It is coming up to 11 years now that Ric W. Horner has lived in the late Dan Sherrin’s (1869 – 1940) quirky cottage on The Saxon Shore Way in Whitstable, a long-distance footpath in England, which starts at Gravesend, Kent, and traces the coast of South-East England for 163 miles in total. He is one in a long line of artists , writers and novelists that made the town their home, for reasons such as the gorgeous light and stunning sunsets. Ric focuses in his work on the elemental qualities of open space, the energy of weather and the expressive frequencies of light.
He creates extraordinarily atmospheric British land & seascapes that have a metaphorical resonance reminiscent of great nineteenth-century landscape painting and yet they are utterly modern, poetic and inspiring. Over time Ric has recorded the dynamic changes in weather, atmosphere and cloud formations that one sees in this area, focusing predominantly on the views across the Swale Estuary towards the Isle of Sheppey.
Artist Dan Sherrin was an artist that could not be missed about the town, as he insisted on wearing the most outrageously chequer plus-fours and his love of beer was legendary. Dan was also a famous self-publicist of the most humorous kind, a practical joker who not only poked fun at those in authority – he even built his own airplane and created a spoof fire brigade!
One of his paintings still hangs in Buckingham Palace, as he was once commissioned by King George V. Furthermore. An elderly neighbour who lived nearby in Preston Parade Seasalter, has told Ric that he recalls seeing Winston Churchill plus entourage on the little foot bridge on Preston Parade, viewing the newly installed gun battery, which was right in front of the house in about 1943.
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) described the famous sunsets along the North Kent coast as some of the best in the world and just like Turner, Ric also explores the unique atmospheres found in this area. He says:
“My work has as much to do with the changing weather; encompassing all sorts of environmental conditions, which can range massively from attractive and peaceful to threatening and dangerous, as well as with the geographical location. Since moving into the late artist Dan Sherrin’s old cottage, I have set up my studio at the front of the house, which overlooks the sea.
This has changed my working practice profoundly, as I now have a myriad of subject matter in front of me and I am less dependent on notes and colour sketches. I can now work directly on canvas from my subject and study in detail various sea states and “light events” which may have previously evaded me. It’s become possible to study storms in greater detail and track showers and their influence on the sea in some degree of comfort. Sadly, despite the house’s prominence and history, time and gravity has taken its toll, leaving it bereft of level floors, so when I first moved in, the horizon appeared to lean when looking out from my studio!”
‘The Street’ on Tankerton beach is a natural strip of shingle on an exposed clay bank, which runs out to sea and is revealed only at low tide for a distance of about half a mile. It is the last remnant of the Swale river valley that got lost to sea erosion over millennia and now provides a temporary, natural promenade. You can still visit it, or read about it at:The-Ley-Lines-and-Lost-Past-Of-North-Kent.
Recently, in February 2024 another artist, internationally acclaimed sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor has installed an activist group of people outside The Old Neptune Pub on West Beach called Sirens of Sewage. Originally intended for placement in a tidal area along the adjacent coastline, the project encountered resistance from local authorities and is now situated on private land less than 10 away from Ric’s studio, and well worth visiting.
The sculptures themselves are lifecasts, portraying a small cross section of the local Whitstable community (including members of SOS Whitstable); a cold water swimmer, school child, kite surfer, lifeboat volunteer and local fisherman. Each holds a profound connection to the sea and a shared resolve to combat water pollution.