Fathers and Sons


‘I ought to tell you, I . . . idolise my son . . . but I dare not show my feelings before him, because he doesn’t like it. He is averse to every kind of demonstration of feeling; many people even find fault with him for such firmness of character, and regard it as a proof of pride or lack of feeling, but men like him ought not to be judged by the common standard, ought they? And here, for example, many another fellow in his place would have been a constant drag on his parents; but he, would you believe it? has never from the day he was born taken a farthing more than he could help,..’ ‘Fathers and Sons’, Ivan Turgenev


more evidence

Collecting evidence. There isn’t a lot more, but I wanted to start to build technique on depth of focus and posing. Colour temperature is still an issue, but not insurmountable, i may have to wait for a completely cloudless day as I’m using daylight at present. I could use a soft box source which would make it much easier, but I’m unsure and I’m not sure why I’m unsure. Perhaps something to do with truth.


All that’s left of him

“I remember my dad taking me to school, when I was very young, when my mother was ill.

The feel of his huge hand wrapped around mine, rough and hard and warm.

The length of his strides, and having to run to keep up.

The very cold days when he’d wrap his scarf around my face until it almost covered my eyes, and when I breathed in I could smell him in my mouth, damp cigarettes and boot wax and the same smell as his hair when he said goodnight.

I remember how safe I felt, wrapped up like that, blinded.”

“if nobody speaks of remarkable things” John McGregor.

” I just did the objects as we moved and packed them at the Ash (Ashmolean), tiny things to large quern stones, with a photographic stand etc, most of them turned out okay, but they were for record purposes only, not studio type photos.  And the light was not always good, the sun came across the roof so we got shiny bits on the photos.  For arch (archive?) objects we always do the back and front if appropriate, ie coins. Obviously as close up as possible to see the detail, but avoiding unfocusing. I also used small bits of plastozote (firm foam type material) to hold small objects like rings if I wanted to photo the front, (the intaglio or jewel in the centre), otherwise the photos would see the rings or such objects on their sides if not held in place..” Christine E, retired archivist Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The colour temperature isn’t matched, the scale is slightly different – but I suspect it is, like most things, about practice and I shall continue to do so. I wanted to start with his signet ring. It was cut, along with another ring, from his fingers. Signet rings are about identity, usually engraved with initials, I can only see the slightest possibility of an identifier. What I see clearly is a very thin band covered in evidences of work.

South Street Gallery news

There is some news regarding the show at the South Street gallery.

Firstly there is a chance that’s the gallery will extend the exhibition by a further six weeks, apparently the artist following me has had to pull out and I have been asked whether I would mind having my work held-over. I should know very shortly whether it will be or not.
More interestingly I have had some feedback to the work which I have found interesting. Someone from the Echoes Group was in the hospital a while back and has taken the time to write to me regarding the work. I hadn’t invited him to the show as I had no way to contact him – the contact details at the Group are kept confidential, but I have left mine in the gallery space – so it was a real surprise to hear from John.

“You ask for feedback. My idea of Purgatory in its traditional sense is that it is a place of suffering, a purging location. I did not recognise this element in your pictures. There is a warmth in your vision which, for me at least, conveys a sense of isolation, rather than desolation. The only unsettling photograph in your exhibition was the one of the strange pieces of detritus, which could serve as an illustration to some verses of Dante. I am wincing as I write this : it sounds so pretentious. What I am trying to say is that the effect of your view of an empty landscape or close-up is to show the beauty of it, not the horror.”

One of the first references I have used is Dante, it came from a suggestion by Sharon to ‘locate’ the work and then specifically to Dante by the Chair of Trustees of the OCA. This connection pleased me greatly as did John’s reading of a sense of isolation. This emotion was something that I wanted to weave into the visual narrative but I felt that I hadn’t managed it, and certainly no-one had mentioned it to me before.

“On the subject of literary sources, I always assumed that Waiting for Godot was a version of the purgatorial myth and it did occur to me when I saw your picture of the frosty grass with a misty background that it would serve as an excellent backdrop to that play, assuming that the solitary tree called for in the stage directions would be on the stage itself.” Of course I know of Beckett’s drama, but don’t know the text and would never have thought to have made the connection – something I shall try and make time for.

I’m really pleased to have entered into this conversation and will try and meet up with John, though his Care duties keep him very busy.

More on fictions

It is an invented memory that is exhausting me, and which I cannot liberate myself from. For this reason, I will uncover some parts of my archive, hoping that – by making it public – I can get rid of this weight. This will be my attempt to destroy a memory that doesn’t know how to erase itself.

Rabin Mroue, text for the performance ‘Make Me Stop Smoking’.

It’s all a fiction

In my early work I pretended to speak about my childhood, yet my real childhood had disappeared. I have lied about it so often that I no longer have a real memory of this time, and my childhood has become for me some kind of universal childhood, not a real one.  – Christian Boltanski


“I keep looking for him.

I think I always will.”

from “Inventing my Fatherby Diana Markosian 

Project defined

An exchange of emails with Sharon has confirmed the direction for the remainder of the BoW. My idea is to continue to work in the land in Purgatory, the imagery is imbued with narrative possibility and that imagery is strongly informed by my psychological response to the ‘space’.

I have collected the majority of whatever is left of my father’s possessions – in my project description I wrote “all that is left of him’, which Sharon thought of as a possible project title. I still think “Purgatory” is a strong project title, but will allow this suggestion to rest a while and see how I feel about later. I will photograph these artifacts and then couple them with the Purgatory landscapes. I have some ideas about presentations, I know an archivist from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford as one option is to present them as historical/archeological artifacts.

I have long liked the connection of text and image and will research texts I plan to weave a layer of text about love, for this is what I think the absence is mostly about, into the work. I have long wanted to do a work about love and well this may be it. These texts will come from different sources, some from classical literature, some from modern fiction, some, perhaps from tattoos. I have also asked my sons to contemplate fatherhood and provide me with a reflection of what they thought fatherhood was before they became fathers and then after they became fathers (of boys incidentally).

The presentation is almost certainly a book, I plan to work with a bookbinder I know to make a handmade book that will feature the landscapes with strategies to couple (or triple) these with the artifacts and text. I can see how this work might well work in a gallery setting, maybe even a video as sound could add another layer of narrative that I feel might enhance the piece.

I feel very sure that this direction, which has taken some time to formulate is the right way to go. I appreciate that things may veer from what I have in mind for the work, but I firmly believe that this is how the work will best accomplish what I have wanted to include in my BoW.

Purgatory hanging

The view from one end of the gallery space at the South Street Gallery at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. A poor composite of the twenty three framed prints (the corridor is wider than appears here) with tools still in the frame. The sequencing I had envisaged needed to be changed when I arrived due to rod availability and placing, but I’m reasonably content with how it looks. I suppose the acid test will be whether any sell, or I get some/any feedback.

The work that Penny, Keith and I hung at Nuffield helped immensely with the timing as this secure hanging system was similar and I had to work with Scot that the Art space manager requested – his ‘main’ job is at the ‘Modern Art Oxford’ Gallery, so I suspect he knows what he’s doing! Scot seemed pleased with the way it went up.