The beauty of flowers does not reside in their colour alone; it is also present in their form. It is more present in their form than it is in their colour. Daffodils would be just as beautiful if they were white or grey as if they were yellow and orange.
But daffodils are not grey and they will never be grey in any sense that has meaning. The beauty of grey daffodils is a concept that is dependent on the ability to represent the objectively colourful presence of the flowers as a flat, black and white two dimensional image that ways of seeing translate into something that appears to possess at least a measure of three dimensional form. Grey daffodils are a phantom born of a fault of vision.
It’s an easy trick to perform and it’s the necessary foundation for the argument that the beauty of flowers is more present in their form than it is in their colour. Well, it’s not actually necessary, it would be possible to make this assertion from a contemplation of the flowers themselves, but it makes the task easier in this instance, although the task is not necessary but opportunistic, being merely something to say in relation to this particular photograph.
Despite my spurious and poorly expressed argument, which seems to promote the primacy of non-existent grey daffodils over their brightly coloured if quotidian models – an idiotic claim that would have us believe that reality is the shadow of groundless and insincere ideas about beauty and its relationship with form – I insist that the beauty of daffodils, be they imagined or real, and the beauty of all flowers, be they real or imagined, is grounded in their resemblance to [deleted], or more properly the Universal [deleted], which is the most enticing and [deleted] charged insubstantial and non-existent object known to Man or humankind.
I can only acquire the confidence to relay this absurd proposition through having indicated my gormless stupidity in relation to the discussion around daffodils, beauty, colour and form. It’s obvious that there is no real similarity between the forms of flowers and [deleted], beyond the superficial likeness of a [deleted], available to stranger-beings in accordance with its plan.
I have passed this object hundreds of times, walking from Crookes to West Bar Green, walking from Crookes to Division Street, walking from Crookes to Weston Park after circuiting the lake in Crookes Valley Park. I don’t know when I first noticed it. I can’t remember it being stored in my memory before this year, although the work and leisure related walks that have taken me past it date from the late 1980s. I know that I’ve only just discovered that it stands in the grounds of the University of Sheffield Departments of Geography and Urban Studies and Planning and that this discovery is grounded in my reading of the sign that can be seen in the background, behind the concrete monolith. I knew that the building behind it was part of the university and I know that the back of the building extends into Weston Park, near the lake or the pond, but the purpose of the building has never interested me, although I have a loose association with Sheffield’s premier seat of learning that has lasted for more than 30 years.
And why should it? What has geography to do with me? I can’t conceive of what graduate or postgraduate study of the subject might consist of and academic engagement with urban studies and planning is similarly devoid of interest, although I take a more than passing interest in what I conceive of these subjects from a layperson’s perspective, although I’m not a layperson, but me, a particular and utterly fascinating manifestation of being present in passing.
Anyway, the location of the object is unimportant when compared to the fact of its existence. What purpose does it serve? What purpose could it possibly serve? What is its function? I don’t think it’s an intentional artwork but what else could it be? It has a circular form; the ridges that can be seen in this picture are present in the portions that cannot be seen, evenly spaced throughout, without any deviation from the pattern. There are no other markings on the structure, other than the sign indicating a parking space for bicycles that has been affixed to the right of the object as we view it here. It doesn’t contain an entrance. It rises from concrete flagstones that seem to be the same age as it is. That metal bar to front left might indicate something about the piece’s construction but what this might be is beyond me. Is it solid? Is it hollow? Does it descend beneath the flagstones? I don’t know. I don’t care. There is no way of telling. It has a massive presence but it is without the necessary foundation of meaning to make it a part of the world.
This is only apparently real. Its artifice goes beyond the
usual manipulation of shadows and light and the rendering of three dimensional
objects on a two dimensional surface. Its suspect representation of what can be
seen through the lens, which is framed in a way that is impossible for the eye
to achieve, goes beyond the filter applied to that many windowed building. In
short, it brings together elements of landscapes separated by hundreds of miles
in a way that could not be achieved without the application of photomontage
techniques. In doing so, it breaks the rules that govern Sheffield Patrol Group
photographic projects, which insist on adherence to the production of straight
black and white images, altered only (if at all) by recourse to the most basic editing
techniques (auto correct, minimal cropping and straightening). But these rules
are not written and they do not need to be acted upon or submitted to.
Sheffield Patrol Group does not exist to tyrannise itself through arbitrary diktat.
And what is truth, anyway? And what is reality?
