Annie Halliday - visual artist working in experimental photomedia

I received a major award from the Arts Council to develop my work in photomedia, in collaboration with painter George Rowlett, with a shared focus on the seawaters of the Kent coast. As two artists working in very different media, we talked, and looked at each other’s work. Common themes emerged: in perception, ideas, memory, and a strong sense of engagement and excitement with the ever-changing relationship between water and light.

I decided to work directly with seawater, to reveal something fundamental about its nature, rhythms, and response to light. The first test photograms looked promising. I upgraded the darkroom facilities and conducted more research. While reading ‘The life of the Cosmos’ by Lee Smolin and ‘H2O: a Biography of Water’ by Philip Ball, I found references to water as the matrix of life, about the fractal-like patterning of its flow, showing similar qualities over a wide scale, and the cubic lattice structure of salt crystals. This influenced me to incorporate seasalt into the installations and base the design of the artworks on squares and cubes. I took high-water samples of seawater at chosen beaches along the shore. The zone between high and low water seems to me a kind of wilderness, re-claimed and re-marked by the tide each day. The sun and the moon both exert tidal forces, subtle rhythms in the rise and fall of the seas. I decided to call the series of work ‘tidemarks’.

Experiments enabled me to tease out and trace the play between light and water. Seawater settled into pools and droplets, evaporated leaving tiny saltmarks here and there. Using a simple light source, I projected and exposed photograms. In the developing tray the images appeared, reminders of Mallarme’s ‘swimming up of a poem into consciousness’. Research on possible digital processes suggested laser engravings on acrylic panels to be edge-lit, and inkjet prints onto clear acetate installed in light boxes, all to be illuminated through a ground of seasalt. Through trial and error, I developed ideas for freestanding works, lit from within to echo the original process. The image forms were designed as a continuation of the plinth-like base structures. A series of five three-dimensional ‘tidemarks’ artworks evolved.

Continue to tidemarks images...

Special thanks for technical and practical help during the project to: Laser Technics, The Exhibitions Business, Colmac Plastics, Brian Hadler, David Cross, Manda Gifford, Ian Coleman, Christopher Millbank and David Mutter