Annie Halliday - visual artist working in experimental photomedia

Reaching the Stillness...

“Only by the form, the pattern, can words or music reach the stillness...”

  • TS Eliot - Four Quartets

The visitor to this exhibition encounters two bodies of work that draw their inspiration from a common source, yet are presented at quite different scales. The one, tidemarks, draws you in by its very intricateness, by the condensed detail and the precise way in which light is directed through each image. The other, The sea! The sea! is like being swept under the face of a wave, looking up through the organic grid of spume and foam and fragmented surface, where sea and sky seem inseparable.

That common source is water, common not just for this work but for all of us, our very existence. Annie Halliday comes to it as an artist, a scientist and a musician, and it is this multiple curiosity that inflects the finished work both with an authority and a sense of rigour. Where her scientific and artistic methods separate is in her interest in the ambiguous: to push a particular enquiry as far as she can without the result becoming obvious, to leave the artwork in suspension, so-to-speak.

Halliday works with the simplest of principles: to capture the effects of light transmitted through saltwater. To achieve this she uses photographic processes but no camera: in a sense her studio becomes the camera, a laboratory where she seeks to direct and control light using a Heath Robinson-like system of props and levers. The finished image is then transmitted onto other surfaces using digital technology. The stillness is there to be found in the work: in the awe-fulness that comes from submersion in front of The sea! The sea!, the frozen moments, the deliberate challenge to our sense of scale, and the offsetting of our sense of balance and security in this world. There is also the relief of recognising the inherently familiar as we contemplate these flowing and apparently revolving patterns of salt and water.

Jeremy Theophilus

The Sea! The Sea!

The images were made using seawater collected from North Kent coastal locations. A simple light source was used to project the water and salt crystals onto photographic paper directly, without the use of camera or lens.

The original photograms of seawater were then scanned digitally for transmission onto different substrates.

The large format triptych The sea! The sea! was commissioned by the Turner Centre, Margate.

The three-dimensional tidemarks series incorporate inkjet prints, and laser engravings on acrylic, illuminated through a ground of seasalt. They were made with the support of a major award from Arts Council England, and first shown at Whitstable Museum.

“...perhaps more than any other element, water is a complete poetic reality”

  • Gaston Bachelard