Impermanent Edge

We have been a host on a digital tour of Impermanent Edge, an artwork by Helen Goodwin. In keeping with the nature of the piece, the animated landscape image has now been replaced with the words above.  

The tour continues on Scarborough Museums’ website


Helen writes:

This work is about impermanence, seen through the eroding edge of landscape on coastal places where I have lived.  

On the East Yorkshire shore, the cliffs and beach at Skipsea, the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, the work aims to catch the impact of wind, tide and sea on the cliffs, and on human life through the shifting buildings and their contents, to capture the effect of impermanence. 

The work was made on the beach in March, at a time of fierce, forceful winds. White cloth to reflect the ebb of the waves, the tidemark of sea on the edge of land, fixed on upright wooden struts sunk deep into the sand. They connect the sea to sky. They draw the wind in the air. Their movements with wind and water show how the earth moves and reforms and shapes the impermanent edge of shoreland.  The flag-like constructions become fragile and surrender to what later seems was inevitable. Just as my cliff-top cottage finally did.

I work in landscape, using materials of place such as stones, soil, chalk, and material culture of people, such as thread, objects, pictures. As glaciers did and the sea does take and move geological materials, I may use materials of one place in another, here chalk on clay and tarmac. 

I also move objects from one place to another. I had a cottage on the cliff top at Skipsea for five years.  Before it was taken by the sea, I removed a chair I still have, which moved with me from Skipsea to Hull to Brighton.  I brought it back to visit.

This work is part of a micro-commission from Edgelandia and Penned in the Margins to create a response to the changing environment and meet local people. The coronavirus changed exhibition plans from physical to digital, from a single place to a journey.

This digital journey also follows the path of the chair, moving back up from Brighton to Hull and East Yorkshire, to the place where it once sat beneath white muslin curtains in a wooden hut on the cliff top looking out over the sea. It links eroding coastlines where I’ve lived: the chalk cliffs of East Sussex and the till (clay) of East Yorkshire. 

And more background about the work

My interest in and work on impermanence for the past two decades has, in recent years, focused especially on eroding coastlines in East Yorkshire, where I once had a small wooden cottage that was taken by the sea, and East Sussex, where I currently live. My work is responsive and site-specific, often taking the materials of place to create images and spaces that are impermanent and will disappear over time.

I was thrilled to receive a micro-commission from Penned in the Margins last September to create a live site-specific piece this June in response to the rapidly disappearing coastline of Skipsea, East Yorkshire, focusing on the erosion and its effects on the local community. 

During my last stay there, in March, I prepared to make work on the wide expansive beach revealed at low tide beneath the eroding clay cliffs. The weather turned fierce when I arrived and  in this blown, rain-swept shoreline environment I made unexpected work in response to the forceful winds that contribute to the erosion of land. I also met with the very friendly locals, collecting some stories, and returned home just days before lockdown.   But the changed situation meant postponement of intended exhibitions in East Yorkshire, in Skipsea and Hull.

Instead, an online visual journey of work, reflecting the impermanence of the edge and shifting coastal landscapes and geology, will be created. Selected organisations and galleries have offered to host one image each on their websites for a short period, before it disappears and is briefly replaced by words. This disappearance of image progressively disrupts the online tour, just as the coastal edge vanishes into impermanent memory, occasionally attempted to be retained in written and visual record.

The tour supported by Laurence Hill, the former director of Brighton digital festival, now an independent digital curator.

More about Helen Goodwin

Helen’s practice is largely site responsive and performative, often working in chosen outdoor locations, and with an emphasis on impermanence. The particular locality, both people and place, is the basis and provides materials that feed into her work. Her focus is on issues of place, space and belonging using material culture as well as found geology, and other materials of place. She is particularly interested in the ever-changing edges of landscapes which has led her to look further at ideas around environmental impermanence.

Helen has worked and studied in the UK and other European countries, China and Mongolia, on arts related projects.  She has been selected on various international arts residencies. Helen received a postgraduate scholarship from the British council and Hungarian Ministry of Culture to study in Budapest for two years under the supervision of the artist and tutor Dora Maurer. She has an MA in Drawing from UAL Wimbledon, London and was amongst 10 students selected from UAL courses to attend a period of research in Tokyo. Helen previously worked and lived in China for a period of 8 years where she was invited by Swedish curator Anna Mellergard to facilitate a cross-cultural arts project between artists from China and Sweden culminating in exhibitions in both countries, funded by SEDA. She continues her practice through exhibitions and residencies and has works in international private and institutional collections.

Helen Goodwin July 2020


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