Beningbrough Hall was constructed at a time when scientific thinking was concerned with ideas on light and shadow (particularly in terms of how we see light, projection and perspective). For me, architectural light and shadow connects us to those who have experienced a place through time; they also connect us to our own experiences of home.
As a means to consider how those who lived and worked at Beningbrough Hall experienced the space throughout its 300 years, I have been drawing in response to the architecture and have become interested in some of the decorative motifs found in the ornate plasterwork. These features would have become familiar over time and I am considering how to highlight them through my thinking on light and shadow. I have been testing Echoes of Light, glass bricks that I have etched with some of these drawings.
Preparations to install my video projection, Shadow Sketches, at Beningbrough have been interrupted due to lockdown, so I am transferring the focus of my working to my home to continue my inquiry.
Often when visiting a new place, I take time to experience the architecture through the senses, immersing myself in the feel of the space. As well as looking, I close my eyes, breathe in and smell the air, listen to the aural architecture, feel the atmosphere on my skin, and touch surfaces to feel traces of human use. I take notice of my observations and responses, store them in my memory to retrieve later when working.
The Hall is currently closed to visitors and undergoing some refurbishment. As my time on site is limited, rather than make drawings, I have chosen to take photographs to provide material to work with, so I can start working with these digitally. I find using a viewfinder helpful as a way to explore and gather information about a building, as it enables me to focus on specific points of interest. At this stage, I have limited my research to the main entrance hall and the first floor corridor as the Baroque plasterwork here is stunning. As I work in the space, I anticipate moments when the architecture might reveal itself to me. I am not surprised to notice the results of my work reflect my interest in light, shadow and repetitive, decorative motif.
Back in my studio, I have started to make video ‘sketches’ that focus on interesting architectural moments where I am experimenting with drawing out abstract forms and decorative motifs. This is a helpful way to become familiar with a building and test ideas. As well as focusing on the stunning architectural features, I am interested in uncovering and revealing any hidden or overlooked features, particularly the shifting light and shadow as I have a long held fascination with architectural light and shadow.
For me, buildings breathe, they expand and contract in two ways: firstly, in response to their context, the rhythms of their inhabitants, as well as the natural rhythms of light, seasons, passages of time; and secondly, in response to what is asked of them, their purpose. Buildings hold within them the human everyday but also the in-between, the rhythm of daily life that passes between us, the inhabitants and the building (including echoes of past). We are drawn into conversation, invited to glimpse these rhythms, when we experience and relish unexpected moments of light and shadow.
I am commencing a residency at Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens this month. Throughout 2020, I will be making work in response to the architecture, sharing my process with visitors to provide another way of experiencing the space.
Starting with desk research, I have been researching Beningbrough Hall, its history, construction, renovations, the people associated with it and their impacts on the architecture and how it has changed, both physically and how it is used. As well as textual research, visual clues such as maps, family trees, architectural drawings, historic drawings and photographs are all rich sources of material to discover how people may have experienced the Hall throughout its history. To establish a better understanding of the building and its construction, I have also researched the Georgian architectural style of English Baroque, its history and characteristics and the wider context of the Baroque period.
Although desk research is a good place to start as an introduction to context, there is no substitution to experiencing the space and I look forward to doing that very soon.