Realm (2009-2013) depicts a world that floats between reality and fantasy; between believable spaces and sites of make believe. Down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass and into the wardrobe, all of these paths lead from the territory of the real, into the realm of wonder and myth.
Realm consists of double exposure images that create a layering of realities. A familiar domestic interior and a potentially mythological landscape combine to create an alternative reality, with reference to texts such as CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and George McDonald’s Phantastes: A Fairie Romance for Men and Women. Through these images the home becomes a portal into a mythical realm.
The abandoned interior element of each photograph has been captured in derelict croft houses found in the Highlands of Scotland. The majority of which were photographed during a residency at Timespan Museum in 2012. The projected mythical landscapes are sites of folklore and fable, captured all over the British Isles.
Realm I (The Faerie Glen)
Realm II (The Fairy Pools)
Realm III (Smoo Cave)
Realm IV (The Water Spirit)
Realm V (The Sacred Grove)
Realm VI (Llyn Cwm Llwch)
Realm VII (The Silent Pool)
Realm VIII (Somnambulist)
Realm IX (The Pixie Glen)
Realm X (Meán Fómhair)
Realm XI (Shapeshifter)
Realm XII (The Blue Bell)
Installation shot, 'Realm', 2013, Timespan Museum and Art Centre, Scotland.
Cosmogony (2011-2012) explores the poetic symbolism of global creation myths. There are countless cosmogonies, which over millennia seek to tell the story of the creation of the cosmos. In this series miniature forest dioramas form a stage to depict nocturnal scenes suggesting beginnings. Cosmogonies are alluded to, woven together and made new. These photographs of constructed landscapes reference the idea of origins but also attempt explore the inherent surreal qualities of a photograph to depict a world that occupies a liminal space between reality and fantasy.
This series is available to purchase as limited edition prints via Four Corners Film.
The Days are Falling
The Days are Falling (2011–2012) began after an on-going morning ritual monitoring the last remaining leaf on a tree in my garden. It seemed to hang on for weeks despite strong winds and rain. For me this image spoke of determination, holding on and hope. I started to photograph the last leaf or leaves remaining on trees in the local area.
Around the same time I shared these images with poet and friend Sarah Fordham. We started a dialogue about how we read the symbol of the last leaf. Sarah’s poem 'The days are falling from the trees', describes an image of letting go, the cycle of life and death. I was interested in how our interpretations of the same visual were so different. My reading is about holding on and Sarah’s is about letting go. I am indebted to Sarah for the title of this series that references her poem, which can be read here.
This project was completed during a residency at Camberwell College of Art, supported by the AA2A scheme.
Within (2007) explores the tension between fantasy (the miniature) and reality (the gigantic). From within each doll’s house room, through the recurring windows, we gaze out to the larger reality of a real home. The commonplace domestic details are transformed into strange and uncanny vistas. In the half light within, forgotten toys and Narnian furniture are laid abandoned, waiting to be played with once more.
It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was…Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way (1).
Home: a place of comfort and love, a container of memories, a site for longings and a place to belong. Much like Mole’s search for his Dolce Domum in The Wind in the Willows, for many years my practice has explored this elusive state of longing for home. The setting or stage for these photographs has moved from my childhood home, to strangers’ empty homes to doll’s houses. The doll’s house has captured my imagination from an early age since watching the film The Incredible Shrinking Man as a child, where the film’s diminutive hero is relegated to the doll’s house only to be attacked by a ferocious pet cat. A doll’s house is a dream home in miniature, a place for childhood imaginings and adult escapism. I have used the construct of the miniature home to make photographs that depict a world that floats between reality and fantasy, between believable spaces and sites of make believe.
The empty and neglected bedrooms in Belonging (2006), that seem to groan with implicit memories, loosely represent the unease and weariness encountered throughout my own uncertain quest for home. In fact the repetitive representation of rooms has haunted my photographic practice for many years. Rooms which once served as the playgrounds of childhood fantasy, sometimes become places of paradox; where the perfection of the fairy-tale is found by adult experience to be wanting. Betrayed by the conviction of innocence, we begin the grown-up search for that elusive place and position in which we can truly feel at-home; where we belong.
1. Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908
The series Home (2006), reveals a darker, almost unfamiliar view to the house which I grew up in. The pictures were taken at night and combine the darkened private interior with the warm glow of suburbia outside.
Semi-detached (2006) explores the humble but iconic architecture of the suburban semi-detached home, with its neat front garden, the bay fronted windows and red tiled roof. I grew up in a pebbled-dashed semi in leafy Middlesex. The semi-detached house seems to be a symbol of suburbia and all that might represent. The sprawl of suburbia boomed in the British interwar period, housing was built up in the countryside surrounding the towns and cities. In London, suburbia grew out to the Northwest along the route of the Metropolitan Railway. My family settled in sleepy Eastcote in the heart of John Betjeman’s Metroland. Whilst unfashionable now as other areas of London have become more ‘desirable’ for 21st century living, the suburban areas remain like a warm and comfortable timewarp, with streets, houses and gardens still in their early twentieth century layout, including internal and external appearances.
As a child, the uncanny feeling experienced whilst in next door’s house remains: it was a mirror image of our own home and the décor was different but it felt strangely familiar.
Semi-detached is presented as an artist’s book. The images show the architectural symmetry of the two halves, whilst revealing subtle differences in the tastes of the owners of each side. The inhabitants are absent in these pictures; their identity suggested by the private interiors of their homes.
The Watchers (2005) depicts domestic space from the viewpoint of the television set. The viewers are absent from the images with only clues of the watcher's identity being encoded in their domestic environment. The scenes are lit solely by the glow of the television. On a rudimentary level, the television is a source of entertainment and information, but often the television becomes a member of the family or a surrogate companion.