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Close, too close?

Cathedral smI have lived in the shadow of this building for more than a decade (seen here from my front door). The cathedral close at Gloucester has been my home all this time; two of my sons were born here. But in a few weeks we will live elsewhere, and I have been wondering how this building has affected my work. Fresh out of college, I came here as artist-in-residence, spending a year responding to the building, its architecture and community. I made various works, the main one being ‘The Words to Say It’, an installation in the crypt made out of latex. I was so fired up at the end of that year I applied for a second year (knowing full well there was no chance). It was just that I had much more work I wanted to make, now that I understood the place a little more, it seemed a waste not to continue. I did return, a couple of years later, with artNucleus and a show called ‘Naked Nave’: bringing together ten English and German artists to make sound works for one week in the Norman nave, which was emptied of all its clutter for the occasion. Just sound, space and stone. That was an amazing week. It surprised me how there was a much stronger reaction to contemporary sound than to contemporary visuals in that space, normally reserved for choir and organ. We had really got under the skin. The nave is still, to this day, emptied once a year of furniture, to be experienced in all its resonant glory. When, some years later, there was a retrospective of resident artists’ work (all ten of us), I was to be found blowing a hollow ball made from my own hair around the cloisters. But since then nothing. Well, that is not true: plenty of ideas in my sketchbook and a couple of proposals that didn’t get the funding they needed. Nowadays, the building, the whole layout and rhythm of this place, has taken on a new form: almost like a bone in my body. So what will happen when that bone is extracted and once again becomes something I can observe from outside? I’m waiting to see…

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