Sunday, 30 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 weaves between the past and presents

Bee Wilson, in her story of the honey bee and us, The Hive, tells of how Jean Jacques Rousseau believed that honey hunting was a basis for a more democratic and equitable society, that 'a culture of gathering honey from mountains and hollow trunks of trees' necessitated a justice and good faith that are the antithesis of the ethics and morality of 'large, decadent, sugar-eating nations'. So it was on a very decadent Saturday afternoon I indulged in a solitary walk about Walthamstow in an attempt to make more connections to or with the Co-op beehives on Hoe St. While my feet trod the paths of E17 my mind wandered variously further afield.

From top to bottom,

Henrietta Lynch - from the E17 Art Trail 2012

Anansi weaves a web in the passage way to The Makers Yard - E17 Art Trail 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 narrowly escapes Anansi's web

Ghost sign on Jewel Road

Ghost sign on Jewel Road - 'Cooperative Trading' ?

View of part of the William Morris Garden, Lloyd Park

Guide to the garden paths

William Morris and garden path interpretations

Verbena bonariensis - detail?

Cornflower, Centaurea montana ?

Centaurea montana - bud - detail ?

Centaurea montana - bud - detail with honey bee

Cornflower, Centaurea montana - with bumble bee

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 forages for more oops and igns

While out walking this evening I revisited another old co-op sign, this being the ghost sign on the side of what is now the Casanova restaurant on St James St. The photographs above were taken last year and since then the cables, if I recall correctly, have been removed. Earlier in the walk I came across another ghost sign at the bottom of Jewel Rd. It may also be for a co-op. 

It was an evening walk for signs of other sorts as well. This is the first time I've come across these projections in light for South Grove and the High St. I assume they are a part of the redevelopment of the South Grove (car park) area courtesy of 'South Grove Regeneration Walthamstow Ltd'. 'SGRW Ltd' will facilitate the arrival of a 'tailor made for Walthamstow' Morrisons into the town centre. Is another supermarket really needed here?

More details about the council's involvement in this are here
A more critical appraisal of the project from Waltham Forest Civic Society is here

I like the idea that something more than half the 230 apartments will be affordable - presumably to plebeians - and that the remaining apartments will not be affordable to ordinary working people on low to middle incomes but affordable to .......? 

When I snapped out of the discombobulation induced by the quirky skew-whiffery of the South Grove illuminations my attention was drawn to the mysterious inscriptions on the pavements. Perhaps they are the beginnings of the improved cycling and walking links to the town centre?

I hope that these improvements will be fit for purpose and resilient to the increased volume of service and customer motor traffic - and that this sort of conduct, as reported by Freewheeler, will not be possible let alone tolerated. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 and the zen of junction navigation

I've started to wear a helmet cam to record some of my cycle journeys, particularly my commute to and from work; Walthamstow to Bermondsey. I sometimes do my work, delivering and distributing leaflets, by bicycle (when I can carry the load safely) but for a greater proportion of the work I use a small van. I think I have  a motorist's and cyclist's perspective of conditions on the road - as culturally and cognitively dissonant this may be.

I'm not sure I actually like wearing the cam considering the connotations of surveillance, voyeurism and narcissism about it. Recently I was hit by a car and did not react to the incident so well and so thought a cam might be a tool useful in defusing some of the anger and frustration I feel at the design of and conditions on London's roads. I haven't yet used the cam to record my van driving.

I'm inclined to agree with Freewheeler (Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest) that the design of the roads makes (vehicular) cycling and motor vehicle use nigh on incompatible. I've been cycling in London for nearly 14 years (cycling for 40years) and despite some high profile, though largely cosmetic, cycling 'innovations', cycling does not seem any easier and more enjoyable. The same goes for driving in London. I am sceptical about claims that more people cycling in London will improve the situation. Some of the claims seemed to be based on statistical jiggerypokery as much as my lay persons understanding of statistics can justify that viewpoint. Of course a huge critical mass taking e.g. Tower Bridge, might make for a safer cycle crossing but how would a relatively huge 10% or 20 % increase (over what period?) make that a safer bridge to cross? Would the '20%' arrive at the same time to form an ultra resilient cycling phalanx capable of shoving wayward juggernauts out of the way? I realize this is a partially flippant comment about a complex issue but looking at the recordings I've made in the last few days has reminded me of just how horrible some places in London are for cycling. Tower Bridge/Tower Bridge Rd is one example.

