This weekend I went to see Debbie Lyddon's exhibition, "Caught by the Tide". I've followed Debbie's work for some time. There's a particular interest because she draws inspiration from the same stretch of North Norfolk coastline that I do. It is always fascinating to see how others respond to the same place and reflect upon the differences and similarities.
The similarities: we are both interested in the things that the tide washes up onto the beach and the effect of the sea and the weather on these and materials in general. However, where I tend to focus on the marks, Debbie's focus is more on how the material itself is changed - "the processes of change that occur when cloth is exposed to the elements or left to be washed around in the sea for years."
Debbie's work is very tactile. Cloth is exposed to sea water, rain, coated with wax, varnish or salt. You reach out to touch something that is obviously cloth … and unexpectedly it is hard, stiff. Salt crystals glitter and form encrustations where cloth has been soaked in salt water which is then left to evaporate. Rust stains form where wire has been stitched into the eyelets. Colour is minimal. The focus is on the cloth and the way it is changed by these processes.
Debbie is a classically trained musician and has a particular interest in how you can make the sounds of the coast visible. Drawings capture impressions of the sounds heard in the landscape. Eyelets and tubes project from her wall pieces and are like the finger holes of wind instruments. In fact there is a strong three dimensional element in her work - waxed pots and cylinders hold beach finds or encrusted salt - and a clear relationship between the wall pieces and her free-standing work.
Reflecting on my own work, there were two things I took away in particular. First, something about texture. Dye doesn't change the handle of the cloth - that's part of the point of using it. But it could be interesting to experiment with changing the texture in some areas … and see how this might alter, resist or soak up the dye.
Second, something about working in three dimensions. I've already experimented with incorporating 3D elements into my wall pieces but what would it look like if I took ideas from these into free-standing pieces?
More about Debbie Lyddon: