Sunday, 17 January 2016

Finding beauty in decay

There’s something fascinating about decay.   Something about nature taking over, something that reminds us that there’s something more powerful than the perceived control we have over our everyday lives.

Talking about the pleasures of specifics..... “ the wonderful peculiarity that accrues from dilapidation; what we build gets differentiated as it comes apart - boards loosen to crazy angles, windowpanes fall out, and rain and snow streak white clapboards”  “People too become marked and thus individualized as they age”.
Robert Adams in Why we photograph. p79

The photos of derelict London mansions in this Guardian article highlight this fine balance between order and chaos,  'Inside London's derelict mansions' article

I’m not alone in my love of the derelict… “Strand, like Cartier Breton was attracted to the picturesque desolations and damages of urban life” Susan Sontag, On Photography  p101

One of my most inspirational trips was to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, USA.  The most wonderful thing is that the site hasn't been tidied up, cleaned, renovated....  which led to some fantastic photographs. There's a sense of authenticity with a site like this; its uncompromised, and this leads visitors to a deeper connection with the building.

All of this got me to thinking about the preservation of buildings.  I came across an article written by Rowan Moore, about the difficulties of choosing which buildings to assign heritage status to.  The article really highlights the challenge; how do we decide which buildings are culturally and historically significant?

You can read Moore’s article here:  Architectural heritage article

Monday, 4 January 2016

The future of maps...

Knowing how much I love maps, a friend forwarded me a link to this article by Suzanne Wilson, which talks about the future of mapping in a digital age and particularly how Bristol city council have used digital technology to create 'Know Your Place'.

'Know Your Place'  layers contemporary over historic maps so that the viewer can easily study the changes to Bristol city between the two time periods.  Not only that, a toolbar on the screen allows the viewer to layer further information over the top, including the location of historic cinemas, or listed buildings, for example.  For me, the most exciting feature is to be able to pinpoint places on the map corresponding to archive photographs of that precise area.    You may not see me for a couple of weeks while I play with this...!

In most of my public art projects, one of my first areas of research is to study local archives, often looking at historic maps of the area, looking for clues to distincitve local stories, which may form the basis for the artwork.

For Broomhill lane in Denbigh, I scoured the historic tithe and OS maps at Denbighshire Archives for visual motifs, patterns and lines which I could collect, like a database of map symbols.  I then used these symbols to create new compositions to tell seven individual stories about Denbigh, including local Author Kate Roberts and the significant Welsh press; Gwasg Gee which was located in the town centre.

Maps were also a starting point for a vitreous enamel public artwork I made in 2014 for Wardour street in London.  Like the 'Know Your Place' application, only on paper, I layered hundreds of years of maps of Soho over eachother as a starting point for the design process.

For 'Buy Black Country', I was commissioned by Wolverhampton Arts & Museum service to create a limited edition series of pieces for their museum shops.  Here, I created layered metal etchings of historic Black Country maps which showed the most wonderful symbols and patterns denoting the hundreds of industrial sites accross the area.  I cut circles of the etchings out and inlaid them in enamel hemispheres to create 90 magnetic brooches.

I can't wait for the next opportunity to be inspired by maps!

Here's a link to 'Know Your Place'

and to Suzanne's article 


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Rebecca Gouldson