Illiers Combray, Pivot, Unravelling the Ripple, STELLS

illiersall

Helen Douglas Zoë Irvineilliers1 Illiers Combray
Helen Douglas
Zoë Irvine
United Kingdom, 2004

In the month of May, Zoe and I visited Illiers Combray, the small town in France immortalized by Marcel Proust in his epic novel In Search of Lost Time. Neither of us had been there before, both of us had read some Proust. For a week we explored the town and the surrounding countryside, weaving in and out of fact and fiction. And how amazing was that. On foot or on bicycles we would set off in different directions, following our own instinct: invariably our paths intersected. Zoe gathered sound and I gathered images. In the evenings we crossed over and I listened and she looked: we tossed in our dreams as our batteries charged, and off we would set again the next day. United in our shared time together and sense of place, we returned home – via Paris – to shape our own distinct memories and reveries: to elliptically bring them together and create the textured, multi-layered soundscape composition (Zoe) and interwoven visual narrative.

Offset litho

pivot1

Helen Douglas Poem by Thomas Evans United Kingdom, 2003 Helen Douglas
Poem by Thomas Evans
United Kingdom, 2003

Pivot was made when I was seriously ill with Labyrinthitis and my partnership/marriage with Telfer was falling apart. The ground gone from under my feet, I was spinning. I had gone to Portugal, to get away, to find warmth, to mark – I can’t write celebrate – my 50th birthday. In suspended limbo. I arrived in Faro and stayed – knowing that with the airport close by I could get home. I slowly began to venture out: my legs like cotton wool. Every time I looked up I would twiz. But as I did I saw these balconies, beaconing to me: suspended as offerings of dailyness and simple, tender, tended sproutings, within the geometry of a faded, optimistically jaunty 60s modernism. Each look up was a morning supplication to meet these offerings. Looking up cheered me up. I took photographs. With their bright white surroundings, they composed themselves for the page. Lines, planes, leafy sproutings and…drain pipe full stops.

Offset litho

ripple1

ripple2Unravelling the Ripple
Helen Douglas
Essay by Rebecca Solnit
United Kingdom, 2001

The title came to me in a dream, long before I made the book. I knew I would gather my images on the Island of Muck, an island I had known since childhood. This book is about that place of meeting between sea and land, that constant shifting place of ebb and flow. I knew this place in my body, I knew dryness, gritty, sandy dryness in the eye, in the body, I knew textural wetness and salty taste, I knew succulent rock pools for the finger, and I understood flow. This book did flow across the page, into the creviced gutter, and on and on till pounding wave. Rebecca wrote: “This book could be bound as a circle, the pages like spokes on a wheel, a turning investigation of the sea, a continuity that folds back on itself, a walk that went all the way around an island to end at its beginning…. The sea that always seems I like a metaphor but one that is always moving, can not be fixed, like a heart that is like a tongue that is like a mystery that is like a story that is like a border that is like something altogether different and like everything at once the treasure that always runs through your fingers and never runs out.”

STELLS Helen Douglas United Kingdom, 1978

STELLS
Helen Douglas
United Kingdom, 1978

Stells are made of local stone and were used to introduce/heft new ewe lambs onto their particular hill within the Scottish Borders. In winter they provide shelter.

When Telfer and I first came to Deuchar Mill in Yarrow we were finding our sense of home and place. Part of our finding was by walking out from the Mill into the surrounding hills. For this book we would walk out with our old plate camera. Set on a tripod on very uneven ground, and using a leveler, we focused on the Stell, and made sure we had the surrounding hill/s and sheep in the frame: the stell central, lying with the land, and gathering all around to it. We would then return home with the individual negative plate and develop it as a contact print in the darkroom, an inner room within our home, for one page of the book. Then we would set out again, on another day, to gather another Stell, another hill, other sheep, and another page: all gathered for the book.

Offset litho

About sense of place in artist books

I am an artist. I find the ephemeral place in my art conjured up through practice. I sift through raw materials with my hopes and dreams, and ideas take form as if intended.
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