I have made two installation pieces in gallery101….‘Hieroglyph’ and ‘Order’
I want to talk about the second one first.
Around the time I was invited to display my work at the V&A, I had been tussling with the notion of making a really large stone drawing ‐ something beyond my own expectations - something that would fill your field of vision ‐ to be visually ‘inside’.
But the logistics of making such a piece ‐ size of mount board, frame, weight, transport and cost … were formidable.
On the train from Yorkshire to London my mind took to wandering along the large expansive gallery walls in101, imagining the space as ‘canvas’ and the idea of a direct drawing (placing the stones directly on to the plaster with no frame or glass) started to take hold.
As always when the imagination clicks into overdrive the question
“What if ?” appears like a pop-up on the screen of possibility.
What if it was feasible?
And this is where the partnership element of the residency has been truly brilliant. For it was a generous act of faith that allowed this abstract seed of an idea freedom and opportunity to develop.
I was committed.
With commitment comes fear.
A very large and very public blank canvas.
And one big question mark.
Time to make some decisions:
Recalling the fine, thin, stone slivers of a particular beach, on the Lleyn Peninsula, I found myself scrabbling down the cliffs early one morning in April, armed with a packet of Eccles cakes and a huge flask of tea.
Empty: just the sea, the wind, the stones and me.
Perfect. The tide was about an hour from the top, going out.
I had to work fast.
Total focus and a keen eye.
The beach is mostly sand and large stones.
The particular wafer thin small stones - (like that delectable, last sliver of a Werthers Original savoured on the tongue) - that I was looking for were discovered floating and lilting at the turn of the tide ‐ the lightest, most floaty cargo the sea had to release. Small microclimates of them lay scattered along the shifting shoreline. I selected and collected solidly for eight hours.
Such intense, focused, repetitive activity with one part of the brain allows another part to escape unchecked and run free.
Notes for that day:
This all ties up with the mind exploding notions of time and space ‐ probably the most basic of concerns for a scientist. But there, on that beach, alone all day with the elements, a small frisson of understanding ‐ an awareness of the obvious - flooded in.
Forward now to the reality of heavy rucksack transportation…
And now in the studio at the V&A. Boxes and bags of stones tipped out across the table. I sit sorting, grading and categorising to the sound of workmen clattering up and down the steps outside with wheelbarrows full of rocks for the new garden and I wonder if we are we doing the same thing.
In design terms all I have at this stage is a tiny rough sketch of a thought.
I don’t know exactly how it will look.
I do know that I will work spontaneously with the sorted and grouped elements allowing the design to unfold organically,
Click here to view a video clip capturing the start of this process (Quicktime video 1 min 21 secs)
It could have been quite challenging to develop a piece of this nature so publicly in the gallery - and with a fair number of helpers ‐ not at all like I normally function. Keeping up to six people in action at any one time brought it’s own design implications but I found the experience both invigorating and rewarding. Equipped with keen eyes, syringes, pva glue, and some rather wonderful turquoise blutac ‐ the five students from Goldsmiths University, two staff from the V&A, an ex tapestry student from West Dean and my niece placed, stuck and pressed our way along 6 metres of blank wall. I thank them all.
It also involved numerous separate journeys from Yorkshire, endless judgements of size, tone colour and spacing + very many glasses of wine after work before completion.
Click here to view a slideshow of photographs showing the installation of Order (Quicktime video 1 min 48 secs)
In July 2006 the reverse will take place.
And I have the desire to work on a much bigger piece…
NB. The more observant may have noticed that this installation was called ‘Space’ before and during it’s making. It was not meant to be a description of the huge empty wall ‐ more as the intended title of the ‘unknown’ work.
During the long hours of organising and making the piece (and also in response to the many questions from visitors to the gallery), I got to thinking more and more about what it was I was doing.
The word ORDER kept surfacing and it became clear to me that that was the title. In recent years I have relished consulting the dictionary and thesaurus to help clarify thinking.