Art in Nature: Openings to the sea

by | Nov 27, 2023 | Art in nature | 2 comments



OPENINGS TO THE SEA: Summer Solstice



Once again, I was returning to sand rituals at summer solstice, a pattern that would continue. When my son travelled to stay with his father for the first part of each summer, I took up residence in the bach and entered once more into a relationship with sand, sea and tide. I now worked with multiple channels, expressing the openness to the elements that I was experiencing more and more fully.

Right on the solstice I created a fan in the sand as the tide was coming in, then watched as the sea gradually filled the channels to overflowing.



From typed notes inside my artist’s notebook:

Make channels, fanning out towards the incoming tide. Let the first wave fill them. Deepen the channels between waves.

Accept the flow. Rejoice.


The sense of fullness in the fan of channels mirrored the feeling of summer solstice, when the sun was at its peak, high in the sky. It also mirrored the feeling of freedom during this time of reprieve from the work of being a solo parent.

The work then dissolved into the incoming tide, as the zenith of the sun also surrendered to the movement of time and the seasons.

By this time I was becoming familiar with the rhythm between the intention in my mind and the movement of the waves. We were partners, and collaborators in the work.

In my book Power from Within (pp. 2-3) I wrote some recollections of making ‘Openings to the Sea’, naming it as ritual work:


For me, ritual-making began in solitude.

I am on the beach at Te Henga. It is summer solstice, 1982. I begin to make channels in the sand, set back from the edge of the incoming tide. The channels deepen, they form a fan. I watch the tide out of the corner of one eye. Have I timed it right? The work is done, the channels fan out, opening to sea and season. Then the first wave rushes towards the fan, and foams down two of the channels.



Walls collapse. I rebuild and scour afresh. There is always a breathing space after the next wave, I have learned. Usually about half an hour. So when the sea enters, I am ready.




Together the sea and I reshape the work.





The rough edges of sand become smooth and silky, the channels submerge and emerge, their forms softer each time, until the sea takes it all and recedes, leaving only memory marks.



The ritual is complete: solstice and I are one.


Later I made colour Xeroxes of the channels and incorporated them into a painting called ‘Channels’ (720 x 520 mm). I had intended to use the typed text  ‘Openings to the Sea’ in a small hand-made book attached to the painting with a woven cord but lacked the confidence to disclose the intimate intention of these rituals.


Painting exhibited in ‘Ongoing Rituals’ exhibition, Denis Cohn Gallery, Auckland, October 1984

I plan to make more posts on this blog. To view the Art in Nature thread select Art in nature on the right-hand sidebar of this page.


  1. Paul Batten

    Very beautiful and profound photos. Thank you. The sky and the sea: what more is there on a beautiful summer’s day?!

    • Juliet Batten

      Thank you Paul.


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