Frances Hatch and her party have just finished their Land Marks Walk during which students made beautiful little memory pieces from the materials they gathered in the sunshine on West Bay beach this morning. Frances told us the story of her painting Coccolith Cloud, showing how the story of the materials in her work, in this case chalk, feeds into her impression of the place and is then re-activated in the creation of her painting which in turn records that impression of her time there.
Coccolith Cloud, Handfast Point, Studland by Frances Hatch 2012 acrylic and cliff materials on paper 57 x 76cm
The chalk cliffs at Handfast Point were created by millions upon millions of tiny Coccoliths (calcium carbonate platelets or rings secreted by single celled algae or coccolithophores). Frances read us the following line from the chapter, Creation of the Lowlands, in A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes, which is almost poetry in itself:
The minute coccoliths fall down through warm calm waters onto a ‘pallid sea-floor’ like ‘a marine snow storm, the falling of flakes through one of the clearest seas ever known.’
At Handfast Point, after a cliff fall or storm, a pale stain of milky clouded water hangs in the water. It most probably is a ‘milk’ of dispersed coccolith shields. ‘In mixing my own chalk suspensions using grated chalk cliff and other cliff materials I am re-introducing these nano fossils to sea water and releasing them to float around in water once again…and then allowing them settle within the paint surface. Other stains and pigments have been imprisoned within the body of chalk and by working in this way I am echoing the depositions and erosion taking place since.’
The painting was made onsite over several months and slowly. Many sketches and ideas contributed to it. Sunshine on the sea over the ‘pallid’ sea bed creates the thrilling turquoise colour. The idea of many different views of the same place is also informed by the idea of the creation of the Earth’s crust.
‘The history of the earth’s crust, then, has a rhythm. …if the movement could be speeded up, as in a cinematograph, we should see a rise and fall as though of breathing. (chapter 2, Creation from The Land by Jacquetta Hawkes)
The multiple profiles of Handfast point in the image is the consequence of the imagined inhale and exhale.
Please click here to view Frances Hatch’s work in the exhibition.
Or here for links to view Jan Walker, Robin Welch and Petter Southall