I’m coming to realise that I need to retreat from Blenheim, it’s just not leading anywhere; though the work on marks and traces – sounds a bit too much like a High street shopping chain – has been worthwhile. The image above is highly worked. It is the one place in the estate that allows free roam, i.e. no manufactured pathways, roads, worn tracks and so I ‘manufactured’ the track to the ‘Column of Victory’, “painted the light” as an intervention in the image, to provide a ‘trace’.
I spent a lot of time looking for both these indicators, providers of narrative within the context of the land ‘scaped by Brown. The inside of this old oak, blasted I suspect by lightning is marked by nature and human hand. The telling lines and letters, carved inexpertly, tell of some desire or other to leave an evidence, without possibly the knowledge that it will ever be consumed by another. Traces and marks that became marks and traces, the one becoming the other; what was traced into the wood as a mark becomes a trace of the emotive force that willed it to happen, that impelled the carver providing an echo of the subject that was the intended recipient.
And then on the morning after the (now deceased) Duke of Malborough dies I make this image across the ‘Main Lake’ on a dreary slate grey day. The dynamic range well within the limits of Ilford Delta 100 ensuring I, post development, add light and dark to the image, paint the columns, windows, branches and boughs with shade and contrast. Marking the image.
This tree is very near where I started to look into the telling signs of human presence, standing here for best part of two centuries (even the oldest oaks aren’t much more than three centuries old, a few remain in situ from before the land was given as a gift to the 1st Duke of Malborough in the early part of the eighteenth century). I found I was spending too much time looking for, and creating, interesting images for the sake of imagery, rather than for the purpose of investigating a narrative sense. There is a tale, apocryphal or otherwise, that the trees on the estate were planted in such a way as to replicate the troop positions on the battlefield in Blindheim in Bavaria where John Churchill defeated the French, those trees from the creation of the estate are now largely felled, with a few old and empty carcasses left.
I have spent too much time creating pretty pictures, allowing the process to overcome the intent which hasn’t allowed the formation of narrative to develop. I have decided to return to the work I was making at the end of Documentary and re-engage with that. This past weekend has provided me with some time to think about what I might want to consider and what I might want to create as a body of work. It seems I need to go backwards before moving forwards.