I was just on the phone to my mum. We talked about the exhibition STARE, I am part of that opened in London last night.
She told me she had read my exhibition information sheet to my Grandma, who had cried at hearing the words. Below is what I wrote.
The landscape must be my favourite in Britain.
The place is Glendevon, more specifically the small area around the hut my Grandfather built in 1948.
But I can’t show you the landscape. I don’t need to. Because it is the feeling that is more gripping. The detail and the air. The water and the whirly wind. The wild storms. The still summer days when you hear nothing but your own footsteps and the bleating of sheep, accompanied at all times by the burn busily bubbling down the valley. Always dancing.
The water must be tasted. The ground walked barefoot. The prickly ground-covering thistles shrieked at and remembered. The wet stones slid on and caressed. Cut by blades of grass that hand in hand soften your tread. Burned by the sun that keeps you warmed from the cool breeze.
It is not enough to simply look at the landscape, but to sink in to it. To lose yourself in it. Every photograph I have taken has been in eye shot of the hut. I need go no further. There is too much to see. The radius about 1.5km. I can sit by the burn and watch the water flow until the hills move. An optical illusion that regularly entertains me in my solitude.
There is life in this valley. It does not need me to photograph it. Though it doesn’t mind the occasional visitor. Someone who can hug it, say thank you and take its memory home is a deserved reward for this scene. This spot, magical in my eyes, will always live and all that lives here will die. Making way for more grass, more sheep, more algae and more birds. It is its constant cycle that comforts me.
It will outlive us all.
Clair de Lune is a composite, analogue c-type print from the series, Lady into Hut. At its fullest it measures 4m x 4m and is made of 154 prints.
Accompanying the piece, Laura is exhibiting a handmade photobook as sculpture. Made for the occasion of Stare, ‘Your Soul is a Chosen Landscape’ takes panels from Clair de Lune and presents them as subtle abstract photographs. Grainy and obscured, they give another definition to looking closely at photography.
The moment I read the title of David Garnett’s 1922 book, Lady into Fox, I was intrigued. It made no sense. Almost a mistake? I first read the book in 2009. A clear and crisp tale of a woman who turns into a fox. The physical transformation takes place within moments of beginning the first chapter. It’s a sudden and catastrophic shock for both the lady, and her husband. The pair, a gentrified couple strolling in the Oxford countryside in 1880, had only just married when the metamorphosis took place.
The book has stuck with me these past five years. Often sashaying into my thoughts at unlikely moments. Because, what at first seems a simple - if surprising - tale, is actually a thoughtful and inspired observation of the transformations beyond the obvious book title. The wife, now a fox, yet woman in mind, slowly but surely becomes the feral hunter to match her form. Her husband, horrified yet accepting of her form, can not accept her behaviour, from controlled and prim woman, to ravaging and frolicking wild animal.
Yet, as the pages turn, he finds joy in her freedom and in turn, becomes free himself. This story, to me is about becoming, physically and mentally, something that allows true acceptance of oneself.
I chose to photograph a place of unhealthy nostalgia to my family. The place we all hold so dear it hurts. The place we no longer lay claim to other than in our memories, cine films and photograph albums. The hut my Grandfather built, originally as a art studio, has been perched on a low hill, in a valley on the river Devon, Scotland for nearly seventy years.
As a adult, I wanted to live the landscape, breathe the streams and relish the air as a form of transformation of my own. To accept and smother, listen and soak, walk in the footsteps of my family, of myself as a child, to create something new from a landscape filled with hollow. Filled with something lost. To create something tangible and new and present. Something to take home.
From the foreword of Lady into Fox, republished in 2008... “Transformation stories are the means by which we make sense of the world, how we see the connections that, ‘the materialisation of our age’ misses, and they belong to the universe that is ordered, not by reason alone, but by imagination, a universe in which change is the only constant”
John Burnside, foreword (2008), Lady into Fox by David Garnett (1922).