The Magpie Richard Layzell’s residency and exhibition at Forty Hall, a 17th century mansion in North London, built by wealthy haberdasher Nicholas Rainton Fri, 13 Dec 2013 18:37:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Magpie Close and Freezy Water Tue, 16 Apr 2013 17:14:38 +0000 Richard Layzell The black and white printed street map of the Borough of Enfield, produced exclusively by Town and Country Publications of Progress Park, Luton in November 2007, reveals landmarks, place names of significance and surprise, hinting at its urban and rural dimensions and histories:

A10 (Great Cambridge Road) A406 (North Circular Road) Albery Park Angel Road [...]]]> The black and white printed street map of the Borough of Enfield, produced exclusively by Town and Country Publications of Progress Park, Luton in November 2007, reveals landmarks, place names of significance and surprise, hinting at its urban and rural dimensions and histories:

A10 (Great Cambridge Road)
A406 (North Circular Road)
Albery Park
Angel Road
Arnos Grove
Arnos Park
Botany Bay
Broomfield Park
Bush Hill Park
Carterhatch Lane
Civic Centre
Clay Hill
Crews Hill
Dragon Lane
Edmonton Green
Enfield Chase
Enfield Golf Course
Enfield Highway
Enfield Lock
Enfield Town
Forty Hall
Freezy Water
Goat Lane
Gordon Hill
Grange Park
Hazelwood Lane
Hilly Fields
Hoe Lane
Hounsden Gutter
Jubilee Park
King George’s Reservoir
Leeging Beech Gutter
M25 (London Orbital)
M25 Junction 25
Magpie Close
Merryhills Brook
Monken Mead
New River (Old Course)
New Southgate
Nightingale Road
North Middlesex Hospital
Oakwood Park
Palmers Green
Pickets Lock Golf Course
Ponders End
Pymmes Brook
Salmon Brook
Silver Street
Trent Park
Turkey Brook
Turkey Street
Whitewebbs Park
William Girling Reservoir
Winchmore Hill
Windmill Hill

Magpie Close is the only street in the borough carrying my name, and it’s a few hundred metres from the main entrance to Forty Hall, at the other end of Goat Lane. Arriving with anticipation, but it’s a name, just a name, for a new build estate. Or is it?

It’s shaped like a coat hanger or a bent paperclip and could almost have been a Crescent or a Road, but as a dead-end it has to be a Close. And close feels right and up close, short and evocative, like Goat Lane. I stand and take it in, trying not to think of all the things it could have been. It’s my street so don’t mess with it in your mind.


This cluster of metal so carefully placed on the grass here could be my work. I’ll claim it as mine, leaving my mark.


This area of dereliction behind the garages is so familiar, but in Magpie Close it represents an opportunity, a place to hang out and take it all in.


While the New River (Old Course) is just a few yards away, where Hoe Lane becomes Goat Lane, and very slowly flows all the way to Finsbury Park.




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Fingers and Fragments Thu, 04 Apr 2013 20:51:27 +0000 Richard Layzell The slipping away of thread, the inevitability of the pulling out. Leave it hanging and what do you expect, it’s an invitation and was always meant to be such a thing, a temptation for all-comers, along with the peeking and sliding in of fingers small and large into a purposely affixed half-open drawer. As if [...]]]> The slipping away of thread, the inevitability of the pulling out. Leave it hanging and what do you expect, it’s an invitation and was always meant to be such a thing, a temptation for all-comers, along with the peeking and sliding in of fingers small and large into a purposely affixed half-open drawer. As if this was not anticipated it was. Shining and glittering they’re mainly all still there in the back of the drawer, needing reassembling not replacing. The pulled thread on the table generates a different sensation and response. Bring out the white glue again and apply in fine strands, or fix them down in the same way as the café table, where hanging threads are fixed fast underneath by staples, inset by a centimetre, pull and nothing happens. Visually, the difference between the two is vast, to me, and the loss of temptation in the café version leads to thread curling and twisting in doodle state of sitting waiting for the food to arrive or the drinks to cool, so again there’s a visual difference. The emotion in my response, what I’m feeling as I look down at a pulled thread, hangs between the satisfaction of engagement and participation and the irrational pain of invasion: I spent hours doing this and you think you can just come along and give it a yank.

