Sean Vicary is an artist based in Cardigan in West Wales, working across animation, moving image and digital media.
Sean was commissioned alongside three other Welsh and Irish artists to create new work that spoke to the following themes:
- Personal or collective pilgrimage or journeying
- Sacred Places
- Celtic diaspora, ancestral heritage and a longing for home
- Creative Storytelling that connects North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford
Sean chose to immerse himself in the archaeological digs that happened at Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire, in 2021, as part of the Ancient Connections Project; and his resultant work is a beautiful series of animations that combine archaeological drawings, voice recordings and collected sounds.
The work responds to a month spent as artist-in-residence with Dyfed Archaeological Trust during the excavation of an early medieval cemetery threatened by imminent coastal erosion at St Patrick’s Chapel, Porth Mawr, Sir Benfro. Although initially occupying the role of outside observer, Sean gradually became more directly involved with the dig, until eventually joining the archaeologists and other volunteers in helping to uncover and remove burials. The site has long been a place for gathering; in the recent past it was a choice spot for beach parties and raves, revelers oblivious of what lay beneath the dunes until human remains were exposed by storms in 2014.
The archaeologists, with Sean alongside them, worked down through multiple levels of chapel and graveyard, removing over 250 burials until they diminished in number and arrived at an oval enclosure with a central shrine dating from around 750 AD. Here the graves were replaced by traces of occupation; burning, seeds, animal bones, amber working. The shrine decorated with a carved human figure dressed in a tunic with raised stick-like arms, accompanied by early Irish inscriptions.
Sean found himself drawn to the archaeological process, which seemed to have similarities with his own art and animation practice, especially the use of a rigorous, repetitive method.
In this piece, ‘What is this that is coming?’ Sean has used moving image, field recordings and animation to reflect on his experience and examine resonances between the archaeological and artistic processes. The resulting stratigraphic sequences cut across inner and outer landscapes and evoke timescales that reach beyond our own lifespan: The hand drawn lines of archaeological site plans boil and shift while remnants of Mesolithic fauna washed ashore from a submarine forest are explored in minute detail, reminiscent of images beamed back to Earth by cameras on some remote interstellar space probe. These ecological temporalities suggest contemporary anxieties around the climate crisis and rising sea levels, as we contemplate a possible future as part of the geological record.