Photos of the clay figures are beginning to come in, for which I’m very grateful. There’s something quite liberating for me in the fact that for these 40 days I don’t have any responsibility for them – whatever happens to them, let it happen. Unlike the paintings I’m wrestling with at the moment where every brush stroke seems to take me on a roller coaster between glory and despondency (which is why, for the moment, I won’t be showing how they’re progressing!).
Nevertheless, I still think about how the children are doing. Some of them I pass in the city centre and I see that one has become just a grey smear on the tarmac, others have disappeared completely whilst a few remain intact and keep up their quiet vigil.
Others are succumbing to the elements – like this photo I received from Ecclesall Woods with the comment ‘not sure what it is/was’:
This gets towards the heart of what I am trying to explore with this project, when I finally gather up all that remains (which may well be very little) we will be able to see what effect the world has had on these fragile figures. Some will be worn down by rain, wind and time, some will have been swept away by street sweepers or stolen, or crushed underfoot. One remains in a church where, I suspect, it will stay safe and unchanged.
I remember when my first child was born – he was so fragile and perfect, untouched by the rigours of life. I was aware as soon as we stepped out of the sterile hospital into the cloud of smokers congregating at the entrance that moving out into the world meant becoming polluted, becoming dirty and damaged. But what kind of life is spent in a sterile space? It’s when we start to get dirty that we change, grow and become more human.
If we have the courage to engage with the world rather than retreat from it, if we succumb to the danger of growth, people may looked at our messy and damaged lives and say ‘not sure what it is’. But in the end, when we survey all that remains, at least we will be able to say ‘I have lived’.
Details of opening times for the wilderness exhibition, of which this work will be a part, are now available at www.wilderness-exhibition.com.