Images and Words: Words and Images

‘Not Waving but Drowning’ – a curation

I spotted this piece of sea-worn glass on a recent mud-larking expedition. Within a couple of feet of it lay a tiny porcelain arm.  It was a bitterly cold day but the wind and tide had churned up the river bed and swept some interesting pieces on to the high-tide line.  Sometimes the estuary gods reward you for your patience and other times you return empty-handed.  That’s the way of it.

As I picked up the piece of glass it immediately reminded me of the crest of a wave and, when I saw the tiny arm and held them both in the palm of my gloved hand, the words of Stevie Smith’s poem ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ came straightaway to my mind.  (It is reproduced below for those of you who don’t know it).

That’s what happens in my head.  Words and images.  Images and words. I never could decide which I liked best – English Degree or Fine Art Degree so I opted for both – Combined Honours – and that set the precedent for everything that has happened since.

And now they are inextricably linked to everything I see.  Images and objects bring to mind song lyrics, nursery rhymes, old proverbs, lines from poems.   It’s just how things are and have always been.  Sometimes I’m thinking about a poem and I see something that fits or sometimes, subconsciously, I make something.


‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.


Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave out

They said.


Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.