Christopher Thomson: Travels Through Absence

Harminder Judge: In This Strange House


Getting to an exhibition of any sort from where I live in the heart of Lincolnshire is pretty much a full week excursion.

However, I thought I would make the most of what the area had to offer so I went to a book launch by a local author Christopher Thomson’s book ‘Travels Through Absence”. His book is a compilation of letters from anonymous lover to  lover from different cities Thomson has visited; using the place as a metaphor for the emotions two people feel for each other when apart.

Here in the local bookshop, The Book Fayre, I spoke to Thomson as he shown me the photographs which he has included within this project. They were in a postcard form, which accompanied the idea of travel well; yet, it wasn’t clear as to where the pictures were taken.

The atmosphere as he started to read was still; Thomson read the words in the way he wrote them; delicate and tender. The silence he created echoed how one lover was alone which transpired to us all: the universal words allowed us all to stand and reflect. During his first reading of Budapest, he projected the images on the screen of the photographs that were placed around the room. This meant that not only were the listeners caught up in the predicament of lone traveller, but also could view some of the sights. He read “I loved you halfway along the bridges, and under Andrassy, rocking gently in silence on the old metro line”.

Shortly after finishing this chapter, he explained that as a film artist he had made a digital representation of the chapter ‘Berlin’.

Play in the background

“Berlin” is a video of the the U-Bahn train journey through the city. The audio of the city with the pauses for the dialogue attributed to silent films. I find that this is a very engaging way of reading this chapter with the intervals in the same way as which you would write a letter, carefully choosing the words to write to paper. Having the digital version available on Youtube is a great way to publicise but it is somewhat of a hidden gem.

I think what I liked most was the assortment of different art forms: prose, photography and film which created a very intimate atmosphere.

Secondly and more recently I went to the New Art Gallery in Walsall where I viewed the recently installed work by Harminder Judge entitled “In this Strange House”

A collection of sculpture, moving and still images set to include ‘religious iconography and occultism, Indian culture and popular Western Culture.’ The work is of a supernatural nature; as you walk in from the lift you can hear dialogue; the kind that you’d associate with Dracula. The eery and unsettling voice. It spoke of shadows and unknown creatures creating a sense of disturbance.

On the first wall there is a large 4 by 6 metre (estimation) laser drawing titled ‘Hands’. This is a colour image with beams of colourful light streaming down onto the hands, as though the people are imprisoned. When stood close to this piece it is difficult to tell what the detail is of, feeling as though the darkness encapsulates the viewer as a prisoner also.

On the wall on the right to the windows there are several 8 by 10 black and white prints; all very dark. From far back they aren’t arranged to make a pattern. Up close there does not appear to be any clear linear narrative either. Amongst the dark tones there are shapes of different parts a house like the bedroom and also of partially lit faces. This gives the impression of creatures in the shadows of the house which the audio supports well.

I picked out one image in particular which was titled ‘They Passed Against Spikes, Relaxed’ which looks like a pathway through over growth. However, the crosses reminded me of the what Christians believe to be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in the sense that he suffered but remained calm.

The main eye catcher in the exhibition is the large sculpture. It looks like part of a wooden structure that had been ripped from its original origin. For some reason I got a Wizard of Oz sort out illusion of a tornado tearing it away. I’m not totally sure of what its significance was, however, the wood chippings on the floor gave it more atmosphere, as though torn away.

Next to this sculpture were televisions with moving images; these were more abstract and did not have a clearcut narrative which added to the hysteria of what Judge was trying to convey. There wasn’t any seating which meant that the viewer was on edge and uncomfortable standing to watch it; not being able to concentrate on one screen as well as though the viewer is pulled into a more hysteric atmosphere.

I felt that with the space the artist had, it was very spread out which compromised what I felt the work had to convey; not only this but there was a lot of light going into this gallery so I felt that had there been a little more darkness a viewer could experience the supernatural a little more because I felt that it was very clinical.


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