Don’t Look Now

Two months following the start of the programme at the Florence Trust after settling into the Lady Chapel of St Saviours Church, a kind of hermetically sealed chamber owing to its prior occupation by a photographer, I hadn’t started living there yet – which was something I was not supposed to do. I experienced a kind of trauma. The origin of this trauma culminated over a period – perhaps. Before I approached the Trust to take me on just that – trust. I had seen Nicholas Roeg’s film: ’Don’t Look Now’ (1973) As I am writing today on the 24 November 2018, his family announces the film director’s passing on. Couple Laura and John Baxter played by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, the film is adapted from the Daphne du Maurier short story, a fact I discovered retrospectively upon chancing on a commemorative plaque to Grandfather Gerald, domicile adjacent to The Mount Square in Hampstead where I stayed later in time. The film viscerally scored the structure in question of materiality in my practice. Until then, I had been produced images on slide film, positives in 5 x 4 or 8 x 10 format which I couldn’t leave alone. I wanted to get to the emulsion somehow and curtail the extension of images to the printers – who took things out of my hand or any hands – the natural progression for slide film was inevitably the drum scanner, and then the Durst LAMDA machine for printing. I spent the few months, I had taking delivery of 24-inch RA-4 chemical print processor and DeVere 8 x 10 enlarger, to print of both positive and negatives with mixed results. From an analogue drum in the processor, which had imprinted by a foreign material, giving decorative channels and gullies to my prints which I used to affect. This, still not close enough to the contact I wished to make the moment of light and chemistry. I began to print my drawings, another failure or half-journey towards the idea. Because it was the moment that Sutherland sees the strange, hooded figure seated in a pew in the church of his Venice restoration project Across a 35mm slide on the light box in A room of an un-located archetypal English cottage, that prognosticatory function makes awards him sight of something outside the frame of capture. This hadn’t happened to me that year. And why should it? In the film, vermilion ink spills or red dye proliferates across the surface of that source which, though an accident, models the heralding of the much greater tragedy of Christine’s simultaneous death in the pool be- yond the bank of the cottage front door. Her death somehow masked by the conjoining radiance of her red Macintosh coat, with the object of Donald Sutherland/ John Baxter’s augury. Even her death and the future possibility of grief is extricated from ‘Don’t Look Now’, as that which can be looked at, Only Christine’s horrific substitute: a banal and unsatisfactory metaphor setting the scene for another future tragedy. There I was: lights down, safelight hanging in, with transparency in developer solution and an image meeting its own future when the light changed. The sodium lights of the Florence Trust illuminated; I had a spoilt piece of work in front me. It was no problem as most works had little or no quality control at this stage and the application of them was mostly for pitted against the idea of a future masterpiece – this I thought was the aim of a residency. I hear a voice, that of the director Paul who says he didn’t think I was in as the lights were of. The irony of that statement didn’t escape me. But it might have further down the line when I had moved into this room after I lost my job and apartment in that chain of order having faced injury care of a van turning over my bicycle’s front wheel. His voice was lit up by words to the effect that I Julie Christie had been this moment in the church yard collecting seeds and had just departed. Had the director of the Trust reanimated ‘Don’t Look Now’? In the role of special effects assistant, by spoiling a transparency I had been working on influenced by the film I had seen. In possession of having welcomed my briefly opposite actor, Julie Christie having myself taken on John Baxter in my Lady Chapel studio by proxy; her none the wiser having left superstitious may- hem in her wake and with a few seeds in her hands. Meeting Julie that day, I might have held her thought to hold her responsible for re-enacting a scene remotely.

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