Solo touring exhibition in association with Dominic Berning, touring to Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth (curated by Jo Bushnell); Customs House, South Shields (curated by Pauline Moger/Wendy Scott).
Engineer: Tim Lucas/ Price & Myers Consulting Engineers
Photos: Mark Bayley/ the artist
Acknowledgments: Andrew Hicks, 3M UK Plc; Christopher James, Perspex; Brendan Quick; Emma Underhill, Habitat; Max Moves; Andrew Capstick; Norman Cull; Theresa Simon Communications; Institute of Light.
Fred Mann of Rhodes + Mann gallery in East London approached me with a view to R+M curating a show in their substantial space. The gallery tends towards wall-based work and I wanted to make an installation that would explore some of the qualities of the space. At the time the show was proposed my father had recently died. My brother, sister and I had cleared out our family home, during which I found numerous photo albums of various family members, some I scarcely knew and others very familiar. As all their photos came to light it seemed to me that I had to make work which referred to both the places of my childhood and the family and community that I had grown amongst, which now hardly existed.
The works refer to the beach, the funfair and the synagogue. They all seemed to me spaces outside of daily life, places of transition. The beach could produce a variety of moods from contemplation to exhilaration, the funfair could induce excitement, feverish enthusiasm or perhaps even melancholy if not in the right spirit, whereas the synagogue was a place to take us out of the profane world, though most conversation concerned business or family, and into the sacred. One way or another these places removed us from our daily world, however briefly.
I remembered the stone steps leading from the promenade to the beach and, although in the forty years or so the beach had risen to cover them, I recalled the dog leg shape and how they were as a portal to the beach, the transition from the regulation of school and home to the freedom of beach life, perhaps even more poignantly acute in the 1950Õs and early 60Õs.
I wanted Whirligig to convey some sense of both the romance and fear of the fair as the turning spiral scythed through the air with the roughly bound fairy lights taking on connotations of barbed wire, I wanted the angled shadows and the change of speed. I never felt that the piece evoked anything like the terror that we allow ourselves to feel at the fair, but it had other qualities which were unanticipated.
The light chimney, under a skylight at R+M (Come To Light (Void)), seemed to create a special place of quiet engagement, allowing the daylight to mix with artificial light which hovered around the floor and the physical occupancy of the space by the light chimney created intriguing corners limiting access in the room.
I was particularly pleased that we managed to take most elements of the exhibition to Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth as the reverberations of the place that had inspired much of the work still echoed back and forth, both for myself and many who visited the show.
The application of radiant light film to the windows was, for me, an important element in the exhibition, particularly at Rhodes + Mann, where the gallery has very large windows onto the main road. I’ve long been interested in the relationship that a building has to the street and how important the windows are as permeable membranes that allow the passage of light in and out. The film offers differing perceptions of itself according to both the angle at which it is viewed and the relationship between the viewer and the dominant light source. I enjoyed the Pleasure Beach stair illuminated at night when seen though the window film and the way the film transformed perceptions of the space both from inside and out that would shift over the course of a day.
Shown in conjunction with Come To Light at Rhodes + Mann gallery.
4 of 4m polycarbonate tubes, optical light reflecting film, brackets, low voltage dichroic lamps.
Engineer: Tim Lucas/ Price & Myers Consulting Engineers
Photo: Mark Bayley/ Julian Broad
Acknowledgments: Sam Lucas; Jeremy Lord, Colour Light Co.; Andrew Hicks, 3M UK Plc.
I read once about an aboriginal tribe called, I think, the Arunta, who were nomadic and carried with them a long pole which they would stand vertically when they wanted to settle for a while in one place. Whilst they were able to erect the pole they were organised, co-ordinated and socially successful, but if anything were to happen to the pole, loss or breakage, they became unable to cope, unfocused and chaotic until a new ceremonial pole was instigated. The pole was their social focus, it supported the skies and gave a centre to the world wherever they were, it offered social and cosmic cohesion.
The light pole on the roof of the college in Kingsland Road is programmed to change colour according to the wind speed, greens and turquoise for low speed passing through blue and violet to ambers and red for high speed. It is also visible from the roof of Dominic Berning and Cathy de Monchaux’s flat in Hoxton and occasionally it doesn’t seem too fanciful to see the sky as a canopy draped above and the illuminated pole of light being the central support around which the world shelters and is given a point of focus.
In Jewish tradition the temporary canopy supported by four uprights has symbolic significance. It is used in marriage ceremonies and the creation of temporary outside dining space called the Succoh. The four corners of the world are represented in a variety of symbolic clothing and practices. Again as we look up at the four light poles, which actually delineate the corners of the stair extension on Dominic’s roof top, we could envisage the poles supporting the patch of sky under which they glow, and perhaps be engaged for a moment by their shifting relationships as we move around them in the street below.