Rivers are living beasts. Light changes a river moment by moment, the ruffling of the wind scatters the surface in infinite ways, currents push, pull and churn. Rivers tug seawards, and the meeting where one species of water meets the other is a special place: the estuary.
At Long Nanny life throngs – at the moment with thousands of nesting seabirds; in the dead of winter the estuary is a bustling feeding ground for migrant bird-life. From above it must be a landing strip whose runway is lit by the glare of reflected light. I’m beginning to think of it this way, attempting to see with a bird’s eye.
This is not to forget what happens in channels below the surface – incoming and exiting fish, the insect larvae, seething microscopic life. It’s something Rachel Carson invites us to experience in Under the Sea-Wind – to fly and submerge where river meets sea – on the journey of sanderling, mackerel and eel.
Rivers are sacred places, and as well as being the ultimate expression of life they are also the spiritual home of death. In Greek myths, Oceanus was the river that looped the earth; its offspring the Styx flows through the Underworld. Drinking from the spring of forgetfulness (another tributary, Lethe – Oblivion) lets us forget our hold on life and slip away. And on the other side of the Styx is our meeting with death.
In my artist’s journey in Beadnell I want to understand the power of the meeting place of two rivers (Brunton Burn and Long Nanny) and the sea. I’m not familiar with the painting of landscape and am looking to get beyond obvious beauty. A couple of artists I love when it comes to their drive towards the energy of a scene are Frank Auerbach and Elizabeth Blackadder. My starting point, visiting and revisiting the estuary is to discover the ways of (this) water, to locate its energy and meaning.