"Drawing the Line" is intended to have multiple associations beyond the straightforward act of drawing; the line of defence in wartime or in a local sense the coastal defences of Norfolk. A further reference is personal . . . when my mother died recently at the age of 100 it meant I had to move on from places and people that had been part of my life for so long. Shortly after her death last year, as a tribute both to my mother and my father, I was asked to open a new exhibition space in the village in Sussex where I grew up. This was my first attempt to draw the line and began the thought process and development of ideas that have resulted in the work on show at Salthouse.
After my mother's death I discovered several suitcases of photographs of places much changed and people long dead. There were many letters and a number of photographs from my father from the time he served on the Western Front in the First World War, showing the devastation he had witnessed personally.
He was one of the fortunate few to survive lengthy service in the trenches, winning a Military Cross during the fighting on the line of the Somme. It was also a time when he made lifelong friends, including Robert Graves the poet and "Birdie" Partridge an accomplished New Zealand novelist. I have childhood memories and photographs of my father and Graves at Deya in Majorca, talking again of their experiences and settling points raised in their correspondence - letters which sadly I have been unable to find so far.
Although he remained in the army - including service in Afghanistan in the early 1920s - his interests lay more in history, poetry and a deep love of nature and the countyside. I remember him as an elderly, kind father who enjoyed producing exotic vegetables for our table and who cooked me unusual breakfasts of anything he could find fried together - a legacy perhaps of the first meal of the day after the dawn stand-to in the trenches. There are other memories of walking through deep lanes and woods in Sussex with him looking for evidence of ancient manors and iron workings or searching for rare plants in secret coppices and marshes.
His love of landscape and creativity has stayed with me throughout what he once called my "rackety life" as I moved through the turbulence of adolescence and adulthood in the 60s and 70s, Brighton Art School, teaching and time spent in the French Alps attempting to capture the drama of mountain landscapes, when I first began to use a combination of pastel and charcoal expressively in my work. Despite the impact of mountains, throughout my life I have been drawn to more subtle forms of landscapes which are no less significant.
The line between water and land in Norfolk is a frontier between stubborn land and the encroaching sea. In "Drawing the Line" there is a juxtaposition of the results of that battle and man's capacity to create similar conflict. The desolation and emptiness of the fields of battle in France creates images that are reflected in the battered and overturned barriers set up to defend the coastline.
In "Drawing the Line I have used images from the vulnerasble coastline alongside photographs - some taken by my father - of the devastated landscape of war. I have used collage combined with the drawn line to create a resonance suggesting both other times and today's realities as climate change and rising seas escalate and renew their assault on the beaches, marshes and cliffs of North Norfolk. Increasingly I've enjoyed using layers of collage to explore the subtle, random but cohesive imagery that both subjects provide and adapting my drawing skills to the images that the coastline creates.
Patience Foster, May 2009
Back to News Page