Dwellings in isloation

Martina Lindqvist is being exhibited at TPG currently. I found the ‘Neighbours’ series quite inspirational as I’m currently considering the ‘Purgatory’ project. Lindqvist re-imagines the single settlements in a landscape that emphasises their sense of isolation, using digital editing she freely develops the image to remove and enhance these dwellings from any sense of neighbourliness. The skies are all entirely blank grey and similar to other images, a single tone developing a sense of a foreboding oppression despite the almost ‘twee’ prettiness of the ramshackle and derelict buildings in a landscape that is still and empty. The prints are available in a range of sizes which is perhaps why there were differences in the hung prints which I did ind a little confusing but overall I was glad I made the trip on a visit ‘up-West’.

Purgatory lies in a land that is also wrought by nature, several references to it suggest that it’s physical challenges were uppermost when the choice was made to vacate the buildings. It is difficult to get to in fine weather, but at times of inclement weather it must be an act of determination. Lindqvist’s work dwells on the solitary stance of the edifice’s emphasising by the use of the titular expression, the ‘un’-neighbourliness of sub-arctic life. I am aware that ‘Purgatory’ also has a set of possible meanings and comprehensions that I hope will assist me in this project. I was also interested in the fictive nature of Lindqvist’s work, how she freely adapted what she found into her own contextual frame of reference, to support her narrative flow, and from this distance calmly offering that fiction as an evidence, as a story, as a truth.

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Walking to Purgatory

I’ve been spending some time in Purgatory and I am hoping that ‘it’ will become the focus of the major project. I do not yet have a strong sense of the main narrative of the project and I am attempting to keep it as open as possible as I spend time considering the connotations and implications of ‘its’ name. Purgatory as a place, as a state, a destination, a history, a condition, are all options I am considering.

Purgatory South face

 

Toby Jurovics concludes his introduction to John Gossage’s ‘The Pond’ with: “A photograph’s greatest gift is to remind us of the pleasure of seeing. Its highest accomplishment is to reveal the unseen within complex even difficult pictures.” At this juncture I am not sure what it is I might wish to reveal, though the thought of a peregrination along the lines of Gossage’s is very appealing. And whilst Gossage goes to a place and documents a linear journey – in my reading at least – the physical demands of Purgatory as a place requires a there-and-back journey and though it can be reached from two physical courses the meta physical journey may wander hither and thither.

Purgatory East face

 

Gossage employs a single narrative representational device of monochrome, his images were taken in strong, high contrast light; and, with brief rest-bites, employs a directive narrative, impelling the viewer to accompany him from a place on the edge of civilization (‘normality’ or an ‘edge’ish’ land?) – leading back to suburbia, though what we feel about the destination is left for us – the viewers – to discern.

I’m starting to find resonances in Gossage’s work on my route to Purgatory, though with Jurovics’ words regarding revelation being uppermost, I wonder whether the land can provide a metaphor for this ‘place’ that I’m seeking to unravel.

I have been looking at the images I have made and wondering what they reveal, how they might lead me to a particular place of study. Gossage’s use of monochrome isn’t one that I have made, so I will make use of colour and black and white, and I know instinctively that the work will rest on my ability to sequence, on how the final edit will illuminate, or as Jurovics states: reveal.

I have deliberately chosen, what for me, are idyllic images. Photographs that might sport a chocolate box; placid, pastoral, bucolic; images chosen for what they don’t reveal – other than by absence. Purgatory is that in-between state, neither yet one nor other, occupying a ‘twixt and ‘tween and my desire is to represent it is more to the following image, very close by, very complex (my comprehension) and without a rational or simple resolution in view.

  and

  or perhaps more accurately to how I feel about this currently:

On a clear blue sky day Purgatory is a ‘pretty’ site, and blessed with good walking boots and thermals, the cold of these year end days isn’t a hindrance to enjoy the walk; and so I think of those that left the ‘place’ at the beginning of the previous century, how eight dwellings survived the isolation with earthen floors and open hearths. I also ponder on why this place, this state, this destination or this condition holds such an allure for me right now at this point in my studies. I am on two journeys, one of which I will describe here as I hope it will become the Body of Work for my final year. My plan now is to edit and exhibit images made over the last few days and plot a course for the next few weeks.

And so to Purgatory

Amongst the four or five local places that I have regularly turned to for photographs the track to Purgatory is one that I enjoy quite a lot for many reasons. Firstly it is the solitude, occasional dog walkers might be at the early part of the walk (it is a there and back again walk, not circular) but after the canine toilet aspects are dealt with they are usually re-packaged in the 4X4 conveniently parked in the lay-by opposite the church, and driven home. Secondly the quiet induces a sense of the historical aspect of the place. Purgatory was, at it’s peak in the early part of the twentieth century, a site with eight dwellings, though it is documented that a settlement was recorded there in the late fourteenth century. The track leads to the Bartons – Steeple, Middle and Westcote which apart from Middle are mentioned in the Doomesday book and Roman artefacts are still regularly found in the area. Thirdly the name ‘Purgatory’ engenders a sense of foreboding which provides a sense of context to the walk which relatively quickly turns from a ‘proper’ track i.e. with asphalt into a ‘rutted lane’ which for many months in the year is a bit of a quagmire.