The logical supposedly sensible answer is to find a less congested and hazardous route and/or time of day to cross and not be, as some persons have said to me, a victim or even a martyr! Crossing London's bridges safely by bike is difficult. 

Some cyclists appear to have adopted a more 'zen' approach to navigating the capital's bridges, rendering themselves immaterial and thus capable of extraordinary feats of survival 

The clip below (top) was filmed using a helmet cam late afternoon on 24th Sept. I was standing with my bike at the corner of Tower Bridge Road and Tooley St, waiting to cross at the pedestrian crossing. . 

 Here I was at the Bakers Arms studying the advance stop line there and the improbable lightness of being a double decker bus. It really is crap there but, of course I don't have to use that junction.

And here at the junction of Southwark Park Rd and Drummond Rd in Bermondsey, a clip of an encounter that is a little bit vague but recalls how a motorist has chosen to overtake me as I begin to turn right, making, I assure you, a very clear hand signal having positioned myself in the centre of the road. Listen to that acceleration! Phew, thank you for missing me! 

Every Day is a Good Day
"Everyday is a good day." (Nichi nichi kore kõjitsu.)
Yün-men (Unmon) Hekiganroku

Monday, 24 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 finds John, Fritz and August

Walthamstow Central Library has a copy of, The Forgotten Arts and Crafts, written by John Seymour and first published by Dorling Kindersley in 1984.
Here are some library references & links to, The Forgotten Arts and Crafts.
John Seymour along with the brilliant DK design team produced a fascinating compendium of arts and crafts remembered through an accessible writing style illustrated by a wealth of drawings and photographs including archive photographs. Some of the content may be nostalgic and sentimental e.g. the colour pencil drawing of a Victorian kitchen (p.206-207), however this does not necessarily detract from the book's usefulness in finding out more about the Hoe St, Co-op skeps featured in the previous post, Field Study's Man in E17 photo forages.

In that post I commented, via Wikipedia, that the use of skeps involved killing the bees if honey was to be harvested. Seymour includes beekeeping in the tome and suggests a method of skep use that does not destroy the resident honey bee colony. A skep full of bees and honeycomb is carefully turned upside down and an empty skep placed on top of it. The bees are supposed to move upwards into the empty skep leaving a less bee-ful skep from which honeycomb can be taken with less detrimental effects on the bees. Seymour commented that he had 'never done this' but had been 'assured that it works'. (p.173)
When (at what time of year) would a skep beekeeper do this and how long would it take? Would the honeycomb only be partially harvested and the remaining comb given back to the bees by reversing the process?
To complement John Seymour's recollection of skeps, there is this excellent video sourced from Youtube about the making of skeps; an art and a craft not so forgotten going by the number of videos uploaded to the site. There is a sense of careful stage management and theatricality about this demonstration; the light and spaciousness of the set, the sparseness of the interior, the costumes of Fritz and August, the absorbing measured pace of the narration with pauses to allow the deft hands 'to do the talking' - quite dreamy if not surreal.  

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 photo forages

Hoe St 29/8/2012

A recent field trip into a Walthamstow night resulted in a pretty dismal attempt at bio dynamic photography (or 'snapography') on the part of, Field Study's Man in E17. Perhaps it was an inappropriate choice of a 'field preparation' that caused the failure to enhance the rays of the moon in the cultivation of this image. He returned in a few days to snap at the Hoe St Co-op building by the light of the sun albeit a tad filtered by the clouds.

Hoe St 1/9/2012

Field Study's Man in E17 has for some time taken a superficial interest in this building on Hoe St due to the presence of the Co-operative Society beehive emblems. Many Co-op buildings around the UK and further afield feature variations of this emblem, usually in relief sculptural form. He has thought about making an art project based on these sites because ideas associated with bees and beekeeping fascinate him, although he is sometimes more in thrall to the idea of doing something rather than actually doing it.

