Anna Crook - found things collection

Oh my word. I’ve gone back through my posts and realised I didn’t post any of the pieces that resulted from my experimental play with plasticine and kitchen foil!! Ironically the final pieces didn’t include any of these experiments but instead led to something completely different. Don’t you sometimes find that…. that playing with one material actually enables you to make progress elsewhere in your practice?

I love the ‘Thursday Next’ series by Jasper Fforde in which the main character Thursday Next goes in and out of novels to solve literary crimes. I wanted to take this concept a little further and imagine I could step inside a book myself and select an everyday object or garment which features in the book.  Accompanying the item is a piece of prose which is supposedly written by the character who came by it. Parallel to this narrative is my own story as to how I came across these items.

I loved doing these pieces, it was so completely different from anything I’d ever done before and yet it felt so familiar. I suppose they drew on the elements of my practice but came out in a different format. The finished pieces and explanations are below:

Anna Crook - found things i

Found items i – burnt nightdress

Down came the great staircase. There was a great crash as all fell. I, Richard Mason, came upon the said place where she fell and found, amidst the ruins, this piece of sad, torn cloth that came free as her body was taken and lain aside.’  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (written by Richard Mason, Bertha’s brother)

I could just imagine Richard Mason visiting the place where his sister fell, lamenting on her whole sorry life and, as standing there deep in thought, the fragment of material catching his eye. I imagine him picking it up and gazing at it with recognition and sadness before placing it in his breast pocket.

I came across this incredible Victorian garment in Second to None in Walsall, in fact they had a variety of near perfect Victorian night dresses. Due to how I was going to treat and distress the garment I asked if they had any already torn or worn pieces I could buy. She had one or two which exactly suited my needs and I progressed without guilt, tearing, burning and smoking the piece until it could realistically be taken for the torn and dirty fragment of Bertha’s dress.

 

Anna Crook - found things ii

Found items ii – locks of hair

‘I told Mr. Lockwood that I enclosed the black lock and the curl of light hair within the locket that hung around Catherine’s neck. Within the locket I’d twisted the two together, but instead I secluded them in my apron and stole away, intending to give them to the child when she was grown.’  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (written by Nelly, Ellen Dean)

Nelly had quite a complicated relationship with Cathy so maybe she could have done this. The scene before as Heathcliff hovers by Cathy’s bedside as Linton arrives, Nelly petrified for all their safety, evokes deep emotions. She may have taken the two locks and kept them, not only for the newly born Catherine, but to protect herself and the part she had played.

I have got into the habit of keeping hair after haircuts, especially when the children were young. I have also kept my own and the variety of colours it has progressed through as I’ve aged. The hair in the piece is my own and my daughters. In researching for this piece I discovered the world of Victorian hair weaving which was incorporated into jewellery pieces. It can be quite intricate, but in reading the book and with the haste in which the hair was removed and replaced within the locket, I cannot see there being time for more than a twist of the two locks, curling them together.

 

Anna Crook - found things iii

Found items iii – burnt veil

‘The great cloth, with its heap of rottenness and all the ugly things that sheltered there, mended with her veil. As it became like patches of tinder a piece separated and fell, floating in the smoky air. Every vestige of her dress was burnt but this.’  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (written by Pip)

Pip could have potentially kept this but I doubt it! However I loved the idea of the once beautiful veil being singed and covered with cobwebs, dust and dead insects. I work in a large shed in the garden and create alongside insects of all shapes and sizes, especially spiders. Every now and then I give the place a good dust, and this time I using some worn and dirty chiffon to collect all the detritus. The result was perfect and only needed burning and smoking slightly for the piece to be complete.

 

Anna Crook - found things iv

Found items iv – soap

‘To speak of such things, I dare not. What’s done cannot be undone, I am sure of that. Troubled with a mind diseased therein, I minister to myself. Hands scoured will no longer ease my brow. Thinks me a purging deed to undertake. I seize sweet oblivion.’   Macbeth by Shakespeare (written by Lady Macbeth)

The thought of someone, after discovering the soap used by Lady Macbeth to wash her bloody hands over and over, hiding it somewhere, intrigued me. This soap was handmade in Cornwall.

 

Anna Crook - found things v

Found items v – feather and horse hair

‘On my Father’s bench amid spanners and wrenches and oily rags was the most perfect pheasant feather. I gently picked it up and twisted the remaining horse hair around its base. I hung it alongside the fire balloon, the boomerang, the kite and the bow and arrow, against a wall in the workshop, for another day.’   Danny the Champion of the world by Roald Dahl (written by Danny)

Danny describes two wonderful events he had with his Father, the fire balloon and the kite, and both hang in the workshop. I thought it would be probable that Danny would select a pheasant feather to remember the most magnificent day of all.

This particular pheasant feather was retrieved from the floor of a large open stable, after I watched a gamekeeper pluck a dead pheasant ready for the evening meal. We were at a manor house and using the sports facilities there. We couldn’t miss the gamekeeper as we walked through the stable area into the sports hall. It was quite surreal watching this man transform a beautiful bird into a main course and a pile of feathers.

 

Anna Crook - found things vi

Found items vi – thimble

‘Called to give prizes, and the comfits handed round one a-piece, the elegant thimble was all that remained. After being gravely presented it went to where it had come and became the companion to mushroom morsels and cake crumbs in her pocket.’  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (anonymous)

There were many and varied memorable items that could have been taken from this book but I think the thimble is one that could be overlooked and makes the viewer work harder to guess the book. Such a non-descript item, it is mentioned and then forgotten almost as quickly. Something about this appeals to me: that even though its function was unnecessary at the time, it had a moment of redefinition and then became itself again.

I trawled through several antique shops to find one that would potentially have been used during the time which Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice book, and this is the oldest one I could find hiding amidst coins and buttons.

 

‘Danny, Champion of the World@ is at Emporium Gallery, Lichfield (see outlets for address)

Commissions taken. If interested please email artannacrook@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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