Beachtime Stories exhibition at The Margate School

1 Nov 2019

I am delighted to have been invited to show my 100 Beachtime stories drawings at the Margate School from 2 November – 1 December.

Beachtime stories: An exhibition of intimate 100 ink drawings of beach-inspired scenes by Clare Smith in the Line Gallery. Most of these seaside scenes are in Kent. The drawings are based on the artist’s huge library of photographs which she realised were asking to be used as a resource.

“Like many children, I spent happy times on the beach and remember the Lone Pine Hotel in Penang. In my mind, the sand there is spotless and the sea is the most wonderful blue. The adults sit and chat and the children play. Years later, the sand is not at all spotless, the sea is brown, churned up and full of sea snakes. Swimming has to be done in the hotel pool reserved for guests with rooms.

Living now in Dover, near to the sea after many years away from it, seems no accident. The sea is potentially an all too familiar subject matter, but the very vastness of the oceans and the sea allows for a never-ending fascination, renewed interpretations and personal responses. Human beings have lived by the sea, on the shore for thousands of years. According to John R. Gillis, the “shore was the first home of humankind’ and shores (natural environment) have now in many instances been transformed into coasts (man-made environment).

For Gillis, “the beach was the last part of the shore to be discovered and settled.” They are places from which we look out to sea; the beach is an edge, the land is behind us, it is an ever-moving, ever-changing boundary separated from the land “over there” by the sea, which without a boat, is a hard-to-cross border. With a boat, the sea suddenly becomes a connector between two shores; it becomes possible to go ‘over there.’” (Clare Smith)

The coast is not just a shifting ribbon separating land from water. It is a place of opposites, of conflicting ideas and feelings. These paintings, done over a period of a hundred days, of different locations, inevitably reflect the fast-changing moods of our coastline. They bring us sun-kissed promenades and beaches filled with tourists and sea-bathers, but also recall stretches of wind-packed sand and empty shore-front car parks lashed by rain. There is a romantic nostalgia for childhood holidays in the images of families playing on the beach and dogs splashing through the waves. But behind all that, peering at us from the beautifully pooling washes of dark ink, is something more oppressive. The bleak shorelines depicted in some of the pictures evoke our fear of the open sea. There are hints, perhaps, of the dangers that await us when the weather and tides are against us, whispers of the industry and ports that once dotted our frontier with the sea, and shadows too perhaps of the threat from rising sea levels. (David Frankel)

The work will be shown alongside Anthony Heywood’s When the Wind Blows.