These photographs are from a short photo essay I did at Walthamstow dog track, the Stow, on its final night in the summer of 2008.
One of my favourite artists Viv, has transformed her council flat in South London with her art.
I don’t know where anything goes, it ends up as something else, it evolves. I dont know when it’s finished either, that’s my point. If I start something and I dont finish it then I’ll reinvent it again.
To me it’s pleasure, my brain is always ticking over. I’ll be lying here and I’ll look at something and I’ll think maybe it needs to be this way or that. But it never ends up like that. I have a problem sleeping, I can’t keep still. The worst thing on God’s earth is insomnia. Not being able to sleep when you want to sleep. This is me. I go to bed at 2, 3 in the morning and get up at 5.
Even though I have carpel tunnel in my hands and my needs are bad I just have to keep going. I go from one room to another and it’s like I’m starting to redecorate in my own mind. I don’t know what it is. This thing cost me £2.99 and it is for holding casssettes, but I see it as a saxophone and so there it is. I love jazz you seen, I don’t rarely listen to it but when I see the word ‘jazz’ the music starts to play in my mind.
When I first moved here the council told me that they would stop putting fireplaces in these flats so I thought what can I do with my fireplace? So I created all this. I bought mirrors and put them behind it, I added the little things and then it evolved. I bought these sun shields with tropical images on for £1 each and from that grew the underwater sea theme I have. I thought I have to keep it going so I imagined it as a shipwreck, say the Titanic and these are the ghosts of the people who were on board enjoying the jazz music. It’s just my way of thinking but I had to keep the theme going. It spread out into the bathroom, nothing gets done because I’m forever doing things. I have a fear of the ocean though but yet all of my work is about water. The thing is, I have to have land under my feet.
I don’t measure things up, I just use what I have at hand. I made my own juice bar. I don’t throw anything away and I just up-cycle them. Two days ago I decided I was going to paint the ceiling, it was totally different two days ago. It’s like my brain doesn’t stop working. I started applying silicon and it’s spongy, once it has started and then it evolves. I can’t help myself. I think it’s a bit dangerous because nothing gets finished.
I enjoy doing this though, it helps me avoid people. People to me equals pain, they always let me down. I feel that if you are going to do something for someone then do it with a willing heart, don’t do it half heartedly. I’m forever willing to help people and offer my time but other people make me feel like they are doing me a favour. They aren’t grateful, the more I give the more they take. I’ve come to the point were I avoid people because to me people equal pain.
When I had my new kitchen fitted, when the whole block was getting them, they ripped out all the old units that I’d transformed with my work. I didn’t mind though as it freed up lots more new space for me to start all over again fresh. The builders would take pictures of my work, but some people aren’t nice about it. A friend of mine came here and said ‘What the hell are you doing to this flat?’. It was negative you know and this is another reason why I avoid people. I would never visit someones home and say something like that.
I want to do stuff but I don’t want to be under pressure to do it. I don’t think of myself as an artist.
I’m not one for praise I suppose. My sister is always saying oh you should take photographs and send them out. The builder’s who came here said oh you should get them on the computer, but I don’t know about computers. I suppose I am an artist in the sense that artists get obsessed and artists make a mess. I don’t think what I am doing is special. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People appreciate what they appreciate.
I used to worry about what others think. Anyway, I have always hated having something other people have. Even when I was a teenager I made my own clothes. I am an individual. I buy something like a picture frame and then then I transform it. I don’t throw anything away I just keep changing things. I buy things for a £1 and then transform them with gel and glue. I don’t have any money so I’m forever in the £1 Shop. I buy these pebbles, bags of them, they’re usually for the garden.
I see doing all this in here as work. I’ve only been over the road to the park three times in all the time I’ve been here. I used to be a nurse and then I was in child care at a local college for 20 years. I suppose this is like child care all over again, making mess. So no sooner have I finished than I’m starting over. It’s like I have a hundred and one things to do. I’d like to do lots of things I have in my mind, like adding blinds to the flat but I’ve got no money. I’m always borrowing out of my food money to buy the glue to finish my work.
People look at me and say, you don’t look ill at all. But that’s because I don’t give in to it. I am a simple person, I’ve got to the stage were I don’t think everything has to be in it’s place.
When I’m outside I walk fast and avoid people. I just want to get back here. If I didn’t have this, I don’t know what I’d do. I do get a buzz from going from the £1 Shop and getting something great. The best thing I ever bought from a £1 Shop was a picture I’ve put at the back of my display. If I see something broken I want to fix it and use it. I find I can make things about of the most simple things that people usually throw away. My brain is forever ticking over.
I spent some time walking the waterways out of London or on the fringes, especially in winter and was particularly interested in the deep waters around industry and the way trees, birds and fish responded. There is something dark about these places even on the brightest of days. This photograph is included in my series ‘The Current’.
It makes me think of the pike in the river along this stretch and I was thinking then of Ted Hughes’s poem Pike.
Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.
Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.
In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness:
Logged on last year’s black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds
The jaws’ hooked clamp and fangs
Not to be changed at this date:
A life subdued to its instrument;
The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.
Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: fed fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one
With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-
One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.
A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-
Stilled legendary depth:
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast
But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The still splashes on the dark pond,
Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night’s darkness had freed,
That rose slowly toward me, watching.
I used to live in Deptford and at the time noticed the heron’s living along the heavily urbanised River Ravensbourne . The river runs through Lewisham and empties into the Thames at Deptford Creek. The bird became a bit of a symbol for me of nature living in the city and from then on I’ve become interested in London’s non man made world and how it survives and in some places thrives.