Sunday, 10 July 2011

a field student of planning for unreality

Field Study’s Man in E17 has returned to something as close to the real (or is it still virtual?) world as he can get, following a particularly arduous ascent out from his navel. The navel gazing explorer lost control of his scale shifting capabilities and plummeted into the fibrous deeps of his psycho belly button. He can report it is a zone not for the faint hearted, as a variety of exotic entities reside there. Away from the omphalos and around and about in the decentring culture(s) of nowhere but E17, E11…

The Hitchcock Gallery - Leytonstone Tube

Field Study’s Man in E17 set out on the Leytonstone Arts Trail. He waited at Leytonstone Underground for the start of a guided walk and admired the Alfred Hitchcock themed mosaics adorning the entrances. The murals (The Hitchcock Gallery) are the work of Greenwich Mural Workshop. The web site outlines the scope of their public art practice. Back at Leytonstone Tube, there is a prominently displayed plaque which gives some of the social context of the mosaic murals. It reads,
‘These pictures were chosen by local people. The project was organised by the London Borough of Waltham Forest and supported by generous donations from Capital Challenge Funds, London Underground and Tesco.’
What are/were the agendas which brought these mosaics into being? What are Capital Challenge Funds and Tesco?  The pictures are there in the everyday commute; a colourful and pleasing celebration of an umbilical connection to one of the areas more eminent and accomplished offspring. At the time of unveiling the area  had experienced some seismic social and topographic shifts as a consequence of the (much contested) M11 Link Road. The demolition of a large part of the social fabric of the area was, perhaps predictably going to be followed by the projection of another more easily rendered aspect of the areas heritage. It would be interesting to find out who doesn’t know who/what Alfred Hitchcock is, and for whom the pictures are not so rooted in a heritage context. Perhaps as some sort of acknowledgment Hitchcock and Hollywood are not entirely culturally representative, Field Study’s Man recalls the unveiling included a display/show by Masquerade 2000, the locally based carnival arts organisation of national and international repute.  
Nearby, Graeme Miller’s, Linked, is a more critical and resonant exploration of the area’s past and the contemporary threads of the areas tapestry, or rather, pieces of it's mosaic.
The hazards of free open participation reared their ugly heads as a drunken bloke latched onto the walking party at the outset - the same bloke who had just reviled Field Study’s Man while the latter photographed some of the mosaics. Not for him then the pleasant sociability of an E11/E10 art walk; Field Study’s Man went in the opposite direction via the subway or art birth canal of Leytonstone Tube emerging close to ‘Time Terminus’, heading for 491 Gallery and the exciting prospect of a ‘Strange New Feeling’; a collaborative exhibition of work by artists Lily Johnson and Julia McKinlay.
It has been a long time since Field Study’s Man visited 491 Gallery on Grove Green Road and he was looking forward to seeing how the now relatively long established venue has progressed or developed. He had visited an exhibition there (c. 2001/2002) of photographs and other archival material about the building of the M11 Link Road and the galleries’ site specific connections to the road building/neighbourhood destruction. Alas, despite arriving at the gallery during the guides specified opening times, the place was not open and a strange new feeling courtesy of Johnson and Mckinlay was not to be had. Field Study’s Man recommends a visit to the virtual space of Lily Johnson’s web site nowhere but here.
Onwards in disappointment, ever in earshot of the violent rush of the nearby link road, described by the trail map as a leaden ravine, towards Norlington Road and Carne Griffiths’, Undergrowth. Field Study’s Man paused, listened and wondered if it is possible to hear the Linked voices without the listening equipment which can supposedly be accessed at Leytonstone Library. ‘Supposedly’, because, despite being advertised by Create, as an access point for the Linked listening  equipment, Leytonstone Library was not in possession of the equipment at the time of the Bookish event in May. Hopefully this inadequacy has been sorted out and anyone who heads for Leytonstone Library to get the equipment will not be disappointed.


Carne Griffiths, Undergrowth, work in progess, Leytonstone Arts Trail 2011

Carne Griffiths and his host were there and did not disappoint. Carne was in temporary residence, ink pot, pens and brushes in hand, detailing an inky up, down, in and out journey in the ‘Undergrowth’ of his imagination and observation. This was another wall piece, a mural of florally inscribed lining paper covering the entire surface of one side of the entrance hall and stairwell of an ordinary terraced house. ‘Undergrowth’, for the trail, is a work in progress, growing via an assortment of graphic techniques and treatments which Carne has developed to express a peculiar and recognisable style. Carne appeared relaxed about the scale of the drawing project, commenting the process is absorbingly therapeutic. I was interested in the presence of the written marks making up the floral forms - a sort of automatism or perhaps muscle memory according to the artist. There are obvious references to be made to William Morris’s wallpapers - this being Waltham Forest. Cinematically, I thought of, not Hitchcock, but Roman Polanski and ‘Repulsion’ and the terrible psychosis of the central character, Carole Ledoux, (Catherine Deneuvre). This is possibly a grotesque, macabre and antithetical association or projection to make given an agenda of sociability and accessibility the trail seeks to express. The home owner, to accommodate the artist, had repapered the wall and it appeared, for the duration of the cultivation of the mural, a detached flex might hang, out of reach but still visible, it’s tacks protruding like thorns - just one opportunity for the artist to temporarily arouse a spectre of the uncanny/unheimlich before such things are put back, hidden, in their proper place.


Some other encounters with ghostly intra and inter mural voices:

Ghost Signs off the Leytonstone High Road


Field study’s Man has still to give an account of play parks and edgescapes and most importantly News from Nowhere Club’s talk via Adrian Stannard (Waltham Forest Civic Society) about how the internet might encourage the public to engage in the planning process in Waltham Forest. Some cogitation on the allotment is in order before such …… 


  1. Hi Julian
    A great piece of writing.

  2. Hi David, thanks. I hope all is well with you. All being well with me I hope to make a show, 'Field Studies in progress' for the E17 Art Trail which should include some emanations for inclusion in various Field Study International documents.
    Take care,