February 22, 2013
I've just stumbled across the work of Paul Kenny, an English landscape photographer who lives in North Northumberland not far from Holy Island, a tidal island off the north-east coast of England. Kenny has lived and breathed the coastline of the north-east of England for 27 years, and he also regularly works in the western isles of Scotland, and the west coast of Ireland. An early project is the Lonbain wall.
His Sea Works are about the coastline's sands, strand lines, and shells. He arranges the "insignificant things" like dried seawater, plastic fragments, seaweed and beer can bottoms to get his final result. He also regularly works in the western isles of Scotland, and the west coast of Ireland.
Paul Kenny, flotsam - window - downpatrick head - 2001, Seaworks
Kenny says about using beach-combed flotsam and dried sea-water:
In common with many people, I have always brought home “treasures” from the sea pebbles, shells etc. They act as an “aide – memoir”, bringing the landscape into your home so a mere glimpse or touch might recall the feelings of being alone on a remote beach. Realising that I (naturally) tended to bring back to the studio particularly beautiful objects to photograph, I began to make works out of increasingly insignificant material collected at random rather than highly selected. In 1999 I made a series of works called “A day at the beach” which were studio works made from (literally) a random handful of beach material collected after a walk on a beach, arranged and photographed in the studio.
Out of this work came the idea to find the most trivial and insignificant thing from which to make beautiful and thought provoking work.
He often makes abstract images of the Northumbrian coastline. He doesn’t just represent what is in front of him but collects objects, playing with scale and layout back in his studio to create a negative on a glass plate which he then scans into a computer. As part of this gradual move towards abstraction the camera itself has become less important in Kenny's photography, and he has focused his attention on creating his images through darkroom processes alone.