I studied art to master’s level and that took me from printmaking to photography, to slide dissolve then to video installations. I loved that journey, underpinned by theory and philosophical thinking, a whole new world opened up. The world was in my monitor.
But it wasn’t, I felt trapped by the frame and my site responsive work was so site specific that it could only endure one showing then was redundant. I stepped away from the screen and became an artist producer. For many years, I was found tromping through woodlands, managing the plant needed for installing huge artwork, going through life in a high viz jacket and steel toecaps.
In private, I continued to take photos, they didn’t need special kit with good mobile phone cameras and they were discrete too. I took a series of photographs of trees that were resilient, growing on the sides of steep hills, determined to grow straight despite the risk of falling down. I think they were me, finding my place in this new home.
An accident in Istanbul, when I was wearing gloves to take photos (I was there for Christmas) revealed the wonder of panoramic photography to me. I spent the next few years exploring the medium. It was exciting to me because it didn’t lock me into a 4:3 ratio. I enjoy the body involvement too and soon perfected a particular dance move that facilitated my using my body as a tripod, allowing for a good 180degree rotation with no jagged edges. (Although, I confess, I enjoyed exploring those too).
For about 5 years I’ve been taking panoramic photos of scenes in front of me, then rotating and taking one of the scene behind me. Inspired by the way people stand out gazing across the sea to nothingness, yet dwell inside boxy buildings dreaming at the horizon. I became obsessed with this notion of seeing both sides and not narrowing one’s vision down. And with perspective, not in the geometrical sense, but in the psychological positions we choose to take. One side or the other.
I want to push the edges of the frame away.
A video work I did with Suze Adams involved our filming each other across the Severn, at the time of the arrival of the bore. It was carefully choreographed and planned so that the images were simultaneously taken to the second. Viewed together, the huge difference was visible. We were, more or less, in the same place viewing the same thing at the same moment. And what we saw was wildly different.
I am passionate about the Severn. I lived on the east side for 25+ years and have been on the west side for 11 years. It’s at the bottom of my street. Last year I began to draw from my huge collection of photos of the river, and found a visual language to represent the vastness, the openness, that the river provides. It is like a huge exhale. The panoramic format allows me to be expansive with it, and do a different dance to produce it. No twisted legs, as when photographing. Flowing.
And like the video project, I am taking photos on opposite banks at chosen locations, all places that hold some significance for me in my life. Bridging the Severn. The title comes from a Heidegger paper that Suze and I discussed, about a river not existing as a locale until the two banks are bridged.
The destination for the drawings journey is to create a publication that bridges words and images together to tell the story of the Severn. Most are the width of A1 paper, but there is one two metres wide in progress. And suddenly, today, having been playing with a VR headset at home, I have realised where I’m going with this.
I’m returning full circle in some ways, back to wanting to feel immersed, as in a video installation, needing to provide another way of experiencing the world. Not as a simulation, but as a.n.other way of celebrating what we have.
I hope to get my hands on a drone soon, so maybe my next steps will be to view from above, and 360 degrees around. I’m very excited by this process. It’s all about finding one’s place in the world.
If you come to see the drawings at The George, from 30th June- 29th July, you will see what I mean. I’m also going to have some leaning tree postcards, just because it is time to put them out, now I’ve found my feet here.