And whilst all these images weren’t at the final destination of ‘Purgatory’ they all line the walk. This area with it’s history might provide the easiest source for me as I flounder still to pull together a narrative for my BoW. I hope something happens soon as I becoming disconcerted as to the development of a project. Purgatory isn’t somewhere I want to go, I would rather describe in some way, or try at least to use it’s metaphoric strength in some way.

Therapy

CameraS mono edit1c2

Yesterday I went to Oxford, it is usual for me to do so as every Tuesday I am a volunteer at the Echoes group, but as it was the last session before the Christmas break it was decided to meet up for a social session rather than in the Fusion Arts Centre where we normally meet. Only four turned up, myself together with the overall leader of the group and two ‘users’, perhaps suggesting that the aspect of meeting up is less valuable than the process of work that is the purpose of the group. That the therapy offered by those sessions overcomes any issues associated with being in society. There is again risk for the future of the group, something I now realise is part and parcel of these types of organisations where money is short and cuts the norm’.

The route to the Cowley road on foot takes me by the Radcliffe Camera – above – and the light was very enticing, so I made some images, the kind that I have come to dislike, pretty, tonal and their inclusion here is to recognise that I have a nurtured instinct to make these images that I am still having difficulty to deny. These ‘quick’ snaps made to look attractive, something that this part of the course is interfering with my progress.

spires S monoc2

 

After the session I went to see the Warhol/Morris exhibition at the Modern Art Oxford, it is a show that I’ve been looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read much about it but soon after entering the “Piper Gallery” I saw what a really interesting piece of curating Jeremy Deller had done. I hadn’t previously studied either artist, though I had preconceptions of Morris as a champion of the ‘craft’ of art and of Warhol as a cynical mover of the establishment of ‘Art’ – moving financial benefit, in my mind a kind of precursor of Koons/Hirst, but I don’t really have a great deal of vested knowledge and a lot of prejudice I suppose.

Deller found a neat convergence in these artist’s works, it seemed to me that by placing the overtly mechanised print works of Warhol on the wallpaper designed by Morris they echoed each other, perhaps even democratising the work, Warhol by debunking the artifice of ‘High Art’s’ reliance on the single image/painting/sculpture, it’s place in the museum/gallery vested with an Art historical value, primarily in fiscal terms, coupled with Morris’ craft based work which not only brought technique to the a wider audience but also created wealth (however small) to workers in history workshops and factories. Fascinating coupling. Both artists were political and overtly so and I especially enjoyed Warhol’s prints of Mao behind a stand of texts by Morris entitled “Monopoly – How Labour is Robbed”.

side wall Sc2

 

These still images of the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian behind, bereft of people but inculcated with tradition and privilege, and which are images that I also know speak volumes about the photographer. The echoes of the ‘Dreaming Spires’ that illuminate the honey coloured Cotswold sandstone edifices that abound in the city, where access is granted again by privilege that is in stark contrast to those that I meet later for a ‘social’. I also know that those seeking therapy via the good works of the Echoes Group have amongst them an old Professor of Middle Eastern Studies suggesting that no-one is immune despite their place in the social hierarchy. And perhaps with my reaction to the Warhol/Morris works, all is not necessarily what it appears, that prettiness may harbour something much more meaningful?

As I move gently move forward I am reminded of the talk given by Johanna Ward recently where she said that she started her MA work by investigating a large, fairly abstract concept – in her case it was the destruction of the environment – before realising that what she really documented was her reflection on her parents’ divorce. I have a strong inkling of what it is that I am running away from documenting, but there are some that are encouraging it.

I will continue to extract images from my surroundings as I seek a way forward in this course and I have a real sense that as I go out I am finding my narrative closer to home. It isn’t wholly clear how I will narrate that story, but to deny the existence of the kind of imagery like those above would be to cut-off an internal contextual reference for myself; it is part of who I am. I am going out for more therapy later, although I don’t expect to find what I’m looking for, just more clues.

 

a couple more

There come times when there is a compulsion to make images, these are three of those. Not quite sure of their outcome, made on the move and reflective. I have thought about them for a few days and have decided to place them in the pot.

Flight

 

 

 

 

Dorothy and me

A narrative, very explicitly told about love and death.

 

Other victimsc2

Air crash statisticsc2

stonec2

“Dorothy was about to be married to a Methodist minister, a widower, when he died very suddenly and the following year Dorothy, her step-mother and the daughter of the Methodist minister were all killed in a plane crash – the first time any of them had flown.”

 

Bodies found

Blanche

Blanche

A number of Cartes de visite came along with the archive material, all family members connected one way or another to each other; though maybe in later lineage. All very posed and all having the maker’s name emblazoned on the front. I find it interesting that the first and last image have the ladies with a book and using their finger as a book mark, as if interrupted from the pastime of reading for this photographic interlude.

Alec

Alec

Gt Grandad Hazell

Gt Grandad Hazell

Maud 189?

Maud 189?

Verna

Verna

Gt Grandma Hazell or Gt Grandma Wright

Gt Grandma Hazell or Gt Grandma Wright

Gt Grandma Hazell or Gt Grandma Wright

Gt Grandma Hazell or Gt Grandma Wright

It is interesting that these last two are not definitely identified. On the reverse of the photograph above are written the following words: “This portrait can be enlarged up to life size and finished in oil or water colours.”