“Seaworks” is a term I use to define an ongoing body of work made on or about shorelines. The work, building on themes developed over 45 years, seeks to find the awe inspiring in that which is easily passed by and by looking at the micro, how we might gain insight into the macro. I try to convey concerns of fragility, ecology, beauty and transience in the landscape and how man’s hand is scratching away at remaining areas of wilderness.
These pieces are formed from my obsession with walking along what they call in Ireland ‘the strand line’; the line that marks the last high tide where the sea deposits its waste … its flotsam and jetsam. Walking along that line I might find a knot of seaweed, discarded plastic, nylon rope, fishing line, net and tin cans, or on other days a silver curve of pearly shell fragments arcing against the sand and shingle – all have their own story. These insignificant scraps hold information about the bigger picture, the rhythms of the earth and tides under the influence of the moon; the man-made against the natural, and the fragility of life in the vastness of the universe.
I have for many years used a favourite quote by E Annie Proulx from her wonderful book, The Shipping News:
….small figures against the vast rock with the sea behind. All the complex wires of life were stripped out and he could see the structure of life. Nothing but rock and sea, the tiny figures of humans and animals against them for a brief time.
Somehow this gets across the deep connectedness you can feel on a beach, the vastness of the earth and heavens, and the fleeting insignificance of our own existence – issues that I try to invest in my own work.
Through those 45 years, I have continually used photographic processes as my medium. Initially as a traditional, black and white, wet process, analog photographer through to making work in colour utilising the best 21st century digital technology. I have continue to seek out in the photographic processes, better, more beautiful ways to make my work.
Seaworks series of images by Paul Kenny
ABOUT PAUL KENNY
Born in 1951 and educated in Salford, northwest England, Paul Kenny completed his Fine Art Degree at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1975. In 2004 he returned to North Northumberland where he now lives and works not far from the sea with his wife Margaret.
He has travelled to work in Japan, France and Ireland but the main focus in developing his unique vision were the remote beaches of Wester Ross in north-west Scotland and the western fringes of the outlying Islands. Since moving back to Northumberland the windswept beaches between Holy Island and Spittal have woven their way into his work.
In 2000 he was made a Fellow of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation and now spends time annually at their facility in North West Mayo, Eire. He has exhibited widely including five solo shows in London. He has work is in some major public and private collections including the National Photography Collection, Bradford, the National Gallery of Scotland, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.
Paul Kenny is represented by Beetles + Huxley, London
Unless otherwise stated, all words and images in this article are © Paul Kenny