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Polaroids - A Love Letter 

What colour is the sea? He asks. 

I am seven years old and gripping the hand of my sea-faring father. Everything is changing, he is leaving and this time he will not be returning to the family home. We huddle together on a bench looking out to sea. The wind agitating and stirring up the waters. A storm is coming in.

    Blue. I respond, boldly. 

He tells me to look closer, pointing to the fast moving clouds and the heaving seas. And so, for the first time, I really do look, and find there is no blue. There never was any blue—this is only what I have been taught to see—to colour the sky and ocean, pressing down hard with a crayon, relishing the spooling of azure, cobalt and ultramarine over the whiteness of the page. 

    I feel the warmth of his body against the cold wind and I feel safe. He is telling me about scattering particles, light and physics, but I don’t understand, I am still grappling with the opening up of a new chromatic landscape before my very eyes, colours that I can’t, as a child, even begin to name as broiling gun metal grey, foaming white, sea green and bruised magenta. 


It was in that moment that I probably started on the path of becoming an artist. It was not so much an epiphany but the slight pushing on an already unlatched door, which on opening revealed the multiple layers of vision and experience; shapes forever shifting, depending on the sleight of hand, eye, the fall of particles, light and love. 

I tell this story, forty five years later, as part of my fathers eulogy. It had to be about the sea: it was where he cut his teeth and were he discovered who he really was, and, sadly, where he experienced heartbreak and the culturally imposed shame that was to cast the dye for the rest of his life. 


Edited extract from 'Ghosts,' chapter contribution to Angela Cockayne's Radical Fauna (2022). 

Polaroids Photographs with oil paint and oil pastel. 2024, ongoing.

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