On Saturday afternoon a group of us gathered at a studio in Hackney where Amanda Welch’s recent work was on display. The Hackney Downs pieces were initiated in 2005 as a kind of release from a previous group of works. Sketches based on the artist’s frequently cycled routes across the park were produced from memory rather than on location. A large number of these, executed on paper of varied quality were hung in calendar-like batches from a central pole and from the ceiling in the stairwell of the studio, while some were grouped closely on the walls at the top of the stairs. The idea was not to be precious about these images; they were all aspects of a process of accumulation over time. Some larger painted works and three-dimensional pieces also partook in their own manner of this philosophy of impermanence. A model of a fountain that no longer exists, together with larger and smaller shapes of the park itself were made of papier-maché while a flimsy wooden structure revealed the shape of the park together with its present and previous pathways. These pieces could be catalogued in various ways as some written lists revealed; their arrangement in this particular case was contingent.
After decribing the genesis of the project and its methodologies, Amanda led us from the studio down a lane and under a pedestrian tunnel to the park on the other side of the railway line. Most of us carried items from the exhibition, in my case a small torchlike object which followed the shape and contours of the park on its green upper surface (the park is downland in the strict sense of the word: a rise, slightly off from the middle of the space, makes it impossible to see its opposite border). At certain points we would stop, signalled by the raising of the park ‘torch’ and Amanda would flip to the relevant image from a group of sketches hung together on a rod. The drizzle mostly held off so there was no need to rush for shelter or to protect the more delicate papier-maché items with plastic sheeting. The passage of time had already made some changes to the park, the most notable of which was the presence of a fairground on the rise. Groups of police officers were no doubt bemused by the parade of objects; the artworld’s variation on a Masonic march. Here are some more images. For further detail go to John Welch's blog.
In the studio. Sketches grouped, hanging from the rails. Amanda Welch centre:
Some sketches in the stairwell:
Two of the paintings:
The modelled fountain:
Painting of high-rises (only one of these now exists), white paper shape of the Downs (left), painting of the fountain pediment (right), wooden model of the downs showing existing paths (in wood) and earlier ones (in string). The white stretcher under the model is for transportation: