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On Arriving

2016

Watts Artist Village and Gallery, Surrey, England


Embarking in an extended journey afford us the opportunity to step out of our quotidian routines and to have time to reflect and absorb that which we discover on the way.

‘On Arriving’ is the culmination of one such a journey, the one-year artist in residence program at Watts Gallery - Artist Village; which is not only dedicated to perpetuating the legacy of Mary and GF Watts but it is also a cultural destination and a stop on the pilgrimage to Canterbury.

This journey commences with a weekly train commute from Central London to Surrey. Gradually, the dense urban context dematerialises into nature; not wild or untamed nature but the man-managed and constructed nature we have learnt to understand as countryside. In a constant and cyclical way trees are planted, pruned and felled, fields are sewn are harvested and animals are bred and farmed. Wherever we look at there are signs of the human intervention on nature, a kind of continuous mark making exercise on a seemingly boundless scale. With this in mind, the time spent on the journey is an opportunity to reflect on the construction of the natural environment and on its anomalies, those elements outside humans’ control that we tend to overviewed in our everyday routines.

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Paying notice to the transformation of the landscape, the managing of the woodland, the changes on the quality of light and sound as the trees shed their leaves or the changes in the overall colour of the ground as seasons develop exposes the way the Artist Village encounters its settings and how we perceive and experience it. Meanwhile getting acquainted with those settings allows for a change in focus towards the micro within and as the pace slows down we become aware of discrete marginal events that like the moles burrowing in the paddocks or the piling of logs in the woodland temporarily disrupting the general order exposing new underlying narratives.

Yet Watts Artist Village cannot only be understood as just a landscape. As the former residence of Mary and GF Watts the Village was a place where family living, artistic production, the landscape and the community came together blurring the boundary between the indoors and the outdoors and between the domestic and the public. There is something alluring about entering these buildings, imagining how the space was used and how GF Watts’ collection of inanimate objects on display in the vitrines of the studio were once handled. Sitting side by side, the different hands, limbs and heads make us aware of their similitudes and of the small details that make them unique and different.

Arriving to a place requires of us to appropriate our surroundings, to understand one’s relationship with the landscape and its buildings, the people we encounter and the underlying history of the place. By re-contextualising time, space and narrative in works that demands of us to take a second look, to re-examine that which is there with new eyes, the interventions that altogether compose ‘On Arriving’ and their relationship with their settings exposes those who encounter them to a new narrative layer that reshapes their own reading of the natural landscape, the construction of place, the perpetuation of memory, the definition and redefinition of identity as well as on the experience of producing and displaying artwork within the context of the multifaceted Watts Gallery - Artist Village.