Just as I arrived to begin my residency in HMP (Her Magesty’s Prison) The Verne it closed. Over the next few months, the time of my residency, it transformed itself into an IRC (Immigration Removal Centre). The work I made during this time reflected The Verne’s in-between status. To mark the occasion of the closure, we all got an engraved prison warder’s whistle and mine has been lying at the bottom of a box marked ‘Verne’ since then.
I have had the chance to work with some pretty amazing people over the years, including Pascal Mychalysin, the master mason at Gloucester Cathedral. This was back in 1998 when I was artist-in-residence there. One day we were up on the scaffolding looking at the work he was doing restoring some of the stonework, when he pulled out a loose piece of mortal and with it came this oyster shell. Pascal reckoned that it was put there by a medieval mason on his lunch break, stuffing the empty shell of the oyster that he had just eaten into to the crack to get rid of it. Oysters were a common food in those days, or so I was led to believe. I held onto that shell with its mortar pedestal. For a moment the centuries between then and now collapsed. That is also how I see Pascal: through his work he has a direct connection to those time that he has come to embody.
The studio clearout continues. I guess I take my englishness with me wherever you go, even into the open-plan studio Gute Gründe that was my base during our Berlin years (2003–2007): hence ‘knight’ Ryder on this reminder to pay for the phone. It was a strange mix in that studio, quite a few children’s book illustrators as well as other artists. Three weeks in Berlin, one week in the UK: that was my routine at the time. I got to know Easyjet very well!
The studio clear out continues and this was in one of the boxes: the cremated remains of a swan that made it all the way from Siberia only to die on arrival at its breeding grounds on the Severn Estuary. That swan has been flying in my imagination ever since. I know what she looked like, her unique markings, her life history; and I know I need to make an artwork out of this precious bag of carbon.
A polaroid from our first year at the RCA. Meet Mr Samuel Kaliski, micro-gallery owner and art shark. He cruised the waters of the RCA offering shows in his Demandesque space. As if struck by a tsunami of indecision, many artworks at the time were ‘Untitled’, and so it is with Adam’s current venture Untitled Motorcycles.
The studio clearout continues, as do the memories. Proust had his madeleine; I’ve got the these work trousers, which take me back to 1998 and my residency at Gloucester cathedral. Working with natural latex again, this time to make a large installation, ‘The Words to Say It’, covering the whole of the crypt. For weeks on end the studio stank of ammonia, used to stop the latex setting too quickly when exposed to air. My jeans became encrusted as I worked away, and the smell of ammonia seared through my brain throughout that winter!