Stuart Haygarth: Strand
Text by Robert Macfarlane, Deyan Sudjic.
In February 2011, British artist and designer Stuart Haygarth (born 1966) did an unusual thing: he started to walk along the entire coast of southern England, with the goal of collecting every man-made item that he came across. He had a purpose in mind, for Haygarth gathers discarded or overlooked objects and elevates them into art, making exquisite artefacts and stunning installations out of common detritus and everyday waste. Yet his practice is as much about the process of collecting and collating materials as it is about the creation of value or beauty. For Strand--the Old English and German word for "beach"--he walked from Gravesend to Land’s End and picked up the thousands of synthetic items left washed up on the shore. Combs, lighters and baby dolls, plastic balls, toys, containers and shoes were just some of the many objects he found on the 500-mile trip. Back in the studio, he categorized each one by type and colour before arranging them into precise compositions and photographing them.
Displaying the formal rigor of the designer and the aesthetic eye of the artist, the resulting images seduce with their beauty and visual immediacy. The objects form an archive of sorts, a fragmented narrative of unknown people’s lives, as well as a material document of Haygarth’s journey. But his beautiful pictures tell another tale too: the story of our reckless pollution of the environment, for each of these manufactured objects has been thrown away and carried by the world’s oceans and seas. They are the flotsam and jetsam of daily life.