And the dark specks falling onto the once immaculately creased and domed white tablecloths, sooty particles released from the dark ancient beams of the Long Gallery, which was a barn before conversion, a working barn. Like the pulled threads, they keep coming back. They keep coming back and sometimes it feels like love, I haven’t forgotten you, look I’m still tugging and scattering. Fingers and fragments. Fix me up, dust me down, or not, no consequence, no blame. More house than gallery. More mansion than house. Live with it. Live in it. As you do.


thread pull


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The Volunteers Fri, 29 Mar 2013 22:12:19 +0000 Richard Layzell Forty Hall and Estate and Forty Hall Farm are neighbours. It’s a working farm linked to Capel Manor College as a training resource. It’s a historic house, open to the public. It’s a public park with a well-kept walled garden and rolling meadows leading down to a stream, Turkey Brook. There’s a vineyard and an [...]]]> Forty Hall and Estate and Forty Hall Farm are neighbours. It’s a working farm linked to Capel Manor College as a training resource. It’s a historic house, open to the public. It’s a public park with a well-kept walled garden and rolling meadows leading down to a stream, Turkey Brook. There’s a vineyard and an orchard in the farm complex. Everything is supported by volunteers — the house, the gardens, the vineyard and the orchard. When you pass through the front door of Forty Hall you’re greeted by a volunteer. They have a copy of the Magpie press release and the article from the Enfield Gazette in case anyone asks for it, or in case they’re asked to explain an installation which is deliberately ambiguous. If you find something desirable in the shop, at the far end of the Table installation in the Long Gallery, the chances are that you’ll be served by a volunteer.

As a former paid invigilator at the Acme Gallery I understand the duties and the potential invisibility of the role. To the credit of all the paid workers here the volunteers feel appreciated, motivated and some part of the team. They are also a force in their own right, as Sunday or Friday regulars, as part of a group that outnumbers the paid staff by three to one.

At first I was slightly apprehensive of what they’d make of me and my artwork, but I’ve come to regard them as a phenomenon, a gentle force of beneficence and generosity who love the building. They give their time. In three hour slots. They take a pride in the numbers of visitors counted in their slot. ‘We had 48 in this morning and look at the weather’.


Forty Hall volunteers

Forty Hall volunteers

Vineyard volunteers

Vineyard volunteers





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Threaded Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:01:02 +0000 Richard Layzell TK So, Richard, tell us about these new additions, these table tops….

RL I’d been imagining this line connecting the courtyard space to the long gallery and the café.

TK Yes?

RL It made sense spatially.

TK If you say so. Have you tried drawing it, marking it out, or is this a mind line?

TK So, Richard, tell us about these new additions, these table tops….

RL I’d been imagining this line connecting the courtyard space to the long gallery and the café.

TK Yes?

RL It made sense spatially.

TK If you say so. Have you tried drawing it, marking it out, or is this a mind line?

RL Kind of, with tape and a laser light fixed to a tripod. I think it needs to be a very narrow line and maybe also pass over the tables. I’d like to try it out in any case. I’ve ordered the tape. It was hard to find.

TK That’s reassuring. Is this what got you started on the threaded tables?

RL Maybe. Not exactly. It was more about the line creating a connection with the café, it’s so close by and I’d thought about how to continue the installations through into this more public space where people walking in the park come in for tea, the ones who don’t actually visit the house.

TK Taking the art to the people?

RL Why not. It made sense to me and when I discovered how easy it was to unscrew and replace the existing tabletops I had a solution.

TK It was that easy?

RL Well, no, the principle was straightforward but I struggled with what to actually add to the new tabletop, the artwork.

TK I can imagine you wanted to carry through the haberdashery connection in some way.

RL Yes, I think you suggested it.

TK Not exactly. I was clear with you that I thought the Cabinet was an interesting piece and that there was more potential in this direction.

RL Ah, OK, anyway, I just couldn’t come up with a solution, it was keeping me awake at night. Then the threading idea appeared in one of these half-asleep states.

