Art in Nature: Beginnings

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Art in nature | 0 comments





In May 1978 artist Allie Eagle came to live in the studio behind my bach, and on the weekends when I came to visit from the city, we shared the bach living space. I was intrigued by Allie’s trips to the sea, where she dug into the sand and threw wet handfuls around.

Soon I was doing my own sand work. It began with an inquiry about how the sea and I could work together.


Sand Work I

On December 19, 1981, I walked from Te Henga northwards to O’Neills Beach with a wooden sand shovel in my backpack. Choosing a time when the tide had turned and was about one-third of the way in, I began to work.

My intention was to dig a long channel towards the incoming tide, and then wait to see what would happen.



From my artist’s notebook

Sand Works I, O’Neill‘s Beach, December 19, 1981


Afternoon, from about 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Began when tide one-third of way in.

Landscape ‘castle’ form, with wet sand splotches on it, plus shells & tunnel begun underneath.

A channel was formed from the moat around the ‘castle’, towards the sea. (It was very long). Then as the tide approached, I waited to see if the water would race forward up the channel. It did — about 2 m ahead of the tide. Waited a long time for photos.



I remember the thrill as the sea rushed fizzing up the channel I had dug, far in advance of the edge of the tide. The sea and I were talking to each other.

I named the piece ‘Measuring the tongue of the tide’.



This began a pattern of working after the tide had turned but was still low. At first, I didn’t always judge it right and either had to wait very patiently for the sea to advance into the prepared channels (Sand Work I) or else got caught out when it came in too fast (Sand Work II). I remember those times of waiting, and also the times of haste from the early days.

Eventually, I fell into rhythm with the advancing tide, so all I had to do was listen and adjust my pace to what I heard and sensed. The sea and I were becoming one.


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