To end my residency I wanted to do something with the lists of words and other notes that I’d written down during my walks and train journeys. On most of my walks I would stop somewhere in a café and write down feelings and impressions. Often these took the form of lists of words, which, when I read them back, were strange and poetic. Sometimes I couldn’t think of much to write, so the lists were oddly short. I decided to select words from these lists to paint on the gallery walls, using the positioning (low, high, corners etc) to play with the meanings. The two lists I decided to work with were:
The first list I painted on the long wall and the adjacent wall, with the words ‘tired’, ‘heavy’ and ‘weary’ in different greys just above the floor. ‘Holly’ and ‘ivy’ I placed in the two greens (Melon Sorbet and Spring Greens respectively) in the middle of the two walls at eye level. I selected ‘entrances’ and ‘dirt’ from the longer list. I would have liked to put the two words separately on opposite walls, so that you bounced between the two, but I only had one remaining wall (or rather chimney breast). I liked those words because they were incongruous with each other. ‘Entrances, dirt, bus stops’ might have been a stronger sequence, but I had a rush to paint all the words that I did anyway.
On day 7 I visited the Kelham Isle Museum to see the Don River Engine (the most powerful surviving steam engine in Britain) and selected my words in the museum café. On day 8 I painted them in Franklin Gothic Demi 220 point (traced from print outs), photographed them and then painted them out so that the gallery was returned (nearly) as it had been. ‘Entrances, dirt’ existed for barely half an hour and ‘Tired, weary, heavy, holly, ivy’ for slightly longer.
Today I did a walk, but decided to base my work again on the train journey, because, when I stopped in a cafe for a think about what to do, I had a more coherent sense of the train journey than the walk. This breaks the rules of my residency, but they are my rules to break! The train journey divided into two halves: from York the Doncaster it was mostly though countryside, which, in the warm morning sunshine had a feeling of softness and porosity. From Doncaster to Sheffield it is more industrial and built-up. The adjectives I noted down were: gritty, spent and dirty. An old dark-coloured boiler suit hung up on a fence or something which I saw from the window seemed to epitomise this leg of the journey.
I made two works, on two adjacent walls, to represent these two parts of the journey. The first work responds to those ideas of softness and porosity, with circular, freely-painted forms which blend into the white wall. The green is Spring Greens from a range of paints carrying the branding of Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen. I’ve been dying to buy a tester from this range throughout my residency. Because I’m sure he mixed it and named it himself.
On the other wall, I used the grey and Venetian Red paints from earlier to make a bit of a vague mess, which, if not a very sophisticated idea, is at least an honest attempt to express the grittiness of the second leg of the journey. (Visually, I actually sneakily quite like it). I’ve been struggling not to fall back on old ideas and I’ve landed on rather obvious ideas instead. The uncomfortable thing about this residency, and the commitment to blog about it, is that it is more like an art school exercise which forces you back to square one. I wanted the strictures I set myself to begin to force things to happen which were surprising to me and this has begun to happen a bit. I’ve moved from very controlled ideas which I could have done without having to respond to any walk (or train journey) towards more uncharacteristic ideas as I’ve made myself think harder about my walks/journeys.
Today my usual 08:24 train from York to Sheffield was cancelled because of a body on the line near Thirsk. I got a later train to Leeds and then got the slow train from there to Sheffield. Consequently, I got to Sheffield at 10:37, which didn’t leave me enough time to do my walk and be back at Bank Street by 12, so I decided to use the train journey between Leeds and Sheffield instead. I made a list of odd words and impressions (since I like lists in this blog):
dead stems [of plants by the track]
I felt that the spring morning sun somehow gave everything a brittle quality – the buildings, the railway itself and last year’s dry vegetation by the track. Even solid brick structures seemed somehow brittle. I also couldn’t get the suicide (as presumably that’s what it was), that had delayed my journey, out of my head. I felt that it was easy to regard an occurrence like that as merely a nuisance (this was the second time I had been delayed for this reason in about two weeks – the first time was when travelling back from London just before my residency), but that what had happened had impacted others in a very different way that day.
At B&Q I picked up a tester pot of Craig & Rose 1829 Venetian Red (posh paint) and B&Q Colours Grey Slate (cheap paint). I used the bottom half of the long wall (I spent a lot of the train journey looking at the edge of the track) and tried to respond to that idea of brittleness without painting dead bracken and hogweed stems. I think I nearly succeeded , but I’m not sure I got at what I was trying to respond to (they do look a bit like stems – but how do you paint ‘brittleness’?). I feel like most of the works I’m doing in the residency are missing their mark, but that doing them is helping me to hone my view of the problem I am trying to solve (by which I mean see what that problem might actually be!) I added a red and grey shape towards the middle bottom of the wall as a sort of memorial to the suicide.
