‘Salt off the sea whets
the blades of four winds.
They peel acres
of locked rock, pare down
a rind of shrivelled ground;
bull-noses are chiselled
Seamus Heaney, from ‘Synge on Aran’
No matter the point of origin and regardless of whether one is making a journey of the body or the mind, the Aran Islands on the mouth of Galway Bay, off the west coast of Ireland, are charged territory – a defiant last scattering of scarified mass before an ocean horizon that stretches unbroken as far as Newfoundland. To these vertiginous cliffs and treeless landscapes, with their gritty geological poetry of grykes and clints, where man’s marks are no less elemental than nature’s, outsiders have travelled in search of many things, from the harsh romance of a ‘lost Ireland’, to more intimate knowledge of themselves.
Guy Dickinson’s instinct to head off to the remote edges of things goes deep. The visible traces of these solitary odysseys are sequences of photographs whose intensity comes not, one senses, from a desire for self-knowledge, but from a yearning for total immersion in the encounter with a physical environment. Landscape or seascape, in their ability to encompass the grand and the granular, these images take the viewer similarly deep into their field of vision. It is of the essence of Guy’s work not to tell us how to look, but rather to clear the way we see, so that it is the place itself – the fissured limestone, boulder strewn shores and roiling swell – not the photograph, that we feel on our retinas. In so doing he achieves that rare feat of conjuring Heaney’s ‘salt of our earth’.
‘What do we say any more
to conjure the salt of our earth?
So much comes and is gone
that should be crystal and kept.’
Seamus Heaney, from ‘The Singer’s House’
Words by Alison Morris, December 2016
Stráinséar is a precursor to a larger body of work currently in development between the authors and Webb Chiles.
Stráinséar series of images and accompanying video by Guy Dickinson
Guy Dickinson is an architect and wanderer. Further details of his peregrinations can be found at www.tracingsilence.com
Alison Morris is a writer, printmaker and shopkeeper, based in Hastings.
Unless otherwise stated, all images in this article are © Guy Dickinson and words © Alison Morris
Note: The video was added at a later date; 22nd December, after first publication of the original feature