library - artist statement

In a sequence from Michael Cimino's 1978 film The Deer Hunter, two of the central characters, Michael and Linda, find themselves in a motel room. The setting combines the transience associated with a temporary space rented by travellers, with the physical stability of four solid walls and a lockable door. The stillness displayed in the scene, exemplified by an image of Michael sleeping for the first time since his return to Pennsylvania, is juxtaposed by the sound of a moving train that is audibly present by way of an open window. A circular camera shot slowly displays the room's interior and culminates on the two people as they lay alongside each other. Here, the camera combines the stability of Michael and Linda's physicality, with two forms of movement; literally by way of the camera's circular action, and metaphorically by way of assimilating the symbol of the circle, a continuous form without a discernable starting or finishing point.

 

Cimino's film describes and contrasts nationalistic behaviour with a quiet internal questioning, whilst also featuring scenes of torture and brutality alongside sequences of immense tenderness. This dichotomy is broadened further by the backdrop to the story; one that depicts an orthodox tradition, steeped in history, ritual and certainty, progressing in to an arena where core values are violently broken, innocence is lost and slowly attempts are made at reassembling permanently altered lives.

 

The film recognises and explores the duplicity present within core aspects of human behaviour and experience; the notion that a true understanding of one state is only profoundly realised through a comprehension of it's opposing position. If Cimino, who not only directed but also co-wrote The Deer Hunter, consciously set out to explore this theme, then the earlier writings of Ayn Rand would have served as an example of an original thinker who held the view that one true emotion cannot exist without the other. In her 1943 novel The Fountainhead whilst introducing a character to the story, Rand writes, 'Alvah Scarret was a man who had never hated anything, and so was incapable of love.'

 

Of the numerous ambitious and acutely realised scenes that feature in The Deer Hunter, it is however, the subtle and very brief sequence where Michael and Linda are seen in the motel room that best illustrates the core concerns that underpin my work and practice; the exploration of the confluence between stability and change.

 

It has not been a conscious decision to choose a sphere of inquiry, but rather, with time, areas of sub-conscious interest and reoccurring themes have revealed themselves within the work. This has in turn both enabled and encouraged a greater in-depth critical analysis of works produced, their origins, and possible areas of interest and concern to build new works upon.

 

There is hesitation in both writing and speaking about my work. Whilst I recognise the importance of doing so, if there are any interesting possibilities that emerge from a working practice, I am naturally reluctant to then pin them down through overt analysis and description. Broadly, my work is initially founded on a desire to comprehend my subject matter, whilst at the same time, acknowledging and recognising the significance of not fully understanding it. Surely, full comprehension suggests completion, ultimately limiting the ground for ongoing development. Both when viewing the work of other makers, and in setting out to make my own, I am drawn to the locality of an open view, a region of possibilities from where both a practice and the resulting pieces may be interpreted in a variety of ways. In summation, I am interested in a position of non-absolutes.

 

In 1997 I began to make photographs at Havre des Pas bathing pool, a construction built in the late 19th century, situated on the south coast of Jersey in the Channel Islands. My initial starting point was to document the architecture of a unique site that was scheduled for renovation, alongside making pictures of the people who used the seawater bathing pool. However, with time, I became increasingly aware that I was responding to more than my initial intent. Due to the tidal range in the Channel Islands, my subject revealed itself to be a stable physical structure situated within an environment that was radically changing every six hours. During the decade in which the series of images were made, I strove to explore form and colour both within changing light and changing landscape. The contained seawater held within the circular structure of the pool that features in many of the resulting images, serves as a motif; evidence of confluence between the stable form of the structure required to contain the mass of seawater, and the fluid, changing tide that is necessary to constantly replenish it.

 

The same subject being looked at repeatedly, either through study over extended periods, or by way of repetition of form, composition, or movement, has been an approach that has reoccurred within my work post completion of the Bathing Pool series (1997-2006); most notably in the single monitor display Encore (2007), and Eiche, a photographic series of images (2009-2013) charting the stable structure of an oak tree as it changes in both appearance and form over the period of five years. Warhol's multiples, more so in their conception than in their realisation, have therefore been of great interest to me. One of the fascinating aspects of these works (an approach that was a constant throughout his career in response to well known faces, products and still lives) is that in the repetition of an image that has become iconic, ubiquitous and therefore is viewed without question, through the process of subtle alterations in colour and tone, a new, individual, seemingly unique identity is returned to the subject. An image of Elvis Presley, whose face had been reproduced to the point of it becoming a vacant commodity, is given, in Double Elvis (1963) alternative dimensions within the same Warhol work. These multiple works encourage us to see that one subject, however definite, can not only be viewed in numerous ways, but also that altering elements within the same piece, or series, transcends artistic portrayal as it directly refers to the experience of living itself.

 

There is of course a rich tradition of makers working within the framework of a series. This approach allows an in-depth look at a particular subject or theme, and over extended periods can in fact become a record of the artists progressive and changing approach to his or her subject. There are earlier pictures within the Bathing Pool series that although possess intriguing elements, I would not have made in the final years of the works production. These images serve as documents to the same makers changing sensibility towards subject matter, both in terms of artistic temperament and in response to working during a specific period, acknowledging the cultural resonance of the time.

 

Through the use of drawing, video work and installation, I have in recent years broadened my approach to areas of interest. Untitled (Stairway), a single channel projection made in 2008, finds its point of departure from existing concerns. An image of a stairway, punctuated by a wooden upright support of a banister slowly changes from an out of focus image to one that is clear. Through the shift in focusing and stability of image content, the projection suggests a fluctuating permanence, bracketed by optional routes. As the silent and seemingly still image alternates from a blurred visual to a picture that is in focus, the viewer is able to discern slight movement in the cameras position; a further suggestion, through the optical view, of a transforming force. The projection displays what we understand to be stable content, most prominently emphasised by the definite form of the upright support of the banister. Yet, at the same time we associate a stairway with movement, a means by which to reach or leave a specific place. Through the existing affiliations that we bring to the image, combined with the changing focal state of the projected composition, the piece imagines loss and regain within the context of a stable environment that is subject to change.

 

In Cimino's The Deer Hunter, moments before we see Michael and Linda in the motel room, the preceding scene displays a lamp stand that is housed within the trailer home of Michael and his now missing friend Nick. It is just a light source, however, it may also be read as a symbol; one that through it's form and physical height appears to posses almost human like qualities. The object we see has a central stand with separate, seemingly identical lamps positioned one above the other. Two of the lamps are clearly visible and face in opposite directions. Many things unite Michael and Nick: the fact that they worked together, lived together and within the context of war fought together. This is apparent and if not openly discussed, is clearly recognised, along with their joint fascination for hunting deer. Another, less discussed uniting factor, is that they both carry a picture of the same woman, Linda. In the context of so much change and life altering experience, the image of Linda is taken and looked upon, representing to each of them something that is stable and definite. The lamps that we see in Cimino's film require the stand to fulfil their purpose of lighting a darkened space. The stand will remain, but the lamps will be turned off at dawn, until, in response to the darkness that night brings, their light will again change the nature of the space that they are in.