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Where do you notice a pin least?

3 August 2020

On a flying visit to my studio in High Wycombe this week I randomly selected one of the several A4 folders I keep in a box there.

I am looking through that folder now at my home studio table in Norfolk

The folders are the type that have transparent sleeves and at the end of a period of work I pick up the pile of papers and scraps that have accumulated on my working table and unceremoniously slide them into the pockets and store them away.

These folders are filled in no obvious order. Smudges and scribbled phrases that seemed hardly worth keeping, they. are not annotated and there is nothing of any apparent value; nothing considered about them. They contain un-attributed quotes from radio programs that I wasn’t really listening to, sketchy diagrams, colour test paint splodges, records of process actions, and freehand line drawings that seem to have gone nowhere.

Nevertheless something causes me to hesitate from throwing them away and I rescue them.

As I look today at the contents of this ,folder gleaned from the table some time in 2015, I see incomplete and incoherent fragments inviting me to wander along a meandering and forgotten thought path .

I’ll describe a few of the pages for you.

Page 1. A green printed grid page has several things written at different times

Standard Issue.


You must see things like this all the time?

When did you last see your brother?

What do you make of that?

If you do think of anything of significance give us a call.

As expected no surprises.

Missing puzzle pieces are our stock in trade.

A little man behind a green curtain.

Square one.

Page 2. Copier paper with acrylic and oil tests in green and black, and jotted in pencil, ‘We want to know.’

Page 3. An A4 sheet folded, on one side there is some text that appears copied from a book;

He alighted at Liverpool Street.

As he was walking in the streets and square beyond Victoria, he paused suddenly and stood. It was a quaint, quiet square, very typical of London, full of accidental stillness.

The tall, flat houses, looked at once prosperous and uninhabited

Overleaf, there is a list.

Kitchen table


Playroom table



Also inside this sleeve is another grid sheet with a freehand diagonal line drawing, close in appearance to a reference to a quincunx which I came across yesterday as I began to read Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn, but I wil come back to that

I’ll describe one more?

This sheet has a date 10/10.2015

I remember the reason for this page.

This is a strange diagram of a memory. I had been stationary in traffic on the outskirts of Manchester on my way to a gallery opening. Sitting between the facades of the 1930’s suburban houses, recollections of the dolls house my father made for me as a small child conflated with this avenue of windows and drawn curtains and Venetian colonnades. I wrote Street - Gallery - Galleria.

On the reverse amongst other things is a a scribbled quote.

Where do you notice a pin least?

During this period of time I had begun a series of paintings titled Service Road. In the folder I also I found a few pages torn from a note book which had been an attempt to verbalise what I was then experiencing. I’ll read from them

I move about waiting for the moment when there is a visual disruption, where a pattern or rhythm is detected. Not to be studied, this becomes an unavoidable line of thought, an unresolved puzzle, and I begin to want to think about this when making drawings.’

The notes continue…

‘currently I am thinking about a section of road I drive along on the way to the studio. The houses either side of this 1970s housing estate each have a panel of pantiles which is irregular along the street. I catch these in my peripheral vision. I am instantly engaged - looking to fix a patterning. I am not interested in replicating, measuring or representing the geometry. It’s more that I can sense a rhythm and know that I can play along and that many variations are possible, they are an opening to a type of infinity.’

Sebald writes in The Rings of Saturn about Thomas Browne, a doctor who practiced in Norwich in the 17th century, and who recorded patterns in animate and inanimate matter, the quincunx, is the the same structures found in ‘starfish and sea urchins, butterflies and moths, seed husks and also in designs for Architecture for the layout of orchards… examples might be multiplied without end.’

Sebald quotes Browne.

The greater the distance , the clearer the view: one sees the tiniest of details with the utmost clarity. It is as if one were looking through a reversed opera glass and through a microscope at the same time. And yet, all knowledge is en-veloped in darkness. What we perceive are no more than isolated lights in the abyss of ignorance, in the shadow filled edifice of the world. We study the order of things says Browne but we cannot grasp their innermost essence. And because it is so, it befits our philosophy to be writ small, using the shorthand and contracted forms of transient Nature, which alone are a reflection of eternity.’

I occasionally flick through my folders when I come across them,

I don’t use them to make work at least not yet, but I do see connections that make sense now. The collected papers provide an access route through to my peripheral thoughts and activities.

Oh, and,

Where do you notice a pin least?

In a pin cushion.

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