Over the last week, I have been manning my final exhibition which is held jointly with fellow student, Bill Sample. My artwork consists of a series of paintings, clay work and a video based on the objects of the First World War. Bill is exhibiting various drawings and sculptures inspired by a collection of poems by Ted Hughes called ‘Crow‘. One of his pieces is a giant inflatable crow. In addition, his exhibition is complemented by a soundtrack of Ted Hughes reading out a selection of the poems from Crow. This soundtrack plays on repeat.
Over the week, this has had a profound effect on me. It has blackened my mood and sent me a tiny bit mad. At the start of a day when I am manning the exhibition I feel fine, by the end I feel deep, dark, gloom. I wonder whether I am perhaps cognitively susceptible to outside stimuli, perhaps more than other people. Would someone else in the same situation feel as affected as I do? Would they feel Ted Hughes in their bones calling out: ‘Where is, where is the black beast?’
So I have concluded that sitting in the exhibition space listening to Ted Hughes and staring at black things all day is not good for my mental health. Or perhaps, ironically, it is doing me some good because it has provoked a lot of thought and a desire to create more art.
The other effect of my few days manning the exhibition is that I have ‘befriended’ the giant inflatable crow which gently rises and falls throughout the day. In reality, he is just bin bags and air. But over the time I’ve been there, he has become my companion. He is a crow-man, a man-crow, a crow-crow. He has turned into a friend, a soulmate, an irritant and a foe. He rises and falls consistently and predictably throughout the day. I know exactly the point at which he reaches his peak and starts to fall. I know when he’s about to be roused from his slumber and start his ascent. The pattern does not change. He continues to rise and fall. I keep willing him to break the pattern, turn around, untie himself from his hairdryer and walk out of the exhibition. He never does this.
Surely these thoughts are a sign that I am (temporarily) losing my mind?
I wonder why I have felt the need to turn bin bags and air into a living thing? Is that a normal human trait or is that just me? He is a thing, but to me he’s become more than a thing. He has a face and a personality. He exists. He is amused at the visitors who come to the exhibition, as I am. We share our experiences, silently.
Bill’s artwork has affected me then in a good way: it has provoked thought and made me want to create (to draw crows). I have also developed a new interest in Ted Hughes and his poems. So in that respect, his exhibition has been a big success.