Body in the water: ‘A Thousand Tides’ causes a fuss!

“Bronze sculpture mistaken for body in the water” BBC online


The BBC got in touch with me whilst in France to report that the Coastguard, Police and Fire Service had been called out to my figure lying in the water at Butley Creek.

I would like to apologise to the Emergency services for distracting them from their important work. and to the distressed member of the public who reported a body on Tuesday.   I would also like to thank the artists of Butley Mills Studios, who fielded angry Coastguards and Police.

The story has been on BBC online, Look East, Radio, the Telegraph amongst others.


The Sculpture was buried in the Creek over 18 months ago, (weirdly about a thousand tides ago!) and is supposed to sink slowly into the mud, It was a parting gesture to a loved landscape which had abutted my studio at Butley for over 14 years. It was intended to echo the Saxon ship burials of the area (Sutton Hoo and Snape) and the bronze age hordes discovered in neighbouring fields, now at Orford Museum.


'A Thousand tides'2



The figure disappears under the water with every tide and re emerges when the water recedes. I see it as an ablutive (purifying) process, cleansing a calm caressing. This tenderness expresses perfectly my relationship with the Suffolk Coast, a relationship captured beautifully in books such as Julian Tennysons ‘A Suffolk Scene’.  (A book that mirrors many of my experiences exploring these marshlands in my youth.)


The Creek at High tide, the figure under the water.


The sculpture’s harmony with the environment is often recorded by visitors, who send me images of their experience, these ones from John Esling. Showing the birds of the area making use of him.





This is a  long exposure through a pin hole camera created by artist Laura Ellenberger. The exposure lasted a month, day, night – high, low tide…the figure becomes a ghostly haze.

pin hole tide man


The burying of him was a performance in itself, . We had to build a raft with a hole in it for him to be lowered through and into position. When he entered the water he bubbled as  air escaped, he turned golden like a giant fish as he descended,  the bubbles continued to issue for some time,  a powerful experience.




Making him was also an emotional experience, I usually model figures upright, they therefore become a kind of equivalent to me. Modelling a supine figure changed the relationship, he was like a patient and I the doctor, he seemed vulnerable and when holding his hand I felt as though I should read his pulse, he peered over his chest at me working on him as if to ask what I was doing to him. This relationship, I feel, continues in the marsh. ‘Where am I going’?



A good film has been made of the project by Film maker Phil Cairney, here’s the link


looking on b&W

I am in talks with the Coastguard at the moment, their initial response is for me to remove the work, I have suggested some buoys would signify its presence as an object and not a body. I await their decision.

Removing an object like this isolated and  a long way out from land, and away from the channel, will be very difficult,  I cheekily asked the Coastguard if they would be able to do it as part of a training exercise, they informed me that the Helicopter’s are based at Lydd in Kent and up at Hull. and would cost thousands, I asked if any helicopter would do it, the response was negative!

The exumation would be a perfomance in many ways and what to do with the weathered and encrusted body after would be something to consider.  I’ve obviously been thinking stay in touch!!!

I’ll finish by reflecting on Myron’s bronze bull on the Acropolis and how it fooled the public into thinking it was real, and feel i’m in good company!

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