The buildings on Hoe St have recently undergone some maintenance and other improvements including the removal of tv aerials. Below are some pictures taken in 2011 during those works. He wondered if the building is listed and went on line to London Borough of Waltham Forest listed buildings site to check - the building was not listed in 2008, currently the most up to date listing for Waltham Forest as provided by the council web site.

Hoe St 2011

The snaps taken this August/September 2012 do not do justice to the renovation and restoration work done on the sculptures.

Below are some more detailed images taken in 2008 when the the progress of time, pollution and the elements had taken less of a toll on the co-operative skeps.

There are plaques on the building facade which give some information about the origins, ethos and development of the building....

It is likely the committee members approved the ornamentation of the building based on the firm belief the hive/skep emblem symbolised hard work and industry for and by the collective good - a symbol sanctifying virtuous industry. The symbol has been appropriated in many ways that may have undermined the veracity of this belief.

Ironically the traditional use of skeps as beehives was not necessarily good news for the bees - involving as it did some drastic measures in the harvesting of the honey.

The Co-op of today is supporting and developing more sympathetic ways of keeping bees, through Plan Bee  - a well established campaign to accompany the more recent Friends of the Earth, Bee Cause. Into this environmentalist cavalcade of concern and action for pollinators is a place for Sarah Raven, who showed how local authorities can develop bee or pollinator friendly habitats - a link to the BBC programmes about the endeavours is here.

Meanwhile Field Study's Man in E17, having watched, Queen of the Sun, is considering with some urgency what sort of moustache he must grow in order to be more at one with the bees.

Field Study's Man in E17 reports on what the Friends of the Earth said to him

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 enjoys a starry starry evening

How to Catch a Star,
by Elphinstone Road & friends,

Friday 14th September, 2012

A twilight lantern procession inspired by Oliver Jeffer's picture book.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 listens to the rooms

Soundcastle Inhabit - Spot 118
38A West Avenue Rd
Tuesday 11th September 2012

I don't know what sort of self serving ego trail Field Study's Man in E17 is on but making sense of his memories of a visit to Soundcastle Inhabit on Tuesday evening has been difficult. "Start making sense!" I demanded.

He arrived at 38A West Avenue just in time to be ushered in along with 2 other visitors. They were quietly briefed about the conduct of their visit and asked to remove their shoes before proceeding beyond the front hall deeper into the house. The usher led them along the short corridor to another door where they paused; music played from various locations about the house and gradually became more audible. Through another door into a darker space, a short landing and some stairs down into a lighter more spacious kitchen dining area. The rooms were bare but for some rather ordinary furnishings - table, chairs, empty shelves - and it seemed as if the property as a household/home had been vacated. They tentatively explored the property while the music played around them as a gentle easy melodic ambience.

There was a sense they were house viewers and/or listeners being escorted by a rather taciturn estate agent who observed their snoopings with proprietal indifference; a demeanour or presence that made him feel inbetween, in a sort of threshold, a waiting room. He tried a door. It was locked. Were they all locked? It seemed wrong to try and touch anything else except for the chair he assumed he could sit on and wait for whatever this all was to happen.

He sat trying to make sense of the music and the acoustics of the place and how they affected the musical conversations, if that is what they were, between the different instruments being, he assumed, played live. He looked and listened for easy explanations. He felt a little tense and distracted by the confinement of the experience, the scrutiny of the usher, the restlessness of his fellow visitors and the mirky plasterboard filtered notes of the others gently reverberating about the room. What sort of musical ghost story is this, he wondered, while staring blankly at an empty cd shelf. Was something more going to happen to unsettle the assumptions and habitual responses he was making? What was he overlooking and underhearing?

The intensity of the sounds increased with what he guessed (rightly or wrongly) was a xylophone played with rapid successions of resonant tones - ringing and humming very nearly into a crescendo but not quite before it appeared it was time to leave. The other visitors had exited and the agent stood by an open door at the top of the stairs. He collected his shoes, accepted a little information slip about Soundcastle, and started to ask a question of the guide before being cut short by a gesture made towards the front door. Had he forgotten to change his socks that morning? As he walked away he thought he was a bit underwhelmed by the carefully choreographed performance.

