I’ve wanted to paint this view of sea and sun at Shoreham beach for a while. It is a painting in honour of what is probably my favourite place to go in the south of England. The beach is the home of an extraordinary (and vulnerable) vegetated shingle, a surreal explosion of colour and form that is little expected in such a hostile environment.
It is said that vegetated shingles are one of the few wild environments left in the world. There are boardwalks now to let people walk the beach without crushing the plants. The strange wildness is still very present. It occurred to me that I feel strange there because I am a stranger. We humans have changed nearly all of our natural places. To be in a wild one is to experience how much we have alienated ourselves from nature. There is another, smaller vegetated shingle at Eastney in Portsmouth.
My affection for this beach is probably connected to another shingle beach, Platte Saline in Alderney. I would often walk that beach in my teens, looking for things that the sea had thrown up on to the beach. At night, even though I was about a mile from the beach, I could hear the sucking sound of powerful waves moving the shingle. It sounded like cars on a wet motorway, and now, when I hear cars, I am nostalgic for that beach.
This painting is not of the plants, but rather the sea, silvered by the sun, with small waves crunching on the shingle and drawn back with a rattling gasp.