Notice To Quit
29 Sep 21 by justatest
Landlords hate artists. It's something about their space filling up with paintings and sculptures that makes them jittery and meaner than usual. Or so I was thinking after having received the latest written notice to quit the apartment we were renting. After a long time of anxiously mulling the options to seek a new place, I looked down at my hand. Unconsciously, I must have nervously torn a little strip of paper from the letter and continuously rolled it back and forth in a sense of desperation. Right from the beginning as an 18 year old living in a grotty bedsit on the North quays of Dublin I've had endless issues with owners despite trying to keep my head down, paying on time, not causing trouble.

finished work seen from front

Completed rear view

finished work seen from rear

Completed view from side

finished work seen from side

Completed side view

finished work viewed from side

Paint at last

first oil colour is applied to the surface

Mapping out the surface in play. I begin the process of familiarization with the object in terms of the application of colour, to get a feel for the dimensions and form.
At this juncture my colleague and friend, the Canadian artist Hillel Kagan [LINK] would question the use of ..illusionist planes and forms of the painted surface [that] take away from the forms of the sculpture itself... By that he is correctly stating that the illusion of the planes of colour are fighting the real forms of the piece resulting in confusion and lack of clarity in the work. And for this I don´t really have an answer, other than to say that a ´finished´ work is not what I was seeking. It was more a process of burrowing, digging down for something missing, trying to find equanimity. I would sit there scratching away at the surface for hours...

final coats of gesso

surface gesso-ing before painting

Getting closer at last to beginning to paint the thing. A few coats of gesso so the surface is hard to the touch with no soft fabric material give about it.

Jute covering

jute dried then rolled up again

Well it looks like the piece has become too heavy to hang so it has now returned to it's previous rolled-up state.
December now, very wet and cold and it's taking ages to dry, so I'm going to leave the jute and glue for a week or so as the more I work on it now, the more I end up undoing what I've just done.
Looking at the work now, I'm reminded of a photo of the war in Yugoslavia of the body of a woman lying by the desolate roadside of midday. She had been murdered by a sniper. In the background a VW Golf speeds by without bothering to stop - perhaps to avoid more bullets.
She had been out shopping for groceries, and there was some young guy there to pick her off. What a victory. [LINK]
Some years after when that photo was taken, in Tirana I met Mustafa, a gentle giant of a man who had fought in the civilian defence of the city during the years of the siege of Sarajevo. He told me coach tours from Belgrade would come to pass the weekend to amuse themselves as snipers sharp-shooting at the inhabitants of the besieged city.

Applying jute

glueing jute fabric

Onto more interesting work. I´m covering the whole surface with old jute rice sacks that have that deep musky scent of the orient. Lots of glue and weeks to allow slowly dry then roll it up again. I'd really like to leave the work like that - those warm sombre browns are appealingly evocative. However I'm driven to drag this one down again into my personal mire.

On the wall test

opened roll hanging

At this stage, after two layers of paper and gesso, I allowed it to unroll and open out, then thought it might look interesting on the wall. Well it does look sort of different but then it veers away from original intention, and I´d prefer to keep to that. Also I´d have horrendous problems trying to find a place to store such a big awkward lump of a thing (it´ll already be hard enough even when rolled up)

First gesso

a coat of gesso when the paper dried

Once the paper had dried, I prepared hot gesso and painted a coat in order to give it an even appearance and to toughen up a little the paper foundation. It was also a good base for when I decided some time later that a further second layer of paper and gesso was needed.

Initial paper covering

drying out the 1st paper covering

The first layer of paper and glue is complete and waiting to dry. The city in winter is cold and damp so some weeks pass before any further work can begin.

Surface start

begin with paper base

Back to practicalities. I need to have a suface on this wire structure so I begin with a simple foundation of paper and rabbit-skin glue.

Nervous roll

rolled-up base structure

And when it´s complete, I roll it up just like the paper.
At this stage, I´m not at all sure of the motive for doing this piece. Is it because I quite like that cut cylindrical form? or that the surprise of the forgotten contents of the box made me feel there was a story to complete? or that the anger and anxiety of feeling powerless before what I viewed as exploitation and greed merited further examination? These questions were in my mind at the time but I had no answer other than the conviction for the need to continue with the ¨thing¨ in order to understand eventually if there was a rationale (or not) for the decision to undertake it.

Starting out

building the wire structure

So with the little roll of paper in mind, I´ve begun to make up a base wire structure. The size was limited by the dimensions available in the little garage I used as a studio (and judging by that photo, a place for the kid´s footballs)

What's in the box?

why is that there?

It wasn't until some years later that I stumbled over the sealed box, opened it, and to my surprise found a piece of paper. Slowly the memory of the letter of notice to quit came back to me.
And so I'm thinking of basing a work on this. It's little to go by I know, and may not lead anywhere however I've clearly kept it so carefully for a reason.

Anxious time

nervous roll

I seem to recall musing over the tiny paper roll in my palm, and deciding to keep it for another day. I placed it in a metal box, sealed it, and forgot all about it.