The conjunction of these elements from pre-existing
photographs represents a truth that could not otherwise be achieved. It is a
truth about boundaries and the curation of desire. It is a comment on the value
of what external agencies, which can’t be identified with certainty, present to
us as desirable, regardless of what we think and feel, and it suggests a
response we might take to these unwanted intrusions into the collective
unconscious. It says, if you don’t want to live in a bright shiny building that
is destined to degenerate into a monstrous and empty shack-castle, then all you
need to do is refuse it. It joins together that which did not exist until
recently, but now imposes itself on the mindscape with numbing arrogance, and
that which did exist until recently, but which has been supplanted by lowest
common denominator street art, which is all the rage in the corporately
endorsed, template driven, urban regeneration projects that have sprung up like
the fungal emanations of hideous diseases throughout the length and breadth of
Both the building and the art works I speak of are
emissaries of the inane, a reality more spurious than the unreal vision that is
presented here in all of its questionable falsehood. The building is the
central feature of the view from the Channelsea Path towards Stratford High
Street and the wall is a detail from the white painted exterior of the former
Henderson’s Relish factory on Upper Hanover Street in Sheffield before it was
tarnished by the pretty patterns of the so-called street artists commissioned
to make with the blue and orange emulsion. Ooh! Look at the trees and the moon
and the cranes! Isn’t it clever? No. It isn’t clever. It isn’t even funny.
I visit Stratford quite often. I have a strong sense of the
place. I’ve witnessed its transformation over the past 30 years, seen the rise
of Nu-Stratford, a neoliberal nightmare of glass and steel, high rent apartments,
fancy shopping centres, gentrified football stadiums and meaningless sculptures,
and the fall of Old Stratford, marked by social cleansing, poor upkeep,
deliberate drift into dereliction as part of some secret 20 year plan,
ultraviolence and the destruction of an admittedly mythical East End working
class community (the homeland of Alexander McQueen, not that anything’s made of
the link; it’s downplayed to an even greater extent than the Gerard Manley
Hopkins connection, which most people fail to register).
Despite my familiarity with the place, despite my knowledge
of where to go for a pint of unremarkable real ale, or the memory of an
authentic Chinese meal, or where to find its 18th century boundary
stones or Sainsbury’s or Tesco or Morrison’s, despite being more than a
stranger, my knowledge of the street names of Stratford doesn’t extend beyond Broadway,
High Street and the Channelsea Path. Broadway and High Street are joined, and
the Channelsea Path isn’t a street.
The Channelsea Path follows the route of a now hidden or non-existent
waterway. By the look of the path, which is more or less straight, it must have
been a canal or an attempt to tame or harness the power of a greater river. It’s
bordered by verdant but low level vegetation. The profusion of small trees and
large bushes means that it’s impossible to see very far along the route when
you’re travelling it in summer. This gives the place an unnerving, claustrophobic
feel, which is heightened by the tag based graffiti scrawled on the concrete
bollards and tumbledown brick walls that emerge at infrequent intervals along
the thoroughfare. The sense of danger, heightened by the reality based media
construct of Stratford as a violent place, was a cause of considerable anxiety
the first time I trod the path.
But the violent dogs and the violent gangs that existed in
my mind understandably failed to materialise. The path leads from nowhere to
nowhere. There’s a large housing estate at the High Street end but a vicious
spiked iron fence separates the tower blocks from the path, and some sprawling
industrial space at the other, which looks like it has something to do with
public utilities – maybe it’s an enlarged water treatment facility, which succeeded
the fabulous Cathedral of Sewage that features in this photograph. On the first
occasion I went looking for the object of my desire, I encountered a total of
two people on the Channelsea Path – one as I was going out and the other as I was
returning. And neither of them had a dog. There were very few people on that
first visit (and there have been very few people whenever I’ve returned) but
there was a great profusion of midges, swarming in vast clouds, suggestive of
the route’s previous watery manifestation.
On my first pilgrimage to the cathedral, I missed the turn
off, because there is no sign offering directions to Abbey Mills Pumping Station,
which is the place’s official name. I wandered around at a loss for a while
before retracing my steps, deciding on an impulse to investigate where the
turning towards the end of the path might lead to. I quickly encountered confirmation
that I was on the right track, in the form of a row of impressive looking Victorian
houses, which must have been constructed at the same time as the pumping
station and probably accommodated several families of high status workers. But following
this clue proved frustrating to begin with; the road that the houses were on
led beneath a bridge and shortly after this I saw a large sign announcing the
presence of the complex, but the site was surrounded by an impenetrable metal
enclosure and nothing of the buildings could be seen.