TK That’s how it works sometimes, the slippery unconscious.

RL I’d almost given up on the whole thing. Then it was a question of method and materials and an unexpected trip to the infamous Fent Shop in King’s Lynn‘s slightly antipathetic Vancouver Quarter the following day was terrific timing, sampling embroidery threads and waxed strings, and experiencing a formidable haberdashery re-entry.

TK It’s where you belong.

RL King’s Lynn?

TK Haberdashery.




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The Return Thu, 14 Mar 2013 09:43:32 +0000 Richard Layzell Building constructing designing making an installation there is usually a time a day a date an hour when the show the door opens the private view the opening the launch happens and then it is revealed and becomes fixed as a piece a concept a statement a work a position. You, the maker, have no [...]]]> Building constructing designing making an installation there is usually a time a day a date an hour when the show the door opens the private view the opening the launch happens and then it is revealed and becomes fixed as a piece a concept a statement a work a position. You, the maker, have no choice but to detach step back take ownership. This is what I want to say. As if….this is what I always intended. But what would have happened in another day another week? Shift the cut off it’s been put back, you have another week.

I leave on Feb 1st without quite the usual sense of detachment, but still harbouring memories of mild abuse from my first public exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre, which invited interaction and got it. And here in this new work there is some implicit invitation to touch, to meddle. That piquant space of tension is palpable. Will they won’t they and will it survive intact for one day even, given that this is not a conventional invigilated gallery. The Courtyard is a throughway a passage and the Cabinet is designed in exactly this way, fit for purpose and passing. And it’s the Cabinet that is meddled with in those first few days, needing a screwdriver to fix it.

But these return visits as the resident, the Magpie, are now built-in and conceptually impact the February ending as not an ending. The actual ending will be on the final day April 28th so the installation can change as the days pass over the three months of the show, as can the film and the totality of my presence within and without the building. We discuss a film installation for a room on the top floor and additions to the Courtyard piece.

I can start to experience the work as transitory, in process, with no fixed point of completion, an unfolding not unfolded. The resident shifts and tweaks. And he observes, via the security cameras, how the interaction happens in the Courtyard, the peering, the wondering, the delving:


IMG_0998 IMG_0999 IMG_1000 IMG_1001


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Feed Mon, 04 Mar 2013 11:50:02 +0000 Richard Layzell Crossing the boundary towards the birds of Forty Hall Park, just alongside the house. Extending a scattering of feed that will stay or go more likely go but not while I’m watching. The smaller birds are almost invisible here, likely squeezed out by gulls, crows and pigeons. The actual seed feasters remain unknown. It was [...]]]> Crossing the boundary towards the birds of Forty Hall Park, just alongside the house. Extending a scattering of feed that will stay or go more likely go but not while I’m watching. The smaller birds are almost invisible here, likely squeezed out by gulls, crows and pigeons. The actual seed feasters remain unknown. It was all gone next time I was there, a few days later. Long shadows.



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Fork shadows Mon, 04 Mar 2013 11:31:44 +0000 Richard Layzell



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Return to the Fold Tue, 26 Feb 2013 23:13:51 +0000 Richard Layzell The starched folds are fixing over time, semi-rigid, lit, lifting and shaded:

The starched folds are fixing over time, semi-rigid, lit, lifting and shaded:



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Installation 2 Wed, 20 Feb 2013 10:33:05 +0000 Richard Layzell Before the Inner Courtyard installation was complete I’d already started making forays into the Long Gallery, erecting the large borrowed round table and ten of the twelve tables from The Manifestation, to have a sense of how the two spaces will interact work. This would be the first time an installation had appeared in this [...]]]> Before the Inner Courtyard installation was complete I’d already started making forays into the Long Gallery, erecting the large borrowed round table and ten of the twelve tables from The Manifestation, to have a sense of how the two spaces will interact work. This would be the first time an installation had appeared in this space. My own anxiety about its proximity to the ‘front of house’ desk and gift shop forced me to question the applicability of the table as a visual reference here. Would visitors think they were walking into the café, which was actually located through the back door at the far end? Yet wasn’t this potential link and confusion something I’d always intended? Forty Hall is a heritage building with a long winding guided journey through the various rooms. The visitor’s journey ideally concludes at the Inner Courtyard, the Long Gallery, the Gift Shop and the Courtyard Café, so my two installations will be encountered en route. But this is why I’m here – as a first contemporary art commission – and why The Magpie has become, from my perspective, a residency, where the static works can change and develop over the twelve weeks of the show, and other rooms can be occupied. Likewise, the film is also in transition. The film. Yes. What is its status and how will it be incorporated?

