Hope installation
Fear installation
Joy installation

Joy, Hope, Fear is a triptych of three baths arranged side-by-side in a dark space. The first (far left), Joy, is filled with white mountains made of wax. Flooding this scene is misty water, and submerged in a wide valley shine a few tiny white lights, casting a pale glow onto the slopes above.
The second bath, Hope (middle), has a low-hung industrial light over it, which brightly illuminates a heavily-wooded valley in the bottom of the bath. Along the slow, winding river are tiny hamlets, and the bath is half-filled with water, on top of which foam stands in for clouds.
Finally, Fear (far right) is a bath full of black iridescent water, in the centre of which is a tiny silent vortex, illuminated by a spot of light.

Behind all this lie a couple of my major preoccupations: the rub between the mundane, everyday world and the very human idea of wonder, and the idea of the microcosm.
The baths are both mundane objects and microcosms, which stand in for contained worlds or ideas. I wanted to create a sense of wonder by creating these things floating isolated in a dark space with aspects picked out with light.

The idea of wonder comes about in different ways... in Joy, the bath refers to an incident where I was walking in the Spanish mountains with a friend at night. We rounded a corner and beheld an amazing sight: the valley below was filled with mist like the waters of a lake. The village we were headed for was 'submerged', and its lights pooled up to the surface like swimming pool lights. A wonder-filled moment.

In Hope, an everyday rural landscape seen from a height reveals itself to be a precious intricate world, filled with sharp detail which one imagines one can zoom in on... indeed, when I built this, I imagined a sort of loop of scale in which one plunges through the foam/clouds and descends to earth, to a street and a house, one goes into the house, upstairs to the bathroom and finds a similar bath, filled with foam/clouds, through which one plunges...

Fear is vast and empty, with a vortex endlessly sucking in this blackness. It is entropy, the mind-numbing distances of space, but is has a dark beauty picked out by iridescent spangles briefly flaring before they are consumed by the black hole.

The making of Joy, Hope, Fear

It all started with a drawing in my sketchbook (left, below) of Joy, and as soon as I got hold of an old bath, construction began in earnest. Initially, the mountains were made of wire-mesh and papier-mache, with many layers of waterproof paint... but of course this all failed to keep the water out and in an attempt at further water-proofing, I painted hot wax onto the surfaces which brought forth a gorgeous, marble-like surface. Of course the water kept getting through, but in the end I blanked off the plug-hole (now unreachable from the top) from below and let it do its own thing. The lights were waterproofed 'throwies' - each one an LED-battery combination. The water was made misty with a tiny amount of soap powder.

Hope almost defeated me... I had to make it three times over due to water penetrating the painted surface and freeing the tiny trees (strange coloured foam from a model railway shop). Eventually everything stayed in place on the plaster surface, but during the show I had to empty and refill it each day to keep the water fresh and crystal clear - this involved pumping the water out of the bath and out of the basement. And to keep foamy clouds on the surface all the time, I incorporated an aquarium pump and air stone which worked on a timer. My whole show was a bit of a safety minefield, considering the combination of electricity and water... and the low lamp over the water was water-proof and fused - in fact the whole collection of objects each had their own RCDs (Residual Current Device - a trip-switch to prevent electrocution).

Fear was the least clear in my mind when I decided on the triptych. It went through many metamorphoses before I went for the simplest option. The vortex was based on the mechanism of an automatic stirrer - a piece of lab equipment I have loved since I first saw it in a school chemistry class. Instant wonder! The bath was filled with water, and I added black poster paint... during the week or so of set-up time, it developed a life of its own, and a miraculous iridescent surface appeared. This is why I love working with all sorts of materials - you can guess how things will behave, but usually they don't and you have to work hard to modify and modify until it approaches your imaginings. And then again something bizarre happens and you are given a gift which you simply couldn't have anticipated.

Hope in construction - testing with water
Hope in construction - without water
Joy sketch

Joy sketch.

Attempt number 3... looks great without the water... but will it hold?



A large galvanised tank filled with water stands in the darkness. As you approach it, you see an orange glow in the bottom. This resolves into what appears to be city lights, as seen from a great height. But then you notice something dark drifting above the lights, gradually blocking them out.

In this piece, I wanted to communicate the feeling of an unknown threat - something large and menacing but at this time so outside our experience that we cannot prepare for it.
The following was a sort of thought-experiment or day-dream on which the piece was based:

The gradual increase in cabin pressure alerts you to descent before the pilot makes the announcement. Out of the constraining window you can see the city far below in the dark. At first a foggy neon glow, the arteries of motorways and streets gradually separate into delicate pinpricks of orange... then you think you catch something else, but you're not sure - a shadow, a movement. There it is again. Something pulsating, moving in the dark, eclipsing the comforting city lights. And so a feeling of dim dread starts to fill you as the plane continues to drop towards the runway.

TANK was exhibited at the Exchange in Penzance, Cornwall, in a show called Out of Bounds.

The making of TANK

I had a very clear idea of the effect I wanted to achieve with TANK. After articulating my initial 'day-dream', I sketched out a proposal for myself (below left), using a found image of an airport at night, superimposed with a drawing of a jellyfish-like thing floating above it. Later, a practical 'solution' is contemplated in another sketch (below, right).

Proposal sketch for TANK
Sketch for practical solution for TANK

I borrowed a large galvanised tank from a friend and began experimenting with mechnical swimming fish, battery-operated 'torpedos' and all sorts. But what I was looking for was a beasty which would drift ever-so slowly around the tank, yet not come to the surface, nor dive to the bottom. I devised my beasty from a polystyrene ball (for buoyancy), combined with lead weights to give a neutrally-buoyant object. Rather than power it, I employed an aquarium pump to provide a gentle current within the tank. At last it roamed free... but... it always eventually ended up in a corner, and there it would stay. So it was with much reluctance that I tethered it and let the current move it around without it getting stuck. I still regret this.

So, one part solved, another to be solved. To make what would appear to be a cityscape, viewed from a great height, I made a mask for lights to shine through. I sketched out an imagined city made of the dots of light along streets (below left), then drilled through it into a sheet of acrylic I had painted black. Finally, I used waterproofed 'throwies' (LED + battery) of neon orange as the light source below the mask. The photo below right shows the tank with the room lights on - during the show it was in almost total darkness.

Mask for city lights in TANK
TANK in light


Landfall, Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth

On the beach at dusk,
as the tide recedes,
they emerge from the waves.

Harbingers of a different place,
a new state of being.

Contained, fortified, pod-like.
They stare ahead,
far from home.

These sculptures were the result of one of those Close Encounters of the Third Kind obsessions, where the form popped into my head and just wouldn't go away until I made the darn things. I made around 15 of them, out of concrete: I wanted them to be heavy and to wear to reveal the ballast within. There was also a connection with beach pill-boxes and bunkers made from concrete. The eyes were made from recycled road cat's eyes, and I invited people to the beach with torches to view them in their natural habitat.

Landfall, Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth, detail
Landfall, Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth, detail at night

Later, I was invited to display them again at the Newlyn Gallery, in a show called Wastelands (below).

Landfall at Wasteland show, Newlyn gallery, on the beach.
Landfall at Wasteland show, Newlyn gallery, on the beach, later in dusk

0.00627 kg

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