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Re-emergence 2012

Sarah Rhys

I began this project in Spring 2011and it is on-going site specific piece of work. It is part of my interest in Place and Memory. Re-emergence evolved out of a compelling response to a confrontation of the place that was my childhood home and is now a National Trust property. It has changed hands many times during the interim years and each time I visit I experience the dual reality of my past and my strong sense of place and the physical present of how the house is now.

The place within the house that I have been responding to is now a semi derelict courtyard, whereas it had been a glass roofed room in the cellar of the building with its walls painted with a series of alluring female figures, known then as The Painted Ladies. They are dated 1944 and painted during the last war. The roof of this room caved in sometime during the 1980‘s apparently after a fire and the murals were eroded by exposure to the elements.

The inner courtyard of the seventeenth century building had been converted into a roofed room before the war and then due to a period when the house was close to dereliction, it became a courtyard again.

During the second world war the house known then as Dynevor, now renamed Newton House, was requisitioned and became a military hospital, initially British and then American. During this period the room was painted with eight reclining female figures, the painter is likely to have been a Canadian medic or an American airman.

Re-emergence is a response to the dereliction of the room that I knew intimately, since it was my place of childhood. When I realised that the semi derelict room was the one that had housed the murals, it was a stark confrontation with my inner sense of the place as well as my memory. The murals of The Painted Ladies had been totally erased by the elements decades ago when the roof caved in.’ I began by making photographic studies of the walls in the courtyard, reading their archaeological layers and examining the traces of time, erasure and the elements.

I wished to recreate the liminal state where the ‘dreaming creature‘ comes into being. As a child I used to go down the stairs into this semi abandoned room, surrounded by these large female images, down into a place away from the everyday. These figures were to me genius loci of my childhood dwelling. I wished to recreate the liminal state where the ‘dreaming creature‘ comes into being.

Using both memory and archival photographs, I created 2 moving images for a night projection into the courtyard, I wanted to bring into this space what Gaston Bachelard would call the ‘intimate immensity’ of childhood and a re-enchantment of the room.

The projections were run from two windows from the ground floor simultaneously once night had fallen. I used four of the figures, two on each wall. On the opening night and closing night there was an invited gathering and after an illustrated talk on the project there were to be night projections in the courtyard.

The projection moves between the past and the present, with these figures slowly emerging from and then disappearing back into the walls only to re-emerge again in a cycle of eternal recurrence of being and non being. My interest here is in the liminality, the realm of the waking dream. It was full moon that night.

Exhibition at Newton House July 7th to August 31st 2012

I was invited to have an exhibition from July 7th to August 31st, and was given a vaulted room in the cellars. As well as showing photographs, prints and documentation, I ran a second moving image. This time in one projection combining The Painted Ladies with the walls from the derelict courtyard room.

Sarah Rhys, 2012