It was not until the next morning, by which time Soundcastle had had more time to play on the mind of Field Study's Man in E17, that he felt more stimulated and excited by the performance. He told a work colleague about the perfromance installation and was told about a composer called William Basinski who had recently been performed in London; a piece involving an orchestra playing a rendition of decaying/decayed audio magnetic taped sounds. FSMiE17 tried to relate this concept to the ensemble work on West Avenue Road. He thought more appreciatively about 'Inhabit' while at work that day until, in the afternoon, an unfortunate incident silenced the memories of the chambred music and different sorts of dramatics occupied his mind - playing like a needle stuck in the groove of a record.

FSMiE17 is still looking for that Saturday.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 art de-trailment

I have failed in my aim of getting to something of the E17 Art Trail each day this week due to the ravages of a late summer cold and some other 'psychological' conditions.

Sunday, 2/9/12 - I woke up drenched in cold sweat, obviously afflicted with E17 Art Trail post dramatic stress syndrome. In one of my nightmares I was tied to a tree much like St Sebastian and instead of arrows it was very pointy Freudian interpretations of dreams in the form of paper planes that pierced me - and even more nightmarish was the presence of a photographer also getting right in there for the definitive shot of the agony and ecstasy of my E17 performance art martyrdom. More no more no more.

I had to re-ground myself in a different garden of earthly delights and so headed up to the allotment and apiary in Chingford. After communing with Demeter and gathering up her gifts I realised there was still some time left to get back to E17 and 'do' another spot on the art trail.


Dolores Rocket is in there
Dolores Rocket - Spot 161 - 15th/16th September 1pm - 6pm

FSMiE17 loves a shaggy dog story and so made his way to Shaftesbury Road E17 and the canine collective conceptions of Dolores Rocket as hosted by Julia Spicer. Who is Dolores Rocket? The answer is not so straightforward - neither in fact nor fiction, Dolores Rocket is the subject of an enjoyably mystifying trail starting from a very hospitable front door greeting all the way to the small but perfectly formed intimate back garden gallery wherein an assortment of disparate photographic, graphic and sculptural artefacts accompanied by oblique texts create an elusive character narrative. You can marvel at the juxtapositions - the clinical absurdity of  beard samples immaculately presented alongside mock shamanistic devices and black and white archival photo imagery. It is all very cool and wry and worth visiting for the excellence of presentation and the attention to detail alone.

Back in the house there was also a Dolores Rocket bookshop where serendipitously I discovered  a copy of  Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. It was offered at a freudian snip of a price - just £2.50. - and being in very good condition I just had to have it. The silvers and coppers in my purse amounted to £1.60; not enough. It was an opportunity to try making an offer of a couple of handfuls of climbing french beans (fee fi fo fum) to supplement my meagre finances and so get a Freud. I'm happy to report he now sits on one of my bookshelves ready to impress some of my fictional friends and visitors. Oh yes, I'll say, he's very good; particularly in 'distortion' where he gets into coitus interuptus.

Monday 3/9/2012 After work I spent the evening involved in or with a rocket of an altogether different sort - making this one out of willow/withies in a form inspired by Oliver Jeffers, How to Catch a Star. The rocket is to be part of Elphinstone Road's communal contribution to the art trail on the 14th September; a lantern procession and installations along with other performances and contributions from the community.

So far so good but for the itch of a suspiciously dry nose soon followed by a ticklish and then sore throat. A sleepless dreamless night confirmed the onset of a cold. 

Tuesday 4/9/2012 - by the return of evening all sorts of viral (or is it bacterial?) pandemonium had broken out in Field Study's Man in E17. I began to wallow in the dribbled snot of snivelling self pity and abandoned the promise of the art trail for the fear of making an unwelcome gift of my nasty germs. How considerate. 