Forty film

In the rush to incorporate the fabric flowing footage there is now a narrative in which I become the emerging ‘resident’ who lets fly from top floor windows and makes a brief appearance in Beijing’s Purple Bamboo Park. As a resident, I have permission to behave with the freedom and desire that occupation brings. The term ‘legal squatter’ has a flavour of this, but there is more mischief here. I live here when I am here in a way that I’ve not experienced before. My rights are as strong as the birds on the roof. This is my patch, free to open doors, windows and shutters slowly and repeatedly, free to experience and live in this building with a heightened perception and a unique sense of ownership that transcends assets and cash. The ‘wealthy haberdasher’ who financed this home has morphed into the maverick haberdasher/magpie/squatter. I am of the people for the people. Come in and make yourself at home like I have. Join me. It’s an investment opportunity. Let me show you around.

The film’s rough first edit suggests this narrative, framed by the birds as roof occupants. I think about projector or monitor to show it and envisage a monitor in the Long Gallery, perhaps in the corner to the right as you enter, slightly detached from the tables. If indeed they are still tables, now that their functionality is even more questionable as the starched tablecloths are moving into three-dimensional elevated clusters of whiteness. These ten tables are now mere supports and dwarfed by the large central table, reassuringly flat and functional, with its complex table settings and flying cutlery, referencing the miniature world in the display case next door. Unable to loan a white cover, the blue one provided by Banqueting will substitute for now, but needs a starched white tablecloth as a surface. it looks designed for purpose once the straight creases have been ironed out of it. This steam ironing session takes place as a separate project on the Friday. I travel in with iron and ironing board, set up in the Long Gallery and spend an hour flattening this one and sharpening the creases on the others. Wrestling and manipulating these cotton fabrics sits so well within the realm of haberdashery and I wonder why this comes as a surprise. Have I been resisting this full immersion, despite my time as a duplicator?

Forty adjusted 1





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Installation 1 Tue, 19 Feb 2013 13:46:10 +0000 Richard Layzell There has been a build-up to these two days of installing, the Wednesday and the Thursday, the last two days of January 2013, with some potential to spill over into Friday morning. Lists have been drawn up, journeys planned and agreed. So my planned trip by train to Twyford to collect and travel with the [...]]]> There has been a build-up to these two days of installing, the Wednesday and the Thursday, the last two days of January 2013, with some potential to spill over into Friday morning. Lists have been drawn up, journeys planned and agreed. So my planned trip by train to Twyford to collect and travel with the disassembled Cabinet in Richard’s van early on Wednesday made no sense if he could arrange some help loading at his end. This meant that I could drive in the aging estate car to my studio at Chisenhale Art Place and collect the other elements for the installation, after loading up at home in Finsbury Park with the starched table cloths, fabric rolls and other necessaries. I would leave early enough to have free parking in Bow. Inevitably loading of the other necessaries took longer than expected and I arrived at Chisenhale Road in need of a parking meter only to find that none of the payment machines were functioning. The inevitable stress of double-parking led to rapid ascent and descent of the six flights to Studio 28 on the 3rd floor, not realising I was setting a trend for double-parking, or was even ahead of the curve, as many parents gradually joined me in a column of illicit parking as they dropped off their children at Chisenhale Road Primary School, which makes a surprise appearance in the World Buildings Directory thanks to its natty new wing.

