The concept of the Tide Mark Project evolved from a meeting in October 2013 at Plymouth College of Art between Stephen Felmingham, Programme Leader of Painting, Drawing and Printmaking, and AA2A artist Sara Downham-Lotto. Sara needed a place to base herself within the college and Stephen, in charge of an area at least 10 times the size of your average sitting-room, was looking for something or someone to energise a large portion of it. “I want tide marks of paint”, Stephen said.
Tide Mark – i a transitional zone, appearing as a wavy line, that marks the junction between 2 material states; ii a mark left by the highest or lowest point of a tide; iii a mark showing a level reached (by a liquid); iv a trace or indicator of past activity.
Space and Collaboration
Grateful for the challenge and opportunity, Sara set up a temporary studio space in the pristine, open space that was soon to be energised by colour and shared activity. Continuing with her painting practice, she took advantage of the two main resources the AA2A scheme presented to her at this stage – space and people. The space, significantly larger and more open plan than her home studio, lent itself to involving others in a fluid and unstructured way. Sharing and collaboration therefore became key to Tide Mark’s identity.
The college ethos of integration and cross disciplinary practice was embraced. Walls and floor acted as a vast canvas or stage on which collaborators ‘played’, intuitively responding to each others’ marks and colours. Working with children from local schools and students within the art college – Foundation, Film, Painting, Drawing and Printmaking – Sara as facilitator, guided the transformation of the Tide Mark space into an area covered in paint and mixed media collage.
Sara’s own marks
Recycling, reworking and responding to the collaborative work, Sara superimposed her own workings and ideas. What evolved was a space very much identifiable as a Sara Downham-Lotto, but with visible layers of all the work created by others underneath.
Almost as exciting as evolving the empty Tide Mark space at the start from blank canvas to finished painting, was the challenge of ‘painting out’ the space. With an understanding from the outset between Stephen Felmingham and Sara that at some point the space would be needed for other college events or exhibitions, the old resident had to be kicked out, leaving the space as she found it. Rather than simply paint over everything in one, I decided to transform the area similarly to how it evolved in the first place, gradually and in stages.
This process produced some beautiful results, highlighting the whole notion of less is more. In the end, 4 months from conception, with all studio equipment removed and walls and floors repainted and cleaned, we were left with a space as we found it, ready for its next role.