Sunday, 14 August 2011

Dear Mr Ruskin

Last week was spent travelling and installing the next leg of (Now that would be) Telling at Brantwood House in Cumbria, John Ruskin's final home and eventual resting place. With Catherine's broken ankle and Lucinda's later sharp exit from the London riots, I was nervous that I would be left on my own to curate, talk and describe the work but with Lucinda's decision to flee with extra possessions to the house, I was somewhat relieved that she had kept her word to be there.

After a smooth instal, the eventual opening was well attended and supported by many generous and lovely people, keen to have the work explained in detail and yet curious enough to really explore the works with their hidden symbolism embedded from within the Lucinda's writing and 'The Ethics of the Dust' by Ruskin himself.

The works have been enjoyable to make, branching out from portraiture into making drawn objects from key text and I am planning to take these ideas further.

We were fortunate enough to be allowed to stay in Ruskin's private apartment hidden behind doors marked PRIVATE for three nights and four days. I took a dear friend with me for companionship on the long six hour drive up there as well as reassurance in terms of staying in what was possibly the haunted part of the house.

I volunteered to sleep in Ruskin's bedroom where he had many and eventually the last breakdown of his mental health out of politeness and curiosity rather than bravery and fearlessness. I had previously been told that after what he believed to be his worst breakdown, even Ruskin refused to go back into this room for fear of what that room contained, so in order to deal with this situation, I asked little more.

I spent the first night lying very still as I had identified a motion sensor in the corner above the door and as my bed was opposing a mirrored wardrobe, I could see my reflection of wariness and it wasn't helping my imaginings. Eventually after a brief altercation on my part (only close friends know of my behaviour that night), I eventually drifted into sleep having decided to turn my back on the side of the room where I had known his bed to be.

After a brief sleep of about four hours, I woke and then this pattern remained for the rest of the stay with short sleep periods followed by adrenalin surges of enthusiasm and imagined conversations with the great man himself. I have been tired ever since.

On the last day of the stay I was conscious that Catherine had ordered me to take photographs of our accommodation, the audience and the works in context, so I grabbed the camera and set to work on the accommodation and works in situ. The audience part had been tricky as we were multi tasking, but some were managed nevertheless.

It wasn't until my return when I was showing my partner the photographs of the visit that I discovered one, very bleached out image among the many photographs that I had taken of Ruskin's bedroom that I stayed in. It is not explained, as due to my incompetence with photographic processes I had my digital SLR set on auto throughout.

And so, I show you two photographs to ponder. One is the bleached original version and one is the same image darkened, in an attempt to see what was going on in that room at the time.

In other news, the project may or may not be selected to be reviewed on radio. We have been asked our whereabouts for next week as to our availability for Front Row, it will be AMAZING if that happened, but still great if we don't, at least to have been considered is very flattering.

Work for Pulp Fictions at Transition gallery has been delivered and a draft written piece for A La Ronde has been received, all of which is very exciting. The author for Dr Johnson's House is working flat out and I am to start work on this as soon as I have made work for Folkestone triennial and works for the show at Asylum. My ideas are coming through for the Roam project as are new drawing pieces for an ongoing project.

My head is spinning from further reading for research purposes and I really must find time to work on this more this coming week. I have been selected to be in a publication based in New York, which is also exciting but most importantly I have managed to secure a weekly holiday in Morocco to feel a little warmth and find headspace to think about my ongoing practice.

I have much writing to do, so I really should exit at this point as this has been a fast paced blogpost, even for me..

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