‘Innocence Lost’, a Site specific installation for; ‘Look! No Hands!’ – An Exhibition by Sam Wall

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As of late, I have been working on a piece for the most recent exhibition in the Abacus; ‘Look! No Hands’, an exhibition curated by my good friend Sam Wall. The main theme of the exhibition was to have surreal and mesmerising work that was described as an ‘eyeball massacre’, and I must say, It certainly did not disappoint. A great deal of the work was dark, and often times unnerving; a number of works focusing on loss, death, and nightmares.

My piece, entitled ‘Innocence Lost’, began it’s gestation period during Christmas, in which I travelled home and found a folder of old drawings from when I was a young boy. As I thought about my childhood, I began to think about certain events that happened to me as a child, and how they may have affected me now, later in life. There was a definite focus on the whole ‘nature/nurture’ debate, and originally, the drawings were going to be placed upon the wall, with a single image of myself as a child in the middle. This was intended to allow the audience a look into the mind of the artist, myself, and make up their mind on whether I am the person I am today because of genetics, or whether it is because of the events I have lived through. However, as I worked on the piece, it became an outlet for things that happened to me as a child that I had not quite get over, or have had a distinct impact on me. As I worked on the drawings, there was a recurring theme that started to appear through the drawings, and that was the loss of my childhood cat; Mew. For some reason, that loss was one of the most prominent deaths in my life, and certainly affected me for a great deal of time afterwards. During times when things were hard within my life, Mew was there. He was a consistent part of my life, and his loss ended up breaking my heart. I was actually bought another mew, a toy version (as seen in the images), by my father when my mother and him went through a separation. He’s almost like a good luck charm, and I have kept him all these years, as a memento. My parents got back together, and things got a lot better, but these events are certainly interesting to reflect upon. Each event seems to have made me grow as a person, and mature, theoretically ‘losing’ my innocence (or childhood) through the events detailed in the drawings, some from when I was a child, and others from memory.

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Another prominent feature in the piece was my great fear of dogs, due to being attacked by an Alsatian when I was just three years old. I remember vividly dreams I would have as a child of dogs in my room, sitting in the corners of the room or barking outside in the street. This fear of the dog, the feeling of it’s jaws around my left shoulder, can still be felt through memory. However, as of late I have begun to suffer from sleep paralysis, and the dreams I have are often terrifying in nature, despite the ‘demon’ that attacks me, not being an immediately terrifying thing. A recent episode of it actually had me dealing with a collection of dogs once more, as they barked and shouted in a cacophony of noise that I could not escape from. I feel that this has caused my work to be inspired from a more present event, as well as dreams I have suffered from when I was younger; focusing on heaven and me cracking my head open.

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The use of the ‘cupboard under the stairs’ added a lot more to the piece, as well as the pillows and sheets showcasing a sort of ‘inhabited memory’, which I have likened to a womb. I have focused on ideas of wombs before in my work, within foundation I created a vast number of porcelain cocoons as a means of ritualising and meditating upon my fear of growing up and eventual death. This space then became a womb in which it seems that a child has ‘lived’ for a short while, crafting the drawings that plaster the walls, coming out of the ‘womb’ into the ‘mature, real world’. This idea of a womb was also experienced within the way that people interacted with the space; I would return every now and again during the opening night to find people sitting within the ‘den’, talking with friends, or sitting alone, taking in the feel of the space. It was slightly cold in there, and the floor was not very comfortable, as if it could not be comfy once more, after the initial inhabitant had left. However, people would repeatedly state that they enjoyed sitting with the atmosphere of it, and some viewers even took it upon themselves to draw and write their own words and events upon the walls of the space, creating a ‘healing space’ for those who were drawn into the womb of my memory. This has happened a few times now with my work; where people interact with it in strange and unusual ways; as if it imbues them with an energy that prompts them to interact with pieces such as these, as if something (the artist?) is possessing them.

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And then, the night of the exhibition, disaster struck; two members of the public locked themselves in the vault within the Space. Things suddenly got very serious, and we had to ring the emergency services to free them. Unfortunately, this was not even enough, and they required diamond tipped drills in order to get them out. They locked themselves in at 12:30, and did not get out again until 6:45, after a hefty amount of drilling. We were terrified, as the vault space is airtight, and thought they would run out of air and die in there. However, they got out unharmed, if not a little bored. As this event caused a lot of debris to be left in the space, and the vault door to now be permanently shut, my piece was unfortunately no longer open to the public during the exhibition’s duration.

However, there is a bright side, and that was that the exhibition has gotten a ridiculous amount of publicity for this; search it, there’s a series of articles on it, but this one is the best and most accurate;

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/man-who-spent-five-hours-9032375

See more of the exhibition here;

https://theabacusrooms.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/look-no-hands-2/

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