Over the last couple of years I have increasingly focused on work that deals with my emotional responses to life events as opposed to seeking to reveal something about the subject in front of the camera.
Short Stories... is a case in point. The stimulus for the project was that I lost a number of friends during 2017/18, and - never having had to seriously consider mortality before - I found myself trying to make sense of life and death.
I grieved for my friends and reflected on my own life., but inevitably I found myself unable to fully come to terms with our mortality. The only useful conclusion I could arrive at was a philosophical one. I would find no convenient explanations for why we must die, but we are sustained by hope.
Months later I was reading a book of Greek myths to my children at bedtime and realised (to my amusement) that I had unknowingly retold myself the Pandora’s box story.
I had an idea for a series of ambiguous images that the viewer could project a story into. Ambiguity, and sometimes lack of subject, is a recurrent theme in my work. For such images I wish to avoid the ‘banality of representation’ (a allusion to Man Ray). Instead I want for the viewer to create their own image in the work. I have an idea of what the work is, but that may differ from other people’s, and that’s ok.
Recently I exhibited some ‘…Stories’, including the image below. I invited guests to tell me what they saw. Several told me they saw fire. Another said a cave. A fellow exhibitor, an art historian, was convinced that I had cleverly embedded a Goya picture into my composition!
Needless to say, the basis of the image is none of these things.
Another starting point for the series linked to my recent losses, is my fascination with a local churchyard, St Mary’s in Faversham where I live. It’s a typical English churchyard - ancient, wonderful and mysterious. Each tumbled grave stone tells it’s own short story, literally: it gives us a name and a date and perhaps enough additional information for you to infer something of the life it celebrates. But what happens when those stories are eroded by time and the elements? I came to think that perhaps the stone itself can hold the story. Thus the short stories series combines theme and subject. Where the subject is not a stone, it is another aspect of the churchyard.
I wanted to present the work in way that emphasises its thoughtfulness, and I knew I wanted to frame the images somehow, and for the frame to be a part of the artwork itself.
I rested on the salt printing technique from the 1840s and taught myself the process. It’s a relatively accessible process but hard to master. It demands care, time and patience to get a result. I like that each print is unique - a story of its own.
Click the gallery link to see a selection of images.