Much of my work reflects everyday encounters with the delights and absurdities of the mundane and the familiar. As the writer Georges Perec nicely puts it, it’s all about seeing the unremarkable and what happens when nothing is happening. I can spend hours wandering the semi-industrial and urban ‘edgelands” and nameless bits of nowhere in suburbs and suburbia. The art which results is a sort of re-enchantment of the ordinary world around us.
In my wanderings, I’m often struck by those isolated pubs you see dotted around apparently in the middle of nowhere and surviving against the odds; the buildings left exposed on the landscape whilst all round is demolished, redeveloped, redrawn. How do they survive demolition and subsequent displacement of custom? They seem so apart from the world around, and looking from outside on the streets, you never see people enter or exit. A number of the places shown here are now just ghost pubs: boarded up and to let or for sale, even demolished during the last two years I’ve been documenting.
The artworks in this exhibition comprise exploratory drawings, paintings and sketchbook work of these pubs. They are the first stages in a process which may take months or years to resolve. I don’t usually exhibit work from this stage of a project, but people always seem to enjoy looking through journals showing work at the ideas stage, and when I was invited to show at the Reliance, I thought it would be interesting to reveal the process of examining an idea, through from conventional landscape sketches to a more conceptual approach informed by the bird’s eye views of Google maps and the isometric projections of Chinese landscapes.
I’ve felt a bit of a voyeur sometimes, furtively “collecting’ these isolated pubs. Sketching through a car windscreen, or walking and photographing unobtrusively from a distance, I’m distanced, apart, not within these alien areas. In some ways, they are as strange to me as a foreign country and yet paradoxically, they are extremely familiar and I feel an almost overwhelming sense of nostalgia for them. In some ways, they are the areas of my childhood. Not here, not in Leeds, but in other identical communities of invisible ordinariness.