Wednesday 5/9/2012 - After work, a very long, hot and arduous day, involving Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction and Stratford Upon Avon, I made a brief visit to the allotment to water and harvest a little but I retreated quickly due to the increasingly vicious attentions of ankle nibbling midges and blood thirsty mosquitoes. Not quick enough; God! How they bit that evening! I shouldn't have called that photographer an ignoramus; I'm sure there is a connection.

Thursday 6/9/2012 - I came up with an idea for automatic interior wind screen wipers for a van driver with the sneezes and an excessively runny nose. Any constructive progress with this idea was obliterated by an all consuming rage felt towards the people responsible for closing Bond St all afternoon and therefore creating gridlock and mayhem in much of the West End. I let fly volleys of invective infected with demented abandon. 

By the evening I had become involved in a psychodrama involving my landlord, and was still very 'diseased', so had no time or, some might say, generosity of spirit, to get out there and visit some art trail venues and thus help encourage contributors that their efforts have been worth it. The psychodrama continued right through to Friday evening.

Friday 7/9/2012 - I rehearsed silly confrontations with my landlord while staring at the bestow/art trail image of a girl holding a house of some sort. I think she is offering the house up. She is holding the door to the house open with her thumb. I'm hesitant about going in; the house is a little sinister with those curious slits and holes for windows in the gable end. I put the cover illustration close to my ear and I do believe I heard the murmurings of letting agents preparing to dupe gormless twits like me with, let's say, alternative versions of the truth about renting in Walthamstow. Their guided tours of E17's desirable residences were being contrived in rhyming couplets - yak, but fairy tales get me everytime especially when they are in rhyme. Not for the first time this week did I experience a profuse cold sweat.

I managed to recompose myself for the landlord's visit. He made reassurances about the problems getting sorted out soon, and then left.The meeting was a psychodramatic anti climax but still a very tiring affair and so after a little perusal of the art trail listings for Saturday I went to bed. The next morning I began in earnest a process of re-trailment at The Mill and, amazingly, found myself in the company of thee voice of, The Great One.

Technomist has commented on the increase in local spider activity recently. This, I suspect, is no coincidence. Saturday promised to be an extraordinary art trail day.

Coming up next in this web of artful intrigue:

Field Study's Man in E17 gets stowned, marvels at some big comic paintings, gets lost in a David Lynch like dream,  and watches a shaggy bee story.     


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 visits a psycho-garden party

Day 1 on Day 4 of the E17 Art Trail. 

