I am ten days in to a new way of working – posting a daily image on instagram. Eventually there will be 98 images in the series. Each image is a photograph of a monoprint taken directly from my body. The idea started in discussion with friends about building significance through accumulation, duration, regularity, and the like. With the first of October approaching it seemed appropriate to begin on the first of the month, and over the few days leading up to the first print it dawned on me how what started as a somewhat frivolous notion could actually be a very useful way of developing (or at the very least contributing to) the next chapter of Following Eugéne.
Each print is made with the same simple materials: water-based blue pigment, and blank postcard/correspondence card. What I have realised, with the shortening autumn days, is that I do not have any ‘white light’ at home – there is a distinct yellow tinge to the pictures taken under artificial lighting. The question is whether to do something about this or not – and this leads me to wonder about the status of these posted images: are they documenting a working process, or are they images in themselves? Or perhaps I should be wondering if there are even such distinctions to be made. If preparatory work is made public, especially without it being overtly named as such, then I guess that I should be presenting as good as picture as possible and this means getting my white balances and lighting sorted out.
I am enjoying the daily routine of making these images and look forward to seeing how things progress over the next 88 days. Since making the decision to connect this work with Following Eugéne (visually through the colour blue, and textually through the hashtags,) I have begun to think around how the next installment might be – what form it might take and what components it might include.
Last week I spent three half days setting up Brief Encounter for inclusion in Enköping’s Höstglöd culture weekend. Klas (arts development officer) had managed to get keys for what had been the restaurant/nightclub in the cinema/library complex. The venue has been empty since the council bought the previous leaseholder out of their contract in anticipation of demolishing the whole building several years ago. Demolition is no longer immanent though it is not entirely off the cards – it is just part of the frustrating situation concerning several council buildings that are too much to go in to here and now. Klas was using the space to prepare and store several of the pieces for the weekend show. It is shocking how so much space can just be left empty, Klas has ambitions to see it used as a flexible exhibition/performance/project venue, possibly even with studios and workshops (though this would require a great deal of work to optimise the somewhat limited access to natural light). Being there was a good reminder that we need to get on with our proposal to the council for support with studio provision in the town.
It is eight years since I first presented Brief Encounter, at that time it was less than a year after John’s death and the piece was very emotionally charged for me. It felt good and right to unpack it again and to realise that there was no longer the same intensity of feeling attached to it. Of course I thought about John, his illness, his life, our life, while I was securing the tracks, laying the glitter, and perhaps most of all when I began to run the model trains. I wrote the following text to accompany the piece:
Two pale blue toy locomotives circle around two circular silver tracks. Around and around they go. At a certain point the tracks come close to each other and every so often the trains approach this near point at the same time. When this happens the trains, for a few seconds, are side-by-side and very close of one another. The moment passes and each train continues on its own journey.
Imagine that the two trains represent two individuals – each on their own life’s journey; two individuals whose lives momentarily come very close to each other.
Brief Encounter was conceived shortly after the death of the artist’s partner. The piece uses playful metaphor and symbolism to explore complex issues of remembrance and grief as well as celebrating the joy that can result from even the briefest of encounters.
I do not think that I could have written that a few years ago – not such simple words, and not balancing remembrance and grief with celebration and joy.
Due to previous commitments I did not get to see the piece installed in the library, I had hoped to see it there on Sunday afternoon but by the time I get there it had already be taken away. It would have been good to see it in that space. As I cycled away it occurred to me how different the venue was from the one that the piece had been initially conceived for (a former train station), beyond the physical difference the potential differences that really struck me were the mood and atmosphere in which the audience encountered the piece. Despite not experiencing this myself (!) I can imagine that piece appeared quite differently in the bustling modern library environment rather than the calm of gallery. I am little concerned that the work might not have ‘held its own’ in such a context, and this led me to think about how I often make art for particular spaces – even if those spaces are somewhat ‘generic’, a gallery for example. I guess that I like the idea that people encounter my work a little primed for “art” rather than simply coming across it – unless I have specifically made something with that in mind. I found myself thinking about those kinds of de-compression and transitionary spaces in buildings – entrance porches, doorways, vestabules. With that particular piece (Brief Encounter) I think I want people to have a little more ‘de-compression’ than Enköping’s library provides – this has been very useful for me to come to understand and is something that I hope to be more aware of with future exhibition opportunities.
Having said all that, I received good feedback from Klas and some friends who saw the piece!