Katherine Renton has a degree in Fine Art from Newcastle University and has always lived and worked on the Northumberland Coast. Her work tries to encapsulate what it is to live - both geographically and historically - in a county which borders Scotland and the North Sea. She depicts man-made defensive structures along the coastline that were built to protect its people from invasions or the forces of nature. She uses a range of media, including oil paints and watercolours.
There is no castle at Alnmouth. This coastal village is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northumberland, despite not being a location for one of Northumberland’s famous medieval castles. Instead, visitors are drawn to its golden stretch of beach, in greater numbers every year. The sandstone castles of Northumberland, such as Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh, were built to repel ‘outsiders’; now visitors from all over the UK and beyond are drawn to historic Northumberland, and when they visit Alnmouth many build their own castles from the sand.
Three graphite studies of sandcastles on Alnmouth beach, Northumberland. Selected from a large series of graphite and watercolour studies that culminated in a set of oil paintings.
The sandcastles can represent the transience and vulnerability of our own existence - an existence which the majority take for granted, even when repeatedly forewarned of the climate and environmental disasters that we are facing. The Northumberland coastline is eternally at risk from the effects of coastal erosion, which will inevitably accelerate as the effects of global climate change become more pronounced. We happily build sandcastles using the natural materials around us – often with much care and attention to detail (even utilising found plastic straws and plastic ice cream spoons as flagpoles!) – knowing that by the very next day the castle will have gone, either washed away by the rising tide, or destroyed by our own hands.
Katherine draws the sandcastles after the visitors have abandoned them at the end of the day. She uses graphite (a crystalline form of the element carbon) to depict them: temporary structures represented using a natural medium that can so easily be erased.