KYST (‘coast’) is the name of a project Ben Woodhams SWLA has been working on in 2018 on the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea - his home for the last ten years. KYST takes the form of a series of 52 consecutive walking tours following Bornholm’s coastline, one for each week of the year, with each walk no more than two or three kilometres.
"Each week I start the walk from the same spot where I finished the week before. The concluding walk in the last week of the year (Friday, 28 December) will take me right back to where I started on Friday 5 January – the pier arms of Rønne harbour, Bornholm’s point of entry and exit.
Vang Harbour, Bornholm
Each walk begins at dawn and ends at dusk. During each journey I move slowly – clockwise – along the coastline and observe and record my experiences as I go with the aim of making some sort of physical record of my journey on that particular day, on that particular stretch of the coastline. Everything is completed on the day, in the field, between the sunrise and sunset, and everything I produce is part of the project - also the disasters and disappointments, of which there have been many.
Example of Woodhams' 'slice paintings'
During the course of the journey, I have passed through rocky, deserted shores, sandy tourist-filled beaches, small fishing villages, and built-up areas and industrial fishing harbours. On some of the journeys I have been completely alone, on others surrounded by people. In midsummer I was out for over 18 hours, in midwinter less than seven. So far I have been out in freezing snow storms, baking summer heat and torrential rain.
KYST is a journey through time and space, a voyage of discovery and exploration, with Bornholm as a gigantic clock face, sundial or calendar. Each walk is a story of a day, of the changing weather patterns and tidal flows and the rising and setting of the sun. By physically moving through the landscape I move through periods of geological time, in some places passing through millions of years with just a few steps. The arrival and departure of migratory birds, the flowering and wilting of vegetation, even the coming of the tourist hordes, all tell a story of my journey through the year and around the island.
Walking to Vige Harbour, Bornholm
I am fascinated by the process of observation and the way in which the physical act of looking – really looking – creates a deep physiological connection between ourselves and our environment. I am equally fascinated by how we respond creatively to this process of observation, and the relationship between the objective physical act of observation and the subjective act of interpretation. And I am deeply fascinated by how this process unfolds within the natural environment and the passing of time and space.
While birds have been the focus of my efforts, I am equally fascinated by changes in the sea and sky through the day, and the landscape itself. I’ve been painting lots of ‘slice paintings’ where I split up a sheet of paper into different timed segments, and I’ve also experimented with letting elements of the day itself (the wind, the frost, the rain, the traces of birds and insects…) somehow decide the course of the drawing.
Eider Studies, Tejn Harbour
On the KYST day itself, I upload some images on my Instagram account and on returning I collate the images and write a blog of the day on my website, including a GPS map of my route. Next year, I will be producing a book and touring an exhibition of the KYST project."
Ben's work will be on show as part of The Natural Eye 2018: The Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition from 25 October to 4 November.