Recent pieces involving mirrors and the public include an Artwork called Ray of Hope which involved a kilometre long line of people either side of the U.S/Mexican border. Each participant wore a mirrored mask which reflected the sun to create a 1000 metre line of light bisecting the border wall.
Another significant mirror piece was called EU SOS which involved over 500 people with mirrors on the white cliffs near Brighton sending a symbolic SOS call to mainland Europe. (This piece took place on the 29th of March 2019 the day which Brexit was first meant to happen. The location was situated right between a Leave and Remain counties.)
Most recently I organised an 80-metre circle of people with mirrors on the Northern Irish border for the second Brexit day as a show of unity in the face of potential border disruption.
When combined with the power of the sun, the light from a mirror is such that it can be seen over 50 miles away. This potential enables large scale images across the landscape to be produced and has been utilised as a means of communication for centuries.
The fascinating simplicity of a mirror gives me both material and metaphorical inspirational; the historical symbolism of the mirror as portal to the underworld or means for an individual to contemplate their own reflection/mortality. In the age of the selfie, these dual meanings intrigue me greatly.
Mirrors have held significance for me since childhood. Early experiments with photography and camera obscura led me to become more interested in their physical properties than the image they assisted in creating. Summer holidays spent dismantling SLR cameras, slide projectors and sending morse code signals created an obsession with optics and light, or more specifically, sunlight.
Reflected sunlight now personally represents an ethereal energy symbolising human spirit, hope or life itself.
Along with migration and border issues, these large scale, participatory interventions also take the navigational forms of lay lines as an inspirational source; ancient and invisible routes across the country which form the basis of our present network of towns, transport links, place names and borders.
Territories and borders have been a present theme in my life from growing up along Offa’s Dyke (the historic border between England and Wales.) Crossing over an invisible yet tangible border to go to school or the shops is a routine which feels as natural as it does unnatural. Subtle changes in street signs, building materials, accents and attitudes is something which I have observed and normalised. Navigational lines, borders, and inner mapping of the landscape whether rural or urban, physical or phycological is ingrained in all of our daily lives.
This environmental awareness has led me to appreciate and react to the urban as if it were rural and the countryside as if it were a city. Finding equal vitality within natural or man-made processes and viewing their differing energies and waste products is a constant source of inspiration.
Working outdoors, assimilating into everyday life, and working on location is a very important basis of my practice. Embedding a piece in the environment so that it becomes a part of the community is something I value greatly.
When working in the studio I utilise materials from and found in an environment retaining an essence of a location within the finished piece. When working outdoors I aim towards playfulness by bringing members of the public together and including them within an artwork such as in Ray of Hope or with my outdoor public Installations on the street.
I attempt to break down personal space both physical and mental by creating a participatory experience and creating Artworks which become embedded within people’s everyday life.
Assemblage / Collage
I have collected found objects for over 20 years now. This process began in childhood with collecting stones, fossils and artifacts found in ploughed fields along the Welsh Marches. Litter also had great impact on me as a child. In a rural environment a discarded crisp packet becomes something so obvious that it demands to be picked up. Occasionally this litter may be a handwritten note or train ticket which betrays the history of its previous owner and elevates it to become part of a collection.
Environmental sustainability and recycling forms a part of the origin of my collecting though is a secondary driving force. I view my compulsion to pick up litter as a more rewarding and selfish activity of hunting for objects as treasure or to be used as materials. Occasionally the two overlap
These objects inevitably form collections which can broadly be categorised into four types: Unique items, multiple items, talismanic treasures, or diaries.
Unique objects such as handwritten notes, shopping lists or items which have been twisted or torn through nervous anxiety often hold a biographical echo of their past owner or place it was found.
Multiple items such as soles of shoes, arms of spectacles, beer bottle caps, nitrous oxide cannister or destroyed credit cards etc. take on a further utility/importance when gathered in great numbers. Items such as these can become units from which patterns or larger objects can be made. Quantity itself can aslo be a powerful reflection of humanity.
Talismanic objects or treasures could be archaeological artifacts, natural items found in places of importance or items which glisten and shine. They may titilate my inner Magpie and be interesting for their patina or sheer beauty/ugliness. This category is broad and can take any form or scale incorporating man made or natural items and wide-ranging materials.
I also periodically collect items over a certain timespan or distance. A week or one day could be designated and everything collected within that time will then take the form of a diary. A walk through a certain area can be recorded the same way.
The resulting assemblages act as personal diary, social anthropological record, objects of curiosity and historic document of place.
In the past I have returned specifically to a street corner having regretted not picking up an object which I passed earlier in the day. I find it strange that something which can have had such an impact on me can also be passed by unoticed by hundreds of other people. I have constructed the simple rule that if something interested me enough to pick it up, I will take it back to the studio and let it sit alongside the rest of the collection. If it remains interesting, then it becomes part of a work.