The photograph I have posted of today’s work is just a snapshot, as I didn’t have time to photograph it properly. I’ve also posted a picture of day 3’s piece, with day 2’s work fully painted out. It is taking quite a few coats of white to get rid of each piece, so each one is forming part of the next. Each piece on the big wall has taken some aspect or other of its position from the ghost of a previous one. Today’s thing used the traces of the ‘legs’ of day 2’s piece to space the vertical elements.
Today’s walk consisted of the following route. I took photographs of some things that interested me.
St Mary’s Rd
Sheffield General Cemetery
Stalker Lees Rd
Upper Hanover St
St Mary’s Rd
This time I bought a pot of Dulux Melon Sorbet. The colour and the grid I painted on the wall reflected the new foliage on the trees and a certain expansiveness and airiness. I added some rectangular grey and green elements to two of the other walls, but I’m not sure why other than just to try to activate those spaces.
The walk knackered me out. A problem with this experiment is that it is quite tiring! The most interesting thing I saw was the overgrown old cemetery – I noticed the classical entrance down a side street of Eccelsall Rd. I’ve included some shots of the cemetery with pics of today’s work.
Today was a contrast to yesterday: bright and sunny, but still cold (at least early on). Today’s walk took the following route.
Tree Root Walk
St Mary’s Rd
Today I bought Dulux Sea Blue. This choice was inspired not only by the colour of the sky, but also a house painted with blue windowsills I noticed. A lot of my gaze was directed upwards, looking at roof lines and details of soffits, entablatures, corbels, consoles and chimneys, so I decided to place some elements high up on the same wall I used yesterday, using the top line and the spacing of the verticals of yesterdays painting as a starting point. I wanted to avoid the temptation to paint a roof line or anything too literally architectural, so I decided to use a motif I have painted before, which is derived from landscape. I haven’t finished painting out yesterday’s painting, so the photo is of Sea Blue with Isobelle half painted out (I have decided to name them after the paint names, for now). Sea Blue turned out to be a bit darker than I expected, but it doesn’t matter.
I began my walk from the station at 9:15am. It was the most awful weather: sleet, wind and freezing cold. The route I took went:
Botanical Gardens – cup of tea in Curator’s House Cafe
St Mary’s Rd
At B&Q I purchased a tester pot of Crown Isobelle (from the Le Petit Palais range), which is a pale blue/grey. This seemed to reflect the colour of the walk. Back at Bank Street I concentrated on one wall and painted two fence- or grid-like elements across nearly the whole wall. The lower one extended from the floor to 1m, which is the height of my hip, and the other one was the same but inverted and extended up from about the standard gallery eye level (1.5m). They were meant to reflect the regular plod of my legs on the walk; being muffled up and looking down I had more of a kinetic sense of the weight of my legs than an awareness of my surroundings. I was also aware of either looking down or looking up (two head positions), the latter requiring a definite move of the head (normal movement restricted by rain clothes): hence the upper and lower elements. The same grey greeted both views, the sky seeming no less close than the ground. Another inward day.
I am doing a short (2 week) residency at Bank Street Arts, Sheffield. I am using my time to explore two things: painting directly on the four gallery walls to create more of an installation or immersive work responding directly to the space; and using a daily walk as a means of generating impressions which can be translated onto the walls of the gallery.
This is day one and I arrived at Sheffield from York mid morning. I began my first walk at around 11:45. I am thinking that I will take Sheffield Botanical Gardens as my destination for each day’s walk, taking a similar route to it each day, then ending at B&Q on Queen’s Road to buy a tester pot of paint, which will be used for that day’s work. Today’s walk took the following route:
Cross Burgess Street
Botanical Gardens (tea in the Curator’s House Café)
St Mary’s Road
At B&Q I bought a tester pot of Dulux Ruby Starlet paint. It was spitting with rain and I felt very sluggish. Most of the time I was looking down, so I decided that no element of the work should be above 150cm. The colour came from the dark red brickwork of a lot of the Georgian and Victorian buildings, some of which are almost plum coloured. Apart from the colour and height of the elements I was going to paint, I could not form any idea of what to do. I had in my mind to do something fairly heavy and based perhaps on the heavy building façades, punctuated with tall rectangular windows and doors, which I had seen. When I opened the little pot of paint, it was much more magenta-ish than the colour label and I couldn’t bring myself to put any broad areas of it on the wall. In the end I, perhaps rather timidly, painted some thin linear elements which responded more to the space of the gallery than to the walk. I think I needed to make sense of the space as well. I was quite pleased with the rhythm and balance of the elements, even if they are a lot more minimal than I intended! Somehow they expand the space, which I needed to do, as it was hard to relate the sense of space of the walk to the fairly small space of the gallery. Anyway, tomorrow I am going to go back and see what I can make of it!