Breakwaters 2019

The Suffolk coastal landscape informs Veronica Bailey’s latest photographic work - Breakwaters. Produced in the winter of 2018/Spring 2019 Breakwaters is about intervention. This is seen through a study of the British artist Prunella Clough’s archive (1919 -1999) which documents material objects that have transformed the coastal landscape in East Anglia during the inter and post-war years of the twentieth century. Bailey’s Breakwaters series of sixteen images are a combination of two perspectives, two cameras and two photographs within each image. In the studio Bailey cuts up the digital photographic prints, juxtapositioning the circular breakwater and then re-locates this photograph with another taken using a Mamiya analogue camera with transparency film of the same coastal landscape from a different perspective. This positioning creates a repetition of the object that is now defined against an ‘alternative’ view of the landscape. These breakwaters become intentionally oblique, changed by both human and physical intervention which is a similar pattern seen in Bailey’s previous series 2 Willow Road 2003 and Hours of Devotion 2007. Previously the viewer is drawn through the images of worn pages of library books, and here Breakwaters has a similar action. The physical intervention on the worn wooden breakwater emerges as a captured ‘point in time’.

Bailey’s photographs detail the weathered, wooden breakwater surfaces, drawing attention to the physical cracks and patina, in the process re-imagining them as abstract nautical maps and river pathways. Coincidently, in 1943, Clough worked as a mapping and engineering draughtsman for the Military Railways section of ETOUSA, at Dukes Street, London. Two years later, she took up employment with the Graphic's Publications Department of US Office of War Information, London. Within Breakwaters, Bailey draws comparison with Prunella Clough’s wartime working method, which was influenced by her graphics work. Cutting around paper objects, then layering and reworking these forms resulted in collage works such as Bird in the hand (1946). This artwork features a cut-out hand, with a bird positioned on the dark lines of human skin; reminiscent of a wood cut. One can compare this linear composition to the wooden surface texture of the breakwater in Bailey’s photography, but also suggests the intervention of humanity within the landscape. Many of Clough’s wartime paintings and prints cover this subject - Sea Composition (1940), Boats in Winter and War Defences (194-42), Closed beach (1945), and Breakwaters (1946). Clough was drawn to paint - destruction, decay and death. Described within Francis Spalding's 'Prunella Cough Regions Unmapped (2011, Chapter 2, Interrupted, p42) as "Alien, aggressive, spiky defence structures, half buried in sand, breaking up the mined beach with hostility and wartime claustrophobia’.

Conversely, some of Bailey’s Breakwater titles suggest a certain optimism, such as Elysium, Paradise, Jubilate and Serendipity - these are taken from the brightly coloured beach huts which line the present Southwold beach promenade. They lie in contrast to other titles such as Retreat and Breakaway, which reflect the dichotomy of the town's present day physical, human and monetary interventions.


Collaged C-Type. Size: H125mm x W125mm.
Prints will be available.

All artwork and images © Veronica Bailey 2024.