This is the second in a series of posts about the Fifth-Sized Book Adventure. For the rest of October I will be posting every couple of days about this project, explaining how I have created my contribution to it. My role in the project includes sharing my process of developing work, for the participants on the project, but I also wanted to make this available to anyone else who might be interested in following that journey.
Having listed (in a previous post) some of the qualities that interested me about the Fifth-Sized Book collection, I realised that it was the physical nature of the books that I was interested in. How could I choose a particular book because of subject? That approach wouldn’t be right for the way I work. I am interested in the materiality of things. It was the way that the books had changed over time that really grabbed my attention: the way that page edges or corners had become scuffed with use or marked by contact with hundreds of people’s fingers and exposure to light; the torn and worn covers or those missing parts of their covers; the marks made by institutional stamps that were now integral to the pages, recording a history of ownership, use and classification.
One particular book stuck in my head after that first visit to the library. It was a chunky volume, sitting on a shelf amongst different sized books. Its spine was missing, leaving the stitching on the inside of the spine exposed and showing how the thick book had split into three sections. The whole volume was tied untidily with old string to keep the sections together. This binding and the loss of the spine cover meant that there is no way of knowing what the subject of the book was.
On my second visit I made straight for this volume, confirming my gut reaction that this was the book upon which I should focus my work. This seemingly very old book was a most intriguing object and by not knowing what its pages held it would remain for me an object whose physical state greatly interested me.
When this book is touched it leaves a mark on your fingers and any clothes or surfaces it comes into contact with. What remains of the leather cover is breaking down into a powdery brown dust. The exposed stitching on the spine is clogged with residue of the glue that previously held the cover on. Some sections retain fragments of the spine cover, with one small area showing blue with embossed gold detail, like a glimpse into the book’s previous state.
I’ve been back to Spurn for the first time since my residency ended 3 1/2 years ago. It felt so good walking the whole peninsula again, some parts very familiar and some bits significantly changed by the elements since my last visit. Some great wildlife encounters made the day really special too: a dolphin (sadly dead, but fascinating to see), a short-eared owl, a lizard, curlew, deer, butterflies…
The lighthouse is now spick and span in its newly re-furbished state, with a new coat of paint inside and out. It is now open to the public regularly and there is some sensitive interpretation inside to help the visitor understand the history of this wonderful heritage building and the unique location it overlooks.
Luckily it was a beautiful day, although with a cold wind, so the views were long-ranging and at their very best. As ever there was all sorts of weird and wonderful (and not so wonderful) stuff washed up on the beach, including various balls of fishing line caught up into bundles with other debris attached, like un-natural tumble-weeds.
I took along some of the work I made during my residency and have donated a piece to The Wildlife Trust, who manage Spurn. This will go up either in the lighthouse or in one of the other visitor spaces. The other pieces I took with me are now on display in the Bluebell Cafe in Kilnsea. It’s lovely to have some of my work back there, where it came from and where it belongs.
I’m looking forward to talking about my work in Durham this Saturday (7th March). The talk is organised by Interface Arts and is open to anyone. It will start at 2pm at the DLI Museum and Art Gallery. More info here.
I took down my installation at The Bowery last weekend (with the help of my small assistant). It was potentially a rather sad day as the paper pieces that I’d collaged directly onto the wall were going to have to be scraped off. I didn’t know whether they would come off in salvageable pieces or if the whole thing would break up. I had resolved myself to this site specific piece (the paper extension to my linen Spurn Cloth #2) being an ephemeral work and likened it to the erosion and change that is happening constantly at Spurn, where the pieces were based on.
Someone suggested I should have filmed the process of putting the installation up, building up the collage on the wall – great idea, but I’d already put it up when they suggested it! So I decided to record the taking down instead. Here is the result, although the quality isn’t great it gives an idea of how the pieces surrounded you in the gallery (the first half is shots taken from the middle of the room looking round the walls and then it goes back the other way tracking the removal of the work and leaving an empty gallery again.
Despite severe weather warnings (the likes of which I’m sure must amuse those readers in countries that regularly have properly severe weather!) my exhibition opened last weekend at The Ropewalk in Barton. It is a very different prospect hanging this work in a gallery space after the spectacular but challenging building that it was originally conceived for.
For the first time you can see the whole of Spurn Cloth #1 (all 4.7 metres of it) hung on a wall rather than in the curved format it had in the lamp room of Spurn Lighthouse. Conversely, Spurn Cloth #2, which hung (all 10 metres of it) in a very tall space half way up the lighthouse, hangs now as a two sided piece.
The gallery put together a lovely little six-sided fold out brochure for the exhibition with a few images of my work and a bit of blurb. I have some spare copies of this so if anyone would like one sending I’d be happy to post one to you. Send me an email with your address or leave a comment.
I went to Spurn last week to collect the rest of my work from the lighthouse. I also had various meetings to fit in that day but I felt it was important to allow myself a little time on the beach. The light was absolutely glorious.
I felt that I was going back to say goodbye, but actually I was saying ‘thank you’ and ‘see you again soon’. I now understand how Spurn is firmly under my skin.
There were various interesting items haning about on the beach. I’d seen this lump of metal on previous occassions and wondered about trying to collect it to use for printing. I tried picking it up… surely it was too heavy… could I bring the car closer? Not really… in the end I decided to carry it (struggle with it) the few hundred metres along the beach to my car. It now sits in my front garden waiting to be played with…
Textures of Spurn is now hung in the Meeting Room Gallery at South Square ready for the preview tonight and including the three new Spurn Cloths that were in my last posting.
The preview is tonight from 7 – 9pm (do come if you’re local) and then the exhibition is on until 28th October. Opening hours are 12 – 3pm Tuesday – Sunday. There are three gallery spaces at South Square as well as artists’ studios and the most amazing veggie cafe.