Inspired by the Coast series – Jon White
Jon White is an abstract and contemporary seascape artist based in Cornwall. He is inspired by the Cornish coastline and paints from his home studio on the north coast of Cornwall.
Jon has written the following article about his relationship with the coastline, how it influences his artwork, and the significance of the South West Coast Path as a place of encounter, rest, adventure, and inspiration.
The south west coastal path has become a place of pilgrimage for me – a place to roam free, think, dream and ‘see’ again. It is what the Celts of old described as a ‘thin place.’ A place where the material and the spiritual meet, a place where the imagination is set free to dream, wrestle, doubt and simply breathe. As an artist, all my work comes back to the relationship between light and water and the mystery of the sea. The coastal path is in many ways my door to these concepts.
Treading the Coast Path takes me away from the modern pace of life and brings me fresh inspiration
The coastal path also offers a boundary line that is necessary for safety as well as direction and inspiration. Art does the same – even abstract art has its rules, boundaries & limitations and every artist serious about their craft understands this. When I walk the coastal path I become an acrobat of this boundary line, balancing and moving across a tightrope of hill and valley, cliff and dune, field and rock. Its route forever weaving in and out of places far more ancient than anything in our modern, fast paced, hectic society. I like to imagine the countless individuals that have trod its path before me and will continue to do so in the future, their stories somehow imprinted in the mud of footprints beneath my own. This is a reminder to me that none of us have ownership over its beauty & mystery but that instead we are given access for a short period of time to steward, care & work with the land itself. Yet another reason why time and time again I’m led to return to its rugged path and find fresh inspiration as an artist.
Boundary lines of the Coast Path
The boundary line of the coastal path, much like the boundaries of canvas or paper or artistic tool is also an invitation to stand on the edge of another world and look beyond that which lies behind. To imagine a new world and a new perspective. To walk its path is to enter a great dance between the Trinity of land, sea & sky. To find oneself immersed and on the edge of an environment where these three worlds collide and seemingly where anything is possible. This collision of differing yet united worlds is the place as an artist I seek to create from. To stand on the boundary lines of differing cultures & perspectives and seek ways to see them merged & reconciled. It is what my artistic mentor Makoto Fujimura calls ‘border-stalking;’ a translation of the old English word ‘mearcstapa’ describing the character of Grendel from the ancient Poem Beowulf. To live in this place is no easy thing, it requires courage, risk, at times rejection and of course failure also. Such is the path of any serious artist.
The Coast Path feeds my work as it does my soul
I can’t imagine being an artist today if it were not for my relationship with the coastal path. Since childhood it has been a constant in my life, a place of encounter, rest & adventure. It feeds my work as it does my soul.
I conclude these thoughts with a poem by Denise Levertov that to me describes the joy and the journey of the coastal path but also reflects my own journey as an artist.
Let’s go – much as that dog goes, intently haphazard. The
Mexican light on a day that
‘smells like autumn in Connecticut’
makes iris ripples on his
black gleaming fur—and that too
is as one would desire—a radiance
consorting with the dance.
Under his feet
rocks and mud, his imagination, sniffing,
engaged in its perceptions—dancing
edgeways, there’s nothing
the dog disdains on his way,
keeps moving, changing
pace and approach but
not direction—’every step an arrival’.
Follow Jon at:
View his solo show at:
The Poly, 24 Church St, Falmouth, Cornwall
1st – 5th February 2022
“The show is a visual memorial to my father who passed away unexpectedly from Covid in December 2021. Dad loved the sea with childlike glee. He also championed my artistic practice from a young age. As I continue to stare at the sea with paintbrush in hand my conviction is Dad stands on an eternal shore also in awe of the wild wild sea, ‘vast, unmeasured & free.”’
About our Inspired by the Coast series
With the help of poets, painters, potters, photographers and other independent artists across the south west, our Inspired By The Coast series celebrates different perspectives on what the South West Coast Path means to people and demonstrates how it creatively inspires and supports people in such different ways.
To discover more ‘Inspired by the Coast’ artists go to; https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/events/explore/inspired-coast/