Fork shadows




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.


The Return

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


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.



The Volunteers

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




Fingers and Fragments

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

Magpie Close and Freezy Water

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.