In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora.
Now look what’s happened. I’ve started re reading the Metamorphoses of Ovid, translated by A D Melville. I really wish I could read them in latin and wish even more that Richard Burton had recorded a talking book of them all so I could listen while I’m engraving.
Isn’t Metamorphosis a spark idea ? It’s something I’ve been gripped by since I was a child and got me into my Changelings series. This series of engravings and paintings is a Dream Bestiary, based loosely on those 12th. century bestiaries where most of the creatures were made up. That and those wonderful theatrical spaces that Goya made in his Disparates and Capriccios .
Mutation, shape shifting, play acting. There is something very erotic about the friction between memory and anticipation. What I now have to do is work on the portable form that this work will take. Books, boxes pop ups and theatres .. watch this space.
I listen to a lot of BBC Radio4. There was a recent In Our Time about about Greek Myths where somebody (either Nick Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London or Richard Buxton, Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bristol) described a really interesting difference between oral culture and print culture.
One of the professors said ‘the identity of the author has worn away’ and as usual Magic Melvyn got me thinking. Oral culture is promiscuous, we just pass it on. There’s more pleasure and less ownership and it is so different from visual culture which is branded, curated and always has provenance. It’s like the difference between DNA and a love letter. The Greek myths may have started as somebody’s story but now they are everybody’s. This abrasive point of contact between ‘mine’ and ‘everybody’s’ is an interesting but uncomfortable place to work. For me it’s making work that doesn’t have too much of me so everybody else get bored, not too much of everything else so they get bored by the lack of an individual voice. You can probably tell that I haven’t sorted this out yet. But for me this thing about human authorship is also the the interesting bit of the landscape.
That’s how I feel about landscape – I’m drawn to the hard residuals of human occupation, and have never been interested the prettiness of light and gardening.
This is a big drawing (over 3 metres long) of Orford Ness in Suffolk. I’m only really interested in the hardness of landscape, that shows the human footprint, residue and wrack. Like myth and storytelling original purposes and authorships are wearing away.
For a city boy like me there is something unsettling about big spaces. East Anglia, which is where I now live and work, is open and windswept. My daughter said she liked my panoramas because she didn’t know where to look first. I feel the same way about being out in the open when I’m not in line of sight to Canary Wharf. Somehow that girl is always right on the money.
This work connects with my long term collaborator Steve Mansfield-Devine. He’s working on a landscape photography project he’s calling called Modern Megaliths. His work is also about 20th century residual stuff but facing the opposite way on the French coast. He is also interested in the letterbox format and says : “Using a vertical panoramic format tightly constrains our tendency to scan horizontally and creates tension by forcing us into an unusual and unnatural vertical scanning mode. Knowing that your attention has been directed in this way, you cannot avoid concluding that there is a significant association between the tower at the top of the image and the objects beneath it.
Here’s the link to the Panoramas bit of my portfolio.
This all started with Radio 4 and the thought that a lot of these coastal defences are turning into Greek temples – erected to gods and assuaging anxieties that most people have long since forgotten.