Marie Yates

Field Working Paper 7 - 26th April 1972 - Porthmeor Beach, St.Ives, Cornwall


Not on display

Marie Yates born 1940
9 photographs, C-prints on paper
Image, each: 242 × 375 mm
Purchased 2017


Field Working Paper 7 – 26th April 1972 – Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives, Cornwall 1972, printed 2016 comprises nine elements: six colour photographic prints and three black and white prints featuring text, arranged in a row in a specific order and with equal spacing between them. The colour photographs (the first, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth elements) document an ephemeral installation made of wooden sticks, stones and white string, arranged on a sandy beach. The sticks, of different heights, are planted into the sand, aligned in an almost regular row. A few stones are tied to the sticks with ropes, while others are aligned on the sand, in a row parallel to that formed by the sticks. While the first of these photographs documents the installation at low tide, the waves rolling in the background, the other photographs were taken once the tide had risen and show the installation partially submerged by the sea or in its re-arranged, less geometrical configuration, the tide having moved around and repositioned the stones. Each one of the three black and white prints with text provides a succinct description of a different aspect of the work and its context: the location, the weather conditions on the day and the process followed by the artist, divided into the categories ‘Location’, ‘Day’ and ‘Procedure’. The ninth panel, dedicated to a description of the procedure, states: ‘The piece was made from some components brought down to the beach and some found there. It was placed on the edge of the shallows and as the tide advanced during the afternoon, the piece was first touched, then washed, then taken by it.’

The title of the work identifies the location in which the colour photographs were taken as Porthmeor Beach at St. Ives in Cornwall, and the date as 26 April 1972. Yates knew the area well, having lived and worked in St. Ives over many years in the 1960s. She had intended to make a work in this location since the inception of her series Field Working Paper, to which this work belongs, the previous year (1971). Discussing the choice of the location she has explained: ‘It was its particular combination of sand, sky, water and rocks, and most importantly the light, that made it very special’ (correspondence with Tate curator Elena Crippa, 4 September 2016). The artist has also stated that the work exists on three levels: ‘the actual experience, the recording and documenting, and the retrospective ordering and presentation’ (ibid.). Through the particular arrangement of the images and their documentation through photography, as well as the use of descriptive language, Yates wanted to ‘state the existence of things in terms of time and/or place … beyond direct perceptual experience’ (ibid.). The ephemerality of the installation, its reconfiguration as a result of natural changes in its environment and the final selection and arrangement of the different photographs, in non-chronological order, offered new possibilities in terms of the exploration of the interaction between viewer and object. Yates has explained: ‘Observation may only be located in time, it proceeds through change. The emphasis given to events and processes in these works allowed for a greater empathy between observer and observed, and hopefully the boundary between physical and mental space could be dissolved’ (ibid.).

The series Field Working Paper was the focus of two solo presentations at the Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham and the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol in 1973, and featured again at the latter venue as part of the group exhibition Artists over Land: Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Marie Yates, Philippa Ecobichoni in 1975. Between 1971 and 1975, as part of this series, Yates made over twenty works documenting interventions in the countryside and coastal areas, which she described as ‘journeys’ and ways ‘to convey a mode of experience’ (quoted in Marie Yates, Field Workings 71–73, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1973, n.p., and Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1975, n.p.). For her, this type of experience was not a form of imposition on the land, but a form of dialogue with it. Yates was interested in landscapes that emerged from the sedimentation of layers of history and that were thereafter highly receptive to any presence or change. Rather than feeling inhibited by the receptivity of these sites, her intention was to learn to ‘converse’ with them. She did so through an intentionally ephemeral engagement with the site, by erecting provisional sculpture using found materials, which she then documented through a combination of photography and text.

As the original photographic prints have deteriorated with time, the artist printed this set in 2016. The vintage prints remain in Tate’s collection.

Further reading
Artists over Land: Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Marie Yates, Philippa Ecobichon, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol 1975.
Fenella Crichton, ‘Marie Yates’, Studio International, vol.193, no.987, 1977, pp.1846.
Bryony Gillard, ‘Disappearing into Land’, in The Sun Went in, The Fire Went out, exhibition catalogue, Chelsea Space, London 2016.

Elena Crippa
September 2016

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