sheet stuck to my torso. I thought to myself: Am I really on vacation? Pictorial documentation produced during the journey clearly suggests a conventional en plain air tour; even the identity as a full-time self-funded international student somehow formed a hierarchical attitude as if I was an up-country gentleman artist. "Intellectual labour", no, "a person whose current responsibility entirely relies on thinking and creative activities", yes, that's more appropriate. The peepshow chained by the flexibility of pictorial language and its subjective interpretation has pushed the expression off "the perceived reality of mine"; the sequence fixed by the linear structure penetrated divers of authorial elements on the entropic ocean, illuminated a manufactured path. 

There was an instagram post on a local account several days ago and caused considerable resonance among audiences. There is a significant number of landlords who chose to let their properties as holiday homes, which seriously impacted the local housing market. Considering some relevant arguments, for example, how capital from home counties boosted the real estates' worth to a ridiculous level in "stereotypical Cornish resorts and English-countryside-maritime regions". "Cornish people are exiled", Peter Lanyon far-sightedly expressed his concern regarding the transformation of Cornish landscape and identity half a century ago. It has been increasingly difficult for students and especially international students to find a suitable property nowadays. While inland historic mining towns decline due to mineral depletion and brings extractivism to discourses, it becomes normal for maritime resort villages to face seasonal vacant, function only as names on the map. Regardless I am not in the place to judge the economic and industrial structure, nor I can deconstruct the contradiction to a professional level before it falls within the area of fundamental subjects. Art is a creative approach, which in my opinion, seeks to "discover problems, even if it requires an ideal, unpractical experimental space to invent these problems", then throw them with distinctive contexts to "academic subjects that are more practical". Of course, it would be a great pleasure that artists could solve these problems by themselves, but I fear proposing an effort to develop this discourse is more pragmatic. 

Salt Marsh, watercolour on canvas, 2020

I am sure a lot of you may found my essay about entropy, landscape, and earthwork long and tedious, and not everyone would like to develop a toilet break where you suppose to run from worldly bothers to an unnecessary reading club; but let's go back to the topic. When pictorial language acts as a carrier of information, the sequence is what we tooled and wield for a rational path that named narrative, which connects authorial and narrative elements. Visualising this idea reminds me of the salt marsh at the estuary of River Hayle. There are wooden pillars that installed ages ago upon the broad alluvial canal, stubbornly stand despite tides, weathering and time. I often mark them on an imaginary map during the railway journey to St Ives, and I regard my little beguile as a practice of rationalisation when critical thinking is involved. 

Imagine how recreation based on images would evolve in the future. Assuming there is a kind of injection, at the very moment it was given, we receive all information of a specific event. It means there will be no more untold stories and selectively covered facts; background history, psychological processes of characters, and landscape & humanity context will be immediately introduced, laid out flatly on the table for examination. Unquestionably it will be an impact on traditional scriptwriting. The specificity of time sequence will be replaced by infinite possibilities as if a streaming creek becomes a vast, brilliant lake. There is a huge amount of technical details that, I am afraid, beyond my intellectual capability to determine, but what I know for sure is that we don't need to wait for Pandora's sea world for years. The planet could swiftly take the form of memory and allow us to explore freely. 

The recent gathering show at Grays Wharf in Penryn, well-known St Just-based artist, external lecturer at Falmouth University and UAL Dan Howard-Birt showed an interesting painting which I would boldly suggest as a representation of typical, contemporary academic practice that seeks an equilibrium point between artistic arbitrary and academic research. In order to allow the audience to follow up on the idea, emotion and expression, the painting is forced to lay out a huge amount of knowledge and researches. We can perhaps see this format has been dominating art institutions where painting has been encouraged as a research method. Perhaps compared to the poster opposite the work, on which many QR codes are printed, scanning them grant audience access to content, there are little differences in the essence. Upon acting as an information carrier, this kind of painting already shook off the restriction of narrative-telling; however, the linearity can still construct misleads when we try to interpret its content. 

I must clarify that I am not criticising this kind of painting; I just find it particularly interesting to mess around with basic authorial and narrative elements. A tiny nudge might opportunely alter the whole image. In comparison, underlying elements of story-telling ——time, location and character suddenly becomes something fundamental and unnecessarily considered as only elements when the intention of the image producer expects an unconventional outcome. The last word the beloved illustrator Gary Powell said to me, under whom I once had the privilege to be taught, "back to basic". It seems plausible for narrators to sink to the very foundation, think, re-think what constructed time, location and character and discover inenarrable peculiarities that influence the big picture, then introduce the possibility to the discourse. Hence I painted, for playing around, misleading and experimenting. In the title of a lecture given by Geraint Evans, who often encourages his tutees to challenge some basic philosophical elements, that I, "paint like a shit-stirrer". 

Salt Marsh II, watercolour on canvas, 2020

Inspired by the alluvial canal of Flushing. Essentially I proposed to challenge the sort of ‘standardised procedure’ as the foundation of this ‘floating painting’, which form I would say ‘easy to duplicate, but only distinct for a tiny bit of creativity and significant absence of artist statement’. A massive use of traditional Chinese painting pigments were applied and famous ‘ink-splashing’ technique referred to. As illustration as a subject grows increasingly mature and popular in my country we have seen a significant number of illustrator combining traditional cultural with western 19th century - contemporary mainstream illustration style and technique. Hence the abstract work was built on the colour pallet that filled with most involved choice of colouration. As a phrase I really like, ‘To catch eyes? Use bright yellow’, that green-ish colour has been the bright fragment as this style solidifies. Of course it gains popularity both domestically and internationally, even forms quite a modern romanticisation for Chinese consumers to gaze our impacted, salvaged culture as nationalist movement recent years drawn much attention back to traditional Han outfit and related material products. Urgh, long story. Let’s..I don’t know, it is not very politically correct to comment on the motivation isn’t it? Charming, that’s all.

White Vein IV, mixed media on canvas, 2020

When I was outlooking Par in the distance, I had a feeling that was almost unreal. White clay beneath my feet stretched and disappeared at the end of a cliff; a knifing county road continued its trail to the sea, and it immersed in the reflection upon the horizon. Perhaps clay leaves fragments on water; an illusion persuaded me that I was gazing at the embedded history of this land: a white vein, an economic mould of the community, a traceable path whose destination is beyond eyesight.

White Vein III, mixed media on canvas, 2020

Inspired by china clay pits of St Austell and Peter Lanyon's gliding.

Virgin in between Rocks,

mixed media on canvas, 2020

Actually, different types of mineral resources and reflected histories of theirs are particularly valuable and critical to relevant discourses. Doctor Carolyn Shapiro of Falmouth University introduced me the perspective of capitalist extractivism and it has pushed my research really far…What Peter Lanyon’s St Just displays is but a doorway to…some complex things beyond imagination

bottom of page