After a year in development Occupation, my project for The Ring in Worcester, has finally begun. So now it’s time to begin documenting the work as it progresses, and reveal a little of the background behind it.
Diglis Island has been a place of purpose and activity from its creation in 1844 (carved from a bend in the River Severn) to the mid-80s when its use as a hub for maintenance along the Severn and connected canals was transferred elsewhere.
At its peak approximately 80 people would’ve been working on the Island, building and fixing lock gates, dredging the river, and operating the locks to guide petrol tankers to the basin.
During WWII the Island was fortified with barbed wire, trenches and loophole windows (and possibly land mines) in order to protect the delivery of fuel.
As the use of canals waned activity on the Island dropped away. Now it is a quiet place, with a workshop that is unused, a small staff from C&RT, and a single resident in one of the three cottages. The only activity being the passing through the lock of tourists in narrow boats and the blacksmiths forge - now repurposed by a pewter sculptor. There is occasional excitement when the locks are drained and the gates fixed or replaced, or when the Island becomes periodically submerged due to flooding. Few people realise it is an island.
The purpose of my project is to rekindle interest in the Island by returning it (albeit briefly) to a place of activity and production, and creating an identity for the Island - making it distinct from the mainland. I aim to do this by producing a structural sculpture that will grow over a period of time. This sculpture has been inspired by the form of the locks, the buildings present on the Island and its history as a place of practicality, construction, maintenance and defence. The title ‘Occupation’ refers to the aspects of work and habitation that have occurred over the years, along with my own temporary taking over of part of the Island.
To achieve this sense of activity and occupancy I have begun building a structure on the Island. This structure will grow gradually over a number of months, with two or three structures added every few weeks, slowly taking over a patch of grass and concrete next to the crane. Regular users of the towpath will notice as the structure grows, and also might catch a glimpse of me as I work on the Island. I’ll be updating this website with the work’s progression too.
My residency at The Art House is almost coming to an end. I’ve made 117 drawings so far, and there are a few more to come, and I’ve started to hang them in the project space at The Art House ready for the final show on 31 January. The show coincides with ArtWalk Wakefield, celebrating its tenth year, and four micro residencies as part of a joint project between The Art House, The Hepworth and We Are.
Join me and the micro residency artists Holly Rowan Hesson, Emma Papworth, Joe Jackson and Artist Yoke (Annie Nelson and Chris Woodward) at The Art House, Wakefield, from 5pm on Wednesday 31 January to see what we’ve been up to.Posted by Rich
I’m just over half-way into my residency at The Art House, Wakefield.
Starting to think about where the work is heading and how it’s going to be presented for the final ‘exhibition’ at the end of the month.
It’s nice to be in slightly unknown waters.Posted by Rich
Some drawings produced during the first eight days of my residency at The Art House, Wakefield.
I’m using the time and space to have a bit of a departure from my usual practice. Rather than building something I’ve decided to concentrate on drawing, at least for now. As I haven’t really done this for a long time I thought the best thing to do you be to just dive in and not think too much about what it all means. If I hesitate and worry too much about whether it will work or not I’ll never start.
The initial idea was to create drawings in a similar way to how I create sculpture: the materials are straightforward, there are a set of simple rules or processes to carry out, and repetition, resulting in very simple yet evocative forms.
These may lead to sculptures, they may be works in themselves, they may be discarded. For now I’m having a lot of fun just making things without worrying too much about having to have ‘results’.
All are ink and water on A3 paper.Posted by Rich
The first few days of my month-long residency at The Art House in Wakefield have so far been mostly relaxing, reflective and constructive. I’m planning on using the time and space provided to reflect on my practice and experiment with what might happen with having a studio space (I haven’t had a proper studio space since I graduated in 1998). So far I have spent time exploring Wakefield (see photos), visited the Hepworth Gallery, and popped over to Leeds to the Henry Moore institute and Leeds Art Gallery.
On my second night, after all the staff had left, and while I was cooking myself some dinner, the fire alarm went off. This alarm is loud and insistent, and not the kind that goes off if you wave a tea-towel at it. At first I think it is my fault and that the alarm is unusually sensitive as I am only making pasta and definitely not burning it. I take the pans off the hob and switch the rings off anyway and go exploring. I bump into a studio-holder who just happened to be cooking as well - and he has burnt something.
Neither of us know how turn the alarm off so I phone my contact for The Art House; Simon. He doesn’t know either, but he can get in touch with someone who does. He also tells me that the alarm is linked to the fire station and, as we finish our conversation, the fire brigade turn up. They need to find the alarm panel, which I discover by phoning Simon again. The alarm panel has a locked door on it and the firemen do not have a key. This key is probably in the office, which is locked and alarmed. We are then joined by a woman from the security company who was also automatically notified. She does not have a key for the panel either. Satisfied that there is no fire the fire brigade leave.
I get a call from Neil, the operations director of The Art House, and I explain where we’re at. He tells us that the key for the panel is in the office and that the security guard can get us in there and disable the office alarm. We go to the office, go in, wave the dongle at the office alarm panel, nothing happens. The office alarm goes off, joining the fire alarm. We decide to come back to that. We find the key cupboard, find the fire panel keys, go back to the fire panel, unlock it and finally switch off the fire alarm. We head back up to the office (it’s alarm seeming relatively gentle in comparison) and the security guard inputs a code to switch it off. It is quiet. Sighs off relief all round.
I can get back to my dinner.