London 2007/8 ... 

Then II ... No. 2   2008

Then II...
The notion of Utopia has become central to my understanding of attachment to place.  

After years of exploring ideas around nationhood and identity in order to understand the whole area of attachment to, or identification with, place, I finally accepted that my preoccupation with place had less to do with geography and history than with internal processes.

Nostalgia interests me too, rooted as it is in actual events and facts but exaggerated and distorted with need and longing. Nostalgia is a sort of retrospective utopia, a desire for an idealised version of past places and events. There is folly in this as there is in idealising a future destination or state. Memory is largely unreliable anyway. They say that what one remembers when one remembers an event is what one remembered the last time.

"[Freud] describes the role of 'deferred action'... in which early memories and experiences are revised and rearranged at a later date in order to fit in with fresh experiences, or with new developmental stages. ... In his 1899 paper on 'Screen Memories', Freud questions whether 
       '...we have any memories at all from our childhood... Our childhood memories show us our earliest years not as they were but as they appeared at the later periods when the memories were aroused. In these periods of arousal, the childhood memories did not ... emerge; they were formed at that time. "
Roger Kennedy  in    Ideas in Psychoanalysis - Libido, 2001, Icon Books Ltd.

Ultimately it is the force of the desire and need behind such distortions and longings that interests me. I have worked with these ideas more directly in my most recent works.

All works shown are 69mm in diameter. The medium is wool dust and archival glue on paper.

Then II... No. 5    2008

Then II... No. 6    2008

"In the long Polish evenings, the air in the dormitory, heavy with tobacco and human smells, was saturated with senseless dreams. This is the most immediate fruit of exile, of uprooting: the prevalence of unreal over the real. Everyone dreamed past and future dreams, of slavery and redemption, of improbable paradises, of equally mythical and improbable enemies; cosmic enemies, perverse and subtle, who pervade everything like the air."

                                                                                Primo Levi  in   The Truce, 1965, The Bodley Head.


"I realized that nostalgia goes beyond individual psychology. The nostalgic desires to obliterate history and turn it into private or collective mythology, to revisit time like space, refusing to surrender to the irreversibility of time that plagues the human condition."

"The twentieth century began with a futuristic utopia and ended with nostalgia. ... Nostalgia itself has a utopian dimension, only it is no longer directed toward the future. Sometimes nostalgia is not directed toward the past either, but rather sideways. the nostalgic feels stifled within the conventional confines of time and space. ..."

                                          Svetlana Boym in   The Future of Nostalgia, 2001, Basic Books

To return briefly to place, the circle from external place to internal is completed and completed again, no less when one considers the role of distance and otherness in considerations of utopia, and of the otherness and unknowable-ness of internal places and currents. 

I was reminded of this again recently watching Werner Hertzog's Encounters at the End of the World which is reviewed at ...


In Anticipated Memory, (see next post) made just before my departure from South Africa, I tackled the problem of imaging a fantasy of avoiding the impending loss. I provided myself with an alternative form or vessel which would allow me to silently traverse space and time, both past and future. The vessel allowed me great freedom but also made me vulnerable, having no steering or braking mechanism, and subject to winds and air currents.

This vulnerability was something I emphasised in these, the drawings that followed, and the first I made in my new studio in Dalston, London, while watching the tall cranes and rapid construction, in the nearby junction, of several towers and a new train station.

In order to place the folly of my fantasy at the heart of the new images, the vessel became more recognisable in its material and construction… a weightless inflatable.

Much of my imagery draws on Japanese prints in which the format, medium and traditions of representation render almost everything decorative, even the treacherous and precarious .

The medium is dust from wool felt and archival adhesive on paper. I originally paired it with ash in a body of work that foregrounded material (Promised Land ... see later post) in the sculptural language I used. In the drawings, the dust produces a texture reminiscent of a softness of surface one might remember as comforting and distant in time.

Then II... No. 3    2008

Then II... No. 4    2008

Then II... No. 1    2008