Fragments of fired clay, ceramics and tiles, retrieved from the mud of the River Thames, assembled and cemented onto a vertical, concrete surface
Along the River Thames at low tide – if you wander along the foreshore, where it’s not too muddy, there are all sorts of things to be found. There are folk who dig, some obsessively, they’re “mudlarking”. If you do that the River Police will ask to see your Permit to Search the Foreshore. Not so, if all that you’re looking for is material to assemble, thinking to turn junk into treasure. Then, chugging up alongside in a little grey launch, all that the River Police have ever warned me about is not to get caught by the rising tide where I’m cut off and can’t make my escape. My patch is the beach between Hungerford and Cannon Street Bridges, that’s from the Festival Hall to opposite where the mouth of the Fleet River once was. Down by the river, it seems a long way away from the press of the crowd, just above, on the South Bank.
I don’t know how thick the mud is that the Thames slides, er.., flows over, but the mud is of such a consistency and deep enough to have convection currents which carry objects from Bronze-age shields to copper pennies around and around within it. Once some solid object sinks down into the mud, it will return and move up towards the surface again some sixty to a hundred years later. One of the results of this action is to round off the edges of the pieces of broken pottery quite nicely, thank you. So when (as you can see in these photographs) I cement them together – here, onto the concrete wall back behind my kitchen door – I can run my hand over the uneven ceramic surface without the discomfort of sharp edges cutting into m’skin. (As I noticed is the case, when I tried to do the same, with Gaudi’s mosaic of broken plates in Park Guell, Barcelona). Although, when making this work, I wasn’t thinking about Gaudi, what I had in mind were dry stone walls. Drawing them, using this particular medium. is about how different shape and sized rocks are slotted together. Decorative as well as conceptual, ha! It’s one way of applying my found pieces of Thames treasure.
Eleven artists and illustrators were asked to contribute a letter of the alphabet each to an artwork celebrating Dr. Phil Shaw – spelling out his name – every work was to be within a 10 cm sq area. To decide who was going to do which letter, we pulled them out of a hat, it happened that I got the dot, the spot, the full-stop / period. I stared at the piece of paper that I’d unfolded, slightly mystified for a moment, thinking someone had forgotten to write on this one. Ahh…, okay! Once I twigged, the next question was, how do we make this work? Luckily, there’s the world of conceptual art, which is a craft, as Socrates said (long before Plato invented his cave) the craft of powerful thinking. Well, I’m not much of a one for chess, or art-world mischief, it took me two or three weeks to come up with the idea to burn a hole in the piece of paper using the sun at the summer solstice shining through the occulus of the Pantheon in Rome focused through the old magnifying glass I keep in my studio.