Press Release | Initial Proposal | Consequent Thoughts

Press Release

Text taken from the OVADA press release.

"OVADA presents Residue: the results of three artists' residencies. Catherine Charnock, Nicholas Hedges and Tom Milnes are all emerging artists who were chosen from open submission. Here they present a dynamic collection of work in a diverse range of media, including painting, sculpture and sound. The work in the exhibition has been developed and created during the residency period of five weeks. This period of time was provided for research, and its results are not all finished works, but therefore give viewers a fascinating insight into the processes of making contemporary art. In addition, during the residency period, interesting dialogues have emerged between the three artists' work.

Recent graduate Tom Milnes encourages audience interaction with his multi-media works. These works are the result of process-led research, often using found objects and recorded sound and exploring their potential through hands-on experimentation. In multi-media interactive installations, Milnes demonstrates visual ways of displaying sound and sound technology. During his time in residence at the gallery, Milnes has been developing a new work that fuses sound and sculpture together, and tests the physical properties of the materials he uses.

Milnes' concerns with sound and space concur with Nicholas Hedges' background in art and music. Hedges' work is concerned both with place and in particular memory, both individual and collective. How do we as individuals access the memory of a place (a city, a building, a forest) and in turn, the lives of those who came before us? What is our relationship with these people and vice-versa? Visiting places which have witnessed terrible traumas such as Auschwitz and Ypres, Nicholas has used a variety of media to examine these and related questions.

While Hedges works are monuments to the serious, sombre aspects of our collective past, Catherine Charnock works with oil on canvas and charcoal on paper to create works exploring imagery of toys - in particular, toy soldiers. She is interested in the way that these become appropriated into our domestic environments, and draws and paints these environments in ways that they appear to be both familiar and alien. As a result, these seemingly safe spaces reveal a latent potential for violence. Her images also explore scale; tiny figures are depicted in huge drawings, where they fight among dead flowers that give away their real proportions. These fantastical creations and imaginary scenes are both sinister and playful, exposing Charnock's fascination with the uncanny as manifested in the everyday. Like Milnes and Hedges, she takes commonplace objects and transforms them into something more thought-provoking, and highlights for us their disarming and poignant qualities."

The title of the residency is Residue; a definition of residue is as follows:

something that remains after a part is removed, disposed of, or used; remainder; rest; remnant.

Initial Proposal

The following text is an edited version of my initial proposal for the OVADA residency and follows on from work I made about Auschwitz-Birkenau towards the end of last year.

"One of the most poignant themes pertinent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Holocaust in general, is that of displacement, of people in transit; people waiting to go somewhere; people arriving. Today, all that remains of the vast majority of those desperate travellers is a catalogue of photographs and the remnants of luggage; residues of extinguished lives.

The following is taken from a statement regarding a project which I am currently developing called

'In Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau it is estimated that 1.1 million people perished at the hands of the Nazis. On visiting the site, one is made all too aware of this horrific toll, through the piles of shoes, suitcases, hair and other belongings taken from those who died there. The Nazis' patent lack of humanity and the subsequent dehumanization of its victims, has left us not only with a death toll too large to comprehend, but a collection of personal artefacts - now massed into single objects - from which we struggle to find the men, women and children to whom they once belonged.

We struggle in effect, to see the individual, but among the 1.1 million dead are 1.1 million names: people - individuals - who lived, just as we live now. Death must not erase all trace of individual existence. will therefore attempt to dismantle the mountains of possessions, and relate individual objects to our own present-day lives, so that we might better remember that those who perished in this atrocity had lives before the Holocaust. They once lived, as we do now.'

The location of OVADA, so near the central bus station, makes it an ideal place in which to explore the theme stated above (displacement, people in transit).

Here too, people are in transit; coming and going, carrying luggage (pieces of themselves as objects), anonymous to everyone else. just as most of those who died in Auschwitz, in the Holocaust, or in wars and conflicts throughout history are anonymous to us today; just, in fact as most people are every day, to each and every one of us. What I would like to do is make some of these modern-day anonymous travellers known to us, through testimonies, photographs, maps and residual objects, so that when we are confronted with stories, testimonies, photographs or films about the Holocaust, about wars and disasters, we might find the individuals behind the names and the statistics."

Consequent Thoughts

The main theme in this proposal is 'the anonymity of people' particularly those in transit, and as well as being linked with my work on the Holocaust, it's a recurrent theme in my work with Old Photographs (which are themselves of course pertinent to visual representations of the Holocaust). One such image can be seen below.

We can never know what it was like for people such as those in the photograph above, we can never imagine the depths of their suffering, and therefore, it is not in anyway, the purpose of my work to try. What I am interested in doing, is finding the individuals amongst the countless victims; seeing them not only as victims but, as I stated above, people who once lived. For the most part, this is impossible, for many of those who died, went to their deaths leaving little or no trace of their existence. But what we can do, is examine our own lives, or the lives of those who live around us. We can look closely at the objects which carry our memories, at the journeys we all make, and at the places with which we are each familiar, and, in discovering or rediscovering our own individuality and the individuality of others, imagine what it would be like to leave it all behind; if only a little. At the very least, we might try.