What would you make of this?
Imagine you are visiting Vestry House Museum garden for an evening of site specific performance. It is a balmy late summer evening, the sun lowering to the horizon creating an ambrosial light. You come across a woman walking between two golden bowls situated at opposite sides of the empty pond like feature made of grey granite like stone. From one of the bowls she gently scoops a milky liquid with her cupped hands and proceeds to carry the liquid, walking slowly to the other bowl into which she pours that which has not leaked between her fingers and dribbled down her front and to the ground.
She is dressed sombrely – dark purple black garments, a smart tunic top, a heavy ankle length skirt and very plain black shoes. Is she in mourning? Some of the dribbles of ‘milk’ seem to stick to her like drips of wax on the side of a candle. Her repeated traversals have a meditative rhythm. While returning to the fuller bowl she holds her hands together close to her chest, her head dipped towards them, as if she is absorbed in prayer. Other visitors or audience members pause to watch the modest spectacle. She continues oblivious to the gathering onlookers, serenely engaged in her task despite some occasional audible vocal dismissals of what is (a) happening.
Would it make you think about mythical characters who are condemned to repeat tasks for an eternity, only able to stop if something impossible and unthinkable happens; e.g. the eternal torment of Prometheus whose liver is pecked away by an eagle by day only for the liver to grow back at night and have it pecked away again, ad infinitum. But the scene at VHM involved a woman and what was probably a finite supply of ‘milk’. Whose ‘milk’?
‘Floraphilia’ consisted of several timed and durational performances between 5pm – 7pm. The ‘milk lady’ was I think, Liz Kumin performing ‘Kenophobia’. Most of the audience kept a conditioned distance from what might otherwise be considered futile, disturbed and manic behaviour. If this was real, at some point the apparently spellbound woman would probably have been discovered by museum staff and consequently led discretely away by people who used to be referred to as ‘men in white coats’. But the sun’s descent seemed to slow if not halt and the drips of artful milk thickened as if to hang from the fingers and there was a moment of pleasantly dreamy suspended disbelief.
How would you interpret that encounter along with several others similarly odd happening around the garden? From what state of consciousness and/or sub consciousness had the acts and images come and how would the encounter with them act on or in your subconscious? When you or I go to an art event how immediately do we have to ‘get it’ and ‘get into it’?
‘Dreamy suspended disbelief?’ Well all most, because some bloke with a big camera, seemingly ignorant of the audience, invaded the dream space. Those potentially hypnotic sounds of ‘self contained’ trickling milk were drowned out by the intensely irritating noise of his shutter and motor drive, aided and abetted by the drone of police helicopters flying nearby over Forest Road. His hurried pacing to and fro in the space between the performer and audience was completely at odds with the subtlety of the performer’s movement. Was his incongruous presence a scripted or choreographed part of the act? I wanted him to go away and become a permanent personal photographer to that mythical eagle. I assumed the photographer was invited by the artists to photograph their performances and doubtless his interventions will have produced some lovely images, but to the detriment of any sensitivity towards the performance. If he was, I think it was a crass approach to the documentation of the event.
The contemporary phenomenon of anything and everything (it seems) being photographed and videoed as they are happening, often by the people of the happening, is perplexing. Narcissism seems to have created a sense of a lack of authenticity about experience; if there isn’t e.g. a photograph of an experience that experience very nearly ceases to exist. The experience has not been validated. Later in the proceedings the narcissist and voyeur within me got the better of me and got my camera out and snapped away in a vain attempt to capture moments of release of paper planes thrown by a mysterious woman wearing a flowery mask.  lili Spain, in ‘Garden of the Hesperides’ attempted ‘to ward off insanity, using the power of the psychoanalytic word’. I remained seated and used the camera zoom to get closer and I’d turned the digital camera’s faux sound effects off. He was there again and some interaction ensued between him, other photographers and the paper dart throwing lady of the raised bed. She appeared to aim the planes at the cameras and this was cause for some amusement in the audience, perhaps recognising his obtrusive presence.
When a couple of the paper planes floated and glided down close to me I picked them up and unfolded them to discover they were pages torn from, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ – Sigmund Freud’s classic treatise. Perhaps other eminent psychoanalyses flew about that evening – Lacan, Jung, Freud, Anzieu and others, each riding the breeze that also gently rocked golden apples hanging as if suspended in mid fall from a nearby tree. I think the planes and pages were most likely all a scattering of Freud’s interpretations. One of my pages explored ‘the space between (my?) sanity and madness, truth and myth’ via some words about wish fulfilment, infanticide and coitus interruptus – the latter considered by Freud as ‘one of the factors responsible for the development of neurotic fear’.
Later, a woman walked round and round the golden apple tree plucking, eating and dropping the petals of a bunch of white roses. She left a ring of blossom on the decking around the base of the tree while a macabre masked figure with bizarre facial appendages; mechanically flapped insects (perhaps dragonflies), walked by. When she and it had departed, a gentle breeze carried the petals away and Floraphilia, in situ, ended for me.
The garden was a sort of sanctuary or retreat particularly in the context of the charged atmosphere around town with the marches, demonstrations and traffic congestion. Gardens can be used therapeutically, as healing places where people can maintain, restore and develop personal and communal equilibrium. VHM’s community garden has, I imagine, enabled some people to deal with various problems or neuroses, consciously or otherwise. The Floraphilia performances as a psycho-garden party did not suggest to my superficial knowledge of psychoanalysis, and perhaps insensitivity, any disturbing psychosis and/or neurosis*. Right now, back in the garden in my mind, the helicopters are droning overhead monitoring the movements of various extremists, and causing me to think about the recent trial of Anders Bering Breivik, and the task of deciding if he is sane, having committed the atrocities he did, and what the verdict means and what can be done about that sanity.


