Lights and Letters


Jane Wheeler, aged 19. of Steeple Aston, was brought before Magistrates Rev’d T. Churme and W. Foster-Melliar Esq. at the meeting of the Wootton North Petty Sessions Court on 23rd June 1876. She was charged with stealing a purse containing three shillings, two sixpences, and four penny piece, the property of James Horwood….

The prisoner appeared in the dock with a baby, said “I had the money and spent it”. She was sentenced to 3 weeks imprisonment with hard labour. Bicester Herald 30th June 1876.

Michael Kenna, in a talk he gave that I attended the other day, suggested that his work is collaborative, between him and ‘the tree’, or perhaps less specifically the land. Kenna has ‘special trees’ in different places, the first being in a park in Widnes where he grew up and now in different situations around the globe, such is his reach these days. My reach these days are more purposefully local. Introspection is not a country I want to explore too deeply too quickly at level three, though I suspect it will be one of the stopping-off points. Kenna’s work, prints of outstanding beauty were on sale together with his new book ‘France’ and ready to be signed at a discount of £5 from the normal retail price. I’m sure that those who took the offer will find, as many others have done in the past, that the investment will reap dividends in the not too distant future if past performance is anything to go by – investments may go down as well as up! 

These photographs have been made as part of the build of imagery, to try and find a way of building visually narratives that I want to communicate. I feel I am at a starting point with a general direction in mind. I have been researching at the local library and have had some success in finding not only texts, but texts with imagery of people from the local area i.e. local to me and the Blenheim estate. I want to be very careful to not make documentary work that attempts to deliver a ‘truth’, I instinctively feel unable to do so, I want to build a sense of the area, perhaps in an historic context and construct a fiction. There is something very compelling in David Favrod’s imagery, maybe partly because it was suggested by Sharon, nevertheless I can’t seem to be free of it, especially when I considering what it is I want to do. This text introduces ‘Hikari ‘This work represents my compulsion to build and shape my own memory. To reconstitute some facts I haven’t experienced myself, but have unconsciously influenced me while growing up’. I wonder about the ‘knowing’ of the unconscious influence, but I feel that the body of work works extremely well. I can sense that the unconscious will affect whatever we, as artists, will conjure and it is with in mind that I am trying to assemble a visual syntax, personal statements in light and shade, tone and texture, composition and form that, hopefully, will form a cohesive language. As I see into the future I want to rely on text less and less. I am interested in the work being ‘openly’ read.

These trees from Blenheim could be from anywhere, that they are in the grounds of the estate provides a contextual framework for me to work from. I want to ‘use’ these trees, these trees that have held root for decades and sometimes centuries bearing witness. Simon Norfolk has photographed some of the more esoteric examples in the estate here, however these images seem somewhat superficial but no doubt they fitted the ‘brief’ when they were made. Michael Kenna explained in his talk that a significant part of his practice is the acquainting and re-acquainting of the land he wants to image, returning many times – dozens, sometimes scores of times to look and re-look. I have been to Blenheim a number of times, but plan to increase the frequency and to limit the places of interest to a few, less well travelled paths.

William Brooks, 25, was brought before the Magistrates at the Petty Sessions held at the Town Hall, Deddington on the 19th January charged with stealing a hammer, value 1s, the property of John Hopes on the 13th January at Great Tew……

William Brooks was sentenced to 2 calendar months imprisonment with hard labour in the House of Correction at Oxford.

I am fascinated by the need to ‘mark’ these trunks, leaving mementos, and how these words develop with the inexorable increase in height and girth of the tree. I am also fascinated by the light on both the words and bark, seemingly highlighting certain left massages.

I do feel that there is a collaborative feel working within a certain area, returning to the same area, getting to understand the light. Kenna’s talk was in the nearby (to me) Stowe School, part of ‘Arts at Stowe‘, the facilities were wonderful, his exhibition in the Watson Art School and talk in the ‘State Music Room’ (actually changed to a larger venue, still within the school facilities) was organised by his Gallery agents, Beetles and Huxley. I’m not sure I’ve seen prints more beautiful than these and if the queue for book and calendar signing was anything to go by it was a lucrative evening for this ex-Banbury School of Art and Design student. Local, local local. And whilst I felt the prints were extremely beautiful I wondered about the context of them in this setting, what it was saying about photography as a commodity, what it said about the artist who has a reputation amongst prestige motor manufacturers for creating images that sell their products. I’m not entirely sure what this all means, perhaps I’ll donate my old Michael Kenna book to a charity, perhaps this one.




2 thoughts on “Lights and Letters

  1. My mind is spinning in many interesting directions with this regarding ‘messages’ from him to her (I think it was mainly that way – round at least in the past, and how they last through time. Won’t write more as I wouldn’t want to be deeming to ‘direct’ you. trees; history and how the landscape embodies this. I feel very drawn to this exploration of yours.

  2. Like Catherine, I find this project really interesting.
    “I want to be very careful to not make documentary work that attempts to deliver a ‘truth’, I instinctively feel unable to do so”, how I share this concerns with you – entering in a dialogue with the outside world without defining it for the others, neither for oneself.

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