It must be around two months now since we were at Baggy Point, and we have been experiencing seemingly endless rainstorms and widespread flooding ever since.
Northam Burrows is extensively flooded and looks pretty exciting from my top floor window. I had the idea of juxtaposing a bunch of little paper houses with water. I’d tried them out in the woods earlier last month with some success – except that I lost all my photos during some computer shenanigans, so that was a waste of time – and I haven’t been back to the woods since because of the occasional falling tree or branch.
Flooding at Northam Burrows. The birds like it.
Now the rain has stopped and the 80 mph gales have gone away. The sun is out and there is only a gentle sea breeze wafting across the blue sky.
It feels like a massive dark cloud being lifted from one’s mind and shoulders. Many people are out today on the Burrows - me included. I went out to set up and photograph a test piece, part of my Little White Houses project. This is actually a section of a larger ongoing project that I am working on, relating to land and culture.
Should people be required to pass a test, like car drivers, before they are allowed to own a dog? I think so. There are certain phrases that an artist does not want to hear from a member of the public when working outdoors. One of them is “He is only trying to play…”
Crouching calf-deep in muddy water, with camera and tripod closely focused for a low-angle shot of my work – I was all but bowled over by an Alsatian and another large dog, who suddenly appeared, splashing around me in the water, and just missed flattening my work by a whisker (though they did make it and me very wet with their splashes). Quite a loud and heated conversation with the dogs’ owners ensued after this. So much for my spiritual aspirations…
Why did I choose paper? Why make life so difficult for myself? Why make my work and myself quite so vulnerable outside in public? Well, apart from being unable to resist a challenge and tending to become stubbornly fixated once I have got an idea in my head – my hope is that the simplicity and beauty of this work will carry interesting, thought-provoking resonances and references, which I am eager to reveal. This is one of the reasons I aim for simplicity in all my work.
Simplicity is not always simple to achieve though. Here I am in my small uninhabitable stone shed with the leaking roof and the fused lighting, making little plaster cubes to weigh down the houses and stop them blowing away. I abandoned this idea.
Here’s a couple of photos of this first test out on the waterlogged Burrows. In case you are wondering – after a bit of trial and error, I did eventually find a way to stop the houses from blowing away, and the bottom edges are carefully painted with clear nail varnish, to stop the landwater from soaking upwards. There is an interesting paradox here, in that I am using a lightweight water-absorbent material, as opposed to the hard impervious materials of real housing estates with their tarmacked and concreted infrastructure.
Most obviously, perhaps, the work is clearly a comment on the fragile and transitory quality of our culture in the face of natural forces. For many of us, the continuing rainstorms and flooding over recent months has certainly brought this to the forefront of our minds, and it has certainly given fresh impetus to my own ‘housing projects’.
I am hoping to push this piece a bit further tomorrow, and looking forward to getting a good set of results eventually. but the weather forecast is bad and I suspect we have seen the last of the sun for a while….