Part of the E17 Art Trail 2012, Saturday 1st September, 5-7pm.
Two hours of surreal and absurd live art & performances at Vestry House Museum, on the opening night of the E17 Art Trail.
Curated by Folie a Trois -


* - I found this website helpful -

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 thinks he is a gift to the E17 Art Trail 2012

Our annual festival of local creativity, The E17 Art Trail, has started. I have studied the guide to this ever expanding field of artistic bestowal and I am wondering how I can, as a visitor, do the collective emanation justice. The trail has grown to such an extent there is probably no way of taking it all in. Indeed any attempt to do so might be considered superficial and a discourtesy to the gifts of the organisers and contributors. There is the risk of becoming a Mr Nasty, he of ‘Pythonesque’ gluttony, who kept on demanding more and exploded before he could even contemplate expending some of the energy of those gifts heaped upon him. If every listing is an offer of a gift then the prospective visitor has to decline many of the offers and hope that no offence is given and/or taken by doing so. I know from having been a contributor to each trail (from 2008 to 2011) that I wanted my offerings to be accepted, taken and relished in a variety of ways, each involving the investment of various energies on the part of giver and taker – and in such acts of artful bestowal giving and taking are not necessarily fixed roles.

This year I am not contributing to the trail as an individual listed artist and I have also not collaborated with artists groups as I/we have done in previous years.  There are numerous reasons for my lack of participation however I doubt they are of much interest to this year’s E17 artists and audience – a potential outing that looks anything but diminished by my lack of presence. I had entertained the idea of Martin Creed like sprints through art trail venues. Despite the appeal of the alternating togetherness and loneliness of long distance artiness, that antic risks doing some considerable and unwelcome damage literally, metaphorically and symbolically. Obviously a lack of some original thought can explain my contributing absence although I was still to be found late on the night of 31st August, E17 Art Trail Eve, busily preparing an art trail itinerary, my participating presence – ho ho ho. Last year I vainly published a list of potential visits but this year my visits are supposed to be surprises. How did our first day unfold?

 Walthamstow Awaits - the EDL and anti EDLs are coming.
Forest Road

Day 1 was a challenging day to set out on the trail given the presence of the EDL march and the counter demonstrations. In the morning I had doubts about being out and about in Walthamstow for fear of the potential confusion, hysteria and violence that can be generated by extreme racial and political prejudice and intolerance. It was not only the belligerence of the English Defence League I feared but also that of opposing factions intent on similarly violent confrontation. I ventured into the town centre to do a few errands and to test the local water so to speak. Walthamstow Market, High Street expresses how multi racial and multi ethnic this town is, and how peaceful the interaction of the diversity is most of the time; something to admire. I was encouraged by the art trail hub at the library and decided to set out on the trail in the afternoon.
My planned route and itinerary was thus – 2 to 38 to 100 & 101 to 123 to 23.

A gift of the allotment - August 2012

2 – The Bank of Walthamstow
One of the reasons/excuses for my non participation as a listed artist is lack of funds. I thought I would start off my trail with a visit to a truly local bank manager to seek a bit of quantitatively easing E17 dosh to finance some artful visitations. Anticipating a demand for some collateral I rustled together a bag of surplus fruit and vegetables harvested from the allotment. Of course I was not going to tell the manager it was surplus. I hoped my hunger (for art) would be considered valuable enough for the loan of some notes for which I would also promise to visit at least all those venues and artists listed above. I also hoped the visited artists might exchange items for those notes and so stimulate the currency of the Bank of Walthamstow. I imagined myself as an E17, J S G Boggs like character as brought to me by the 1992 documentary, Money Man, directed by Philip Haas. Unforgivably, as an E17 field student, I failed to read the small print of the listing properly and when I arrived at the Bank of Walthamstow I discovered the bank was not yet open to the public. The prospect of a career in E17 merchant banking did not look good. I promised to return and left quickly in case the warm weather might cause my vegetable commodities (by which I also mean my reserve of brain cells) to depreciate further.

 Venue 100 - Arts and Crusts, Victoria Rd

Original Army - Peep Show Curiosities


Still Life in Sugar by Sarah Hardy.

