October 9th 2017 – 30th January 2018
German Residence, Belgrave Square, London
“The lines we leave behind us, the spacious weave, our wake, then sleep.” Robert Macfarlane.
My response to the theme of Human lies in two quite different pieces – the Drawing Machine and the Shroud of a Drove Road.
As a young sculptor and photographer, being asked to create work on this theme, is both a privilege and a challenge. To think about and grasp this concept is in itself, the stuff of epics, poetry, biblical writings, paintings, history and so on.
I ventured that Human would be best expressed and consolidated by creating pieces that showed the incidence, coincidence and transience of the marks that we, as human beings, make during our lifetime. Here TIME is not linear. Recordings, impressions, nature and our creation all conjoin into one moment. I also wanted that the work express the fleeting nature of any impression that we leave behind us. Of the billions of humans that have inhabited this world, only a fraction has ever been recorded. Of so few, do we even have a name, let alone a physical idea of them, a voice, gait or an idea of where they lived, how they lived and with whom they lived. They are just dust under our feet. Our graveyards and burial places record only a few. It is a huge image in my head that the testament to all these lives lived is lost. Our memory span is so short.
So I decided to record common places and commonly used places and spaces that made up some of the daily experience of people who inhabited them. I have made my own impressions using my bed sheets. They have been much impressed by me and conversely me by them for so many sleep and dream-filled hours. In their next life, I have used them to make Shrouds as an act of collective memory. I have made Shrouds of windows, dry-stone walling, ancient and well-trodden flag stone floors, old barns. The Shroud here is called Drove Road, Dorset. These are ancient paths through which drovers of livestock drove to and from fields, villages, towns and markets. The paths related people to places and connected them. They are like an arterial network throughout Britain. This drove road has been worn down to its bedrock by the passage of people. I gather soil from all over the world and here I have used Icelandic volcanic ash from Landmannalaugar that fell onto the glacier. I use this soil to make the impressions of this place:
Robert Macfarlane wrote: “paths were imprinted with the ‘dreams’ of each traveller who had walked it and that his own experiences would in course of time [also] lie under men’s feet.” That is what I am trying to convey and it is what I feel.
In this way I try to reach back through these images to those earlier inhabited spaces.
“Touch is a reciprocal action, a gesture of exchange with the world. To make an impression is also to receive one…” Robert Macfarlane
The companion piece is a drawing machine. It is made from found objects. In themselves each component is made from instruments that have been created to measure ourselves within our world: weight, load, compression, suspension, swing, time, frequency, vibration and rhythm. I have combined these to make a machine that draws only when pushed by people. Thus, depending on people’s frame of mind and the force used, the drawing machine makes a mark or leaves a person’s mark on the paper. It records all of our gestures and interactions, which combine to make a complete drawing. The idea is that in a very positive way, it only draws if people push it. Depending on your frame of mind, or the force you use, it has a direct impact on the rhythm of the machine. All of your contributions have made these drawings, and it was just a very simple way of saying what it is like when you are all together and being human.