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Whispers from the Walls - part 4 - listening for meaning

I was delighted to spend time looking at and visually documenting the historical wall papers and enjoyed the research that followed but as an artist it is the creative process that most excites me. The desire to make something, to work with materials and craft something new drives my practice. The initial decisions about what to make is intuitive for me, driven by feeling rather than cognitive reasoning. As I've become more interested in meanings in my work I've starting to ask what drives these intuitive decisions. I am trying to listen to my motivations and ask why they are there. What I am trying to say is that rather than applying an external meaning to my work, for example saying that it represents x or symbolises y, I'm interested in what meanings are already in the work and I am trying to listen for what these meaning are.

As soon as I saw the cartes de viste I knew I wanted to layer these portraits of unknown people into the damaged wall papers letting parts of the faces become hidden and obscured. I had a glorious time experimenting with materials, exploring different ways of combining the faces and images of the wall papers, it felt like something I needed to do and I am happy with the outcomes.

But I ask myself why?

Why was this process so appealing to me and why do the outcomes speak to me?

A fascination with faces is a natural part of being human, we communicate and understand so much through facial expression and appearance and as a portrait artist I have spent much time studying them. Generally I work with images of people I know or who are significant to my clients and the connection I feel to them is very important. Whilst it could be claimed that appearances are only skin deep I can't help believing that subtleties in expression reveal something of a personality or even the inner life. I certainly find the connection I feel with whoever I am drawing to be emotive and powerful.

The faces on these tiny visiting cards are full of mystery, we know nothing about who they were, their names are not on the cards. Purchased on the internet from collectors, some abroad, who have no record of their story tracing these people would be impossible . The only thing we do know is that they were taken by George Hadley or his assistants at his studio at 36 Castle Hill in Lincoln and therefore these people would have walked past the wallpaper when it hung in the entrance way. We can take a guess as to which layer would have been visible at the time. But beyond that we only have questions.

Would they even have noticed it?

Would it have made some sort of subconscious impression on them?

Did it convey subliminal messages about the taste and success of the photographer?

Did it contribute to their experience of having their portrait taken?

What were they feeling when they were in front of the camera?

What was going on in their lives on that particular day?

We can use our imaginations but we can never know.

It's these unknowns and the simultaneous search for connection with these people, whose lives would have been so similar and so different to ours, that captivates me. The age damaged wallpapers, which could so easily have been discarded, and the qualities of the Victorian photographs, monotone, capturing only partial information and touched by a patina of time are all ghostly remnants which act as a quiet reminder that our lives are transient, that the experiences we feel are so permanent now will, in time, be as lost as the experiences of these people.

And the beauty is in the transience.

Themes of the transience of life, of the ephemeral and of seeing beauty in fleeting moments can, I think, be found in all my work, especially the work I make for myself, but also in my client commissions. And these are things I want to write about more and continue to explore. To see more of my work you can visit the galleries on my website here.

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thank you for this insight into the development of theses pieces of your work - i can see how the combination of wallpapers and images taken near them would trigger all these questions and more - it shows how simple items brought together can stimulate interesting developments

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