100 – Still Life in Sugar – by Sarah Hardy / Comics from East London by Paul Francis / Peep Show Curiosities

Field Study’s Man in E17 is very good at getting lost in E17 due to an increasingly accomplished ineptitude in map reading. Are there no limits to his – ok – my incompetence? Instead of 38, it was 100, the Arts and Crusts Cafe, where I found myself next, lured no doubt by the finely honed skills of art cafe proprietor, curator and barista, Andrew.

Another reason for my non participation this year is lack of honey. Our honey bee colonies have barely made sufficient stores to feed themselves over the autumn and winter months let alone supply the sweet teeth of us weird white and smokey things called beekeepers. In each of the art trails from 2008 to 2011 I have used honey as a sort of art material to express a variety of ideas about place and belonging. The lack of a honey harvest this year leads to an analogy of a painter being asked to paint without any paint.

Andrew and I exchanged the bag of fruit and veg’ for a cup of roasted Arabica(?) and with that essential stimulation I set about consuming Sarah Hardy’s wonderful cake come icing sugar sculpture. I paused to savour the promise of the bit of the stag beetle I would bite off and gobble first. The beetle was having none of this bitter sweet vanitas and scuttled off out of sight leaving me with the caterpillars, snails and assorted fruity momento mori. In my mind the beetle found its way into the glazed peep show arenas of Original Army where spectral circus performers concealed curious crepuscular goings on. I was wary of exposing my eyeballs up close to the diabolus within and shifted my attention to comic capers of a different sort.   

I found myself in the more bucolic company and territory of Joseph Tredgold as remembered by comic artist, Paul Francis, in 'A Pupil of Nature'. Paul’s sparing monochrome pen and ink style rendered the possibly fictional but definitely comic Joseph Tredgold as a Walthamstow based experimental field student of looking and drawing. Where do you have to go and how do you have to position yourself to represent the truth /the Truth, of nature?  Mindful of Paul’s cautionary graphic tale I decided to leave the procumbent Tredgold in the cafe and locate myself standing upright in front of a homely, harmonious and orderly composition as provided by the delicately tonal scrutiny of Sarah Hardy, and the kindness of her hosts, Andrew and Carol.

101- The Hand Drawn Wallpaper – Sarah Hardy

Across the road from Arts and Crusts in Andrew and Carol’s house there was suspended above and on the wall space of the front room fireplace a host of finely drawn insects, insect bits and other miniature beasts. The fragility of the creatures was recreated in pencil on a fine white paper used as wallpaper, their variously broken and otherwise decayed and depleted bodies explored through different points of view. The gentle fall of the ghosts, the traces of insect shades, had a slightly disconcerting presence in the homely setting of that private and personal room adorned with more colourful and robust memories. It had a resonance with the vanitas work displayed in the cafe. I did not want to outstay my welcome nor stray from the Sarah Hardy trail of arthropod body parts and so left a busy Arts and Crusts to find the source of the insect fright.  

38 – Broken Bees, Bugs and Birds. Drawings by Sarah Hardy.

This venue was Sarah’s garden studio space where she practices her crafts. It seemed to be a quiet place but for the intrusive drone of the police helicopters overhead tracking the march and demonstrations nearby. There was some talk of how people, particularly families with younger children, might have been put off doing the art trail in the area because of the risk of trouble by the march. There was an array of studies, closely observed and absorbing still lives to see, each reproduced in various graphic media from original pencil drawings to limited edition litho-prints. There were also Sarah’s collections of insects and her tools to examine them. Looking in what might have been a cigar box full of insects dried of life, my thoughts were cast back to earlier in the day when I had visited one of those small booths on the high street market to try and get my watch strap repaired. There seemed to be a poetic comparison to be made between the watch-smith patiently picking through a tub of tiny watch parts with tweezers and that assortment of insects bereft of their parts. I gave Sarah the hornet I retrieved from a bee hive earlier in the year, as a gesture of appreciation for her contribution to ‘my art trail’ and then made my bumbling way to Vestry House Museum to see ‘Florophilia’. 

from, Florophilia. Curated by Lili Spain and Sarah Grainger Jones at Vestry House Museum.

Coming up next:

Day 1 dreamed on into Day 2.