Once again, I retraced my steps, and I noticed a wooden
stairway, which I decided to ascend, although the steps were spongey and rotten
and the smell of piss permeated the air. I struggled to the top of the flights
of wooden steps and found myself on another path, better tended than the
Channelsea Path, which I recognised as the recently developed walkway that runs
between Stratford High Street towards Bromley-by-Bow and whatever its terminal
point may be. I crossed this sand coloured path, descended into a small patch
of greenery (long grass and low lying bushes) and feasted my eyes upon the glory
that is pictured here.
I have a great big hand. I have a hand whose enormity is
beyond belief. I have a hand that has suffered through the ages; it stands
before you devoid of thumb and forefinger, maimed in the fingers adjoining this
absence, marked by the joint of the little finger.
This is the sound of one hand clapping.
I have a hand that is made of clay, inscribed with symbols
evocative of infinity. It is gouged and marked but retains the trace of the
plumpness of its palm and the integrity of its lower parts as it leads down to
the wrist, which is shrouded in darkness.
My hand convinces through its enormity. The truncated
confederacy of three fingers casts a shadow which serves to illuminate the core
and the centre, which consists of a festival of circles, a containment that
The outer round is intensified by an infinitude of triangles
that counting could render discrete. Beyond this, three rotund furrows lie,
hypnotising the viewer into the space that they contain. Radiate extensions
call us deeper in, towards the centre, a diminishing expanse holding great
strength and power. The heart is an absence containing everything that proceeds
from it and does not escape it.
If we go in, we go out. If we got out, we go in. Outward and
inward vacillate or oscillate. Who knows how that movement is best defined? A
sun and a flower. A Sun Flower. The mark of a superman. An offence to the Taliban.
“I put my hand out. There was nothing there at all.”
It’s hard to remember my motivation for taking many of my
photographs. Some of them have a didactic purpose or serve as illustrations of
predetermined themes; some of them mark notable occasions or fix and freeze
time but many of them do not.
Often, I enter a photo-focused state, which is characterised
by relaxation and alertness at the same time, and the images I am called to
capture seem to emerge from the apparently unremarkable landscapes I walk
through, as if they were asking me to rescue them from the obscurity in which
they would otherwise reside.
I’m often surprised by what can be found in the photos when
I review them months after they were first taken.
I recall that the main focus of this picture was the window
in the top right corner – what can we see through the round window? … a symbol
of the sun… – and the relationship
between this window and the traffic sign in the foreground emerges quite
quickly and provides an interesting comment on the open and the closed, freedom
and constraint, but I’ve only just clocked the logo of a circular saw adorned
with a Union Jack pattern and the curious head of a creature (a swan? a snake?)
to the left of the ‘Made in Sheffield England’ sign, which encodes a notion of
quality associated with any object fashioned from steel in the city.
That diagonal line passing through the circular saw also
underlines the relationship between the upper circles.
The questions I ask myself now are: what do we see of what
we see? And what do we see later, and why?
I’ve been wandering around for years in a state of shock, not doing very much, trying to make myself feel better.
I think I might feel better if I could develop a programme to guide me.
Everything is grounded in the immediate experience of now. We are here and not elsewhere, and we act from where we are. The immediate experience of now reasserts itself as reality no matter how often it is denied.
That feels a bit better. That’s something to hang onto, something to guide me. Can I add anything to it – something that allows me to feel less foolish, something to elevate myself above my degradation, something that appears to possess the weight (or is it the lightness?) of truth, something to make me feel special?
There is no secret wisdom. Everything is provisional. Nothing is certain. There are no reliable authorities. All systems are arbitrary and only acquire meaning if their constituent elements are accepted as if they were true. All supposedly valid systems can be invalidated by the simple expedient of refusing their premises.
How can I assert my identity, or something that might develop into a coherent identity? How can I go beyond space and time without losing myself completely? How can I say, “Fuck you” to the Masters?
What people tell me I am is a fiction. I am beyond any definition given by the other. I am beyond any definition given by myself. I am beyond what I’m told I am. I begin nowhere. I end nowhere. I occupy a space between beginning and end, which is constant but seems to change. The mortal and corruptible body is absolutely linked to any notion of super sensible being with which it is associated. We have the necessary resources within us and we do not need instruction from elsewhere.
Things seem to be looking up. I’m happy. I’m breathing clean air. I’m a hero in the cause of truth. I’ve ascended and made a stab at revenge. I’m prepared. How can I move on from here?
Form is a treatment of unfettered imagination. The limited is a manifestation of the limitless. Limitless being exists in the context of finite being; the endless is known by that which knows a beginning and end. The end is in the beginning and the beginning is in the end. The beginning and the end differ by virtue of that which has passed between them.