Well, it’s Friday, and the work is done. I went into the studio this morning to wrestle with paper and timber, and fortunately thought to ask my son to come along and help. After the whole thing crashed down on me yesterday (luckily missing the table with 9 paint buckets full of paint, and equally luckily not tearing in half as the stapled battens pinged free in all directions), I realised the whole thing was just too big for one person to manhandle, and indeed by the time it was eventually installed, 6 people were kindly assisting us in propping the edifice up in a corner of the exhibition space.
Sighs of relief all around. In my original assessment of what would be required to install the piece, I thought I would just be able to roll it up in the studio, and unroll it in the space. But yesterday’s collapse had shown just how heavy the whole thing was, and in the end, just to vacate the studio, we had to take off all the internal battens, and then re-assemble in situ. And that decision was made only after it collapsed yet again over the pair of us, and we were stumbling around avoiding crashing timber and desperately trying to prevent tearing.
And so it’s now in place, and I feel a great weight off my shoulders, both literally and metaphorically. It has been a revealing and challenging exercise in a number of ways.
First, the sheer size. Eventually 6.4m x 1.7m, it greatly exceeds any single piece I have previously worked on, and logistically stretched me and my resources to the maximum.
Next, the process. Starting on a blank piece of paper at one end, and creeping along the surface with no idea from one half hour to the next what would be filling the upcoming space. The ultimate in risk-taking with materials which allowed for no going back or false steps. No safety net. Funnily enough, I did something similar when I was five. I sellotaped a whole load of sheets of paper together, and drew a street in biro. I can still picture the vegetable stalls and the ladies pushing pushchairs, drawn in that funny elongated way that kids draw anything attached to a human being. I think I have been wanting to revisit this idea ever since!!
Next, and related to the previous one, no prior sketches or exploratory or investigative work specifically for the piece. This breaks a number of ‘rules’ promulgated during my degree course, but in a sense the drawing represents the outcome of months of thinking about the area and how I might best depict the odd mix of people passing through on a daily basis.
Next, the deadline. Giving myself four days to produce something of this size from scratch. No wonder I’m shattered.
I’m sure there’s more. I feel a real sense of having achieved something. It’s good to have had a really productive week.