Hello, I am now very much in residence at Valle Crucis. The Summer House behind the Abbey is now my studio and I am staying practically next door on a residential caravan site. I think being in one place, focusing on one thing, for a six month period has yet to sink in but it is very, very much welcome. Like most contemporary artists I’ve done a roaring trade in spinning various plates all at once: a combination of part time jobs, making, writing, exhibiting and cut and thrust research. It’s easy to lose time for reflection, proper reading and taking risks – you end up fighting for it rather than it happening organically. So it is quite a shock to stop; physically removing myself and landing here in the “Vale of the Cross” to focus on many things which drive my work under one, Abbey shaped, umbrella.
Needless to say, I have brought all the books I haven’t got round to reading and I know I have enough time for some of those things I’ve wanted to do, but ran out of time to try to filter back through and inform my response to the Abbey. So I am settling in.
The Summer House until recently housed an animatronic monk and other heritage interpretation about the site, but now it houses me (normally animate after 10am) and in time will house my work in progress and my creative interpretation of the Abbey. I hope it’s an upgrade for visitors, I did joke with Roger, custodian of the Abbey, about donning the monk’s robes and sitting very still but I promise I won’t do that.
The Summer House has also been a holiday retreat and there was some discussion yesterday about the building being much older than the 1774 stone suggests plus its possible function as a mill during the working life of the Abbey. This reuse and changing of function chimes in with the themes that drive my work, repairing and altering things so that we are inadvertently, or purposely, stamping ourselves on an object, material or place. The Abbey has so much of this, doorways have been bricked up and inserted, new floors have been put in and destroyed, there was at least two fires, it was farm buildings following the dissolution, and a rich man’s folly at some point. There’s original mason marks on the bricks which must be circa 1201, and today I spotted contemporary graffiti on the inner Chapter House wall. The dormitory walls are currently my favourite for obvious reasons.