Now fully loaded, the drive to Enfield and Forty Hall was a negotiation of the A406 passing en route the Edmonton Ikea, whose Bargain Corner had been so instrumental to the disassembled sculptural construction that would shortly be heading east on the M25 in the back of Richard’s powerful black Volkswagen Transporter as I now took the A10 going north in my faded but trusty Passat, a car so brutally parodied by Jeremy, as his silent psychotherapist’s imagined vehicle of choice, in a recent edition of Peep Show.

I had an hour of unloading before Richard arrived, long enough to request and negotiate the special opening by Gavin of the Courtyard’s main gates so the black Transporter can be parked in style and we can move the stuff in with more ease. I’m slightly concerned that he may be accompanied by Tulip, his uncontrollably effusive part Staffordshire bull, rescued from Battersea Dogs Home. I imagine Tulip unwittingly trampling the Cabinet’s finer pieces in the back of the van. I get a call saying he’s lost but he arrives a few minutes later, dog free. We look at the Inner Courtyard and discuss the positioning of the Cabinet. Gavin has already emptied the display case, also located in the Inner Courtyard. There are large orange gripping devices still attached to its glass. This will later contain a mini landscape of chopsticks and stands, which I imagine working on after Richard has left.

Gripping devices

Gripping devices

So the intention I had was to locate the Cabinet somewhere in the middle of the space and the display case alongside a wall. In the adjoining Long Gallery there would be an installation of round tables, with one large table, loaned from across the Courtyard thanks to Forty Hall Banqueting, as a centrepiece. This was the plan. This is the plan. Not fixed but dependant on actuality and site-specific judgement. So there could be a reversal, with the Cabinet moving to the Long Gallery.

We look at the heavy MDF base, elevated a couple of inches by its wooden frame, imagining the rest of the construction in place. I assume it should be set at an angle, perhaps because that’s what I usually do, perhaps from the conditioning of the Private Dancer structure always being set ‘on the huh’. Richard is unconvinced, citing the squaring of the floor tiling on which it sits as a visual conflict and the proximity of the walls. I can see what he means and eventually acquiesce. I also want to acknowledge the collaborative role he’s had in the design and making of this piece, so how it’s positioned here is an extension of this process. We start to assemble it, look again, move it, look again, move it again. And there it stays. Once in position the actual assembly is fast and fulfilling. It makes its mark when the fabric rolls are attached in garish abandon, as parallel slashes of colour. It has a functional appearance, but the right-angled rolls don’t add up. That was the plan.

Cabinet in position, Inner Courtyard

Cabinet in position, Inner Courtyard

We have lunch in the Courtyard Café and Richard decides to head back west, having abandoned Tulip to a neighbour. I’m left to contemplate the decisions we’ve made, the finishing touches to the drawers of the Cabinet and the impending unnamed mini-installation in the display case. This will be the fourth in a line of miniaturised pieces, dating back to the Window Wall for Cornerstone in Didcot and Fine Food for the Gooden Gallery. I’d used a specialised display case similar to this one at the Lynn Museum a year ago for Re-Home and liked what I found. ‘Display’ has its own attributes when it happens within a state-of- the-art, museum-styled unit. Even the visually intrusive internal strip light has its attributes as it distinctly marks out the lit from the shaded. Is display equivalent to assemblage, design, layout, composition and installation? Am I elevating the commonplace Chinese brush and chopstick stands to a precious, untouchable status? I see it as a dialogue of east and west, of scale, the everyday and the universal, the architectural and the detail, of chopstick, fork and brush, bamboo, stone and steel, blue, white and silver. Bamboo is a very fine material, carved, split, sliced, shaved, sanded and cut, intimately imbued in the east, so inextricably linked with eating that the Chinese word for chopsticks kuai-zi literally translates as quick bamboo.

My research had begun with the chopstick rest and moved on to the brush rest, the first examples acquired at a store in Hangzhou, so they really did exist, I later found them in London’s Chinatown. And the visual link between the two rests became the thematic slanting of the installation, resting objects at a slight angle to protect hygiene and paint slippage, and here, with the keen focus of the inner light, the slanting shadows, the angle of incidence, the rows of usefulness and ambiguity.

Angles of incidence

Angles of incidence


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