I did not know what to expect when I arrived at a remote village school in Nagykata Hungary.
A two-week residency that offered the opportunity
to discover new spaces is an important
part of my art practice. So, on arrival
I immediately began exploring the building to see what
I could find. I entered from the front and the ground floor had separate rooms. On the floor in
the first room, neatly aligned mattresses were ready to be occupied. Walking west along the
building was a third door, on entering I was presented with three other doors and
interconnected rooms. Like a child's game I was drawn to the locked door in the
middle closed by a tiny metal hook. Opening the door, a ladder-like staircase led me to a
forgotten attic loft space full of debris and dust. Not just dust, but rubble, soil and dust,
layered upon dust. It was a treasure trove of abandoned forgotten artworks, children's
used and discarded exercise books. I waded through upturned and
abandoned desks and chairs like a forgotten classroom frozen in time but in the roof space. The
attic spoke to me of a bygone age of communist learning and teachings of a now rejected
On first appearance, there were two small skylights that failed to threaten the darkness but
once my eyes adjusted there was light. Little pools and shards
of intense light penetrated the
roof through small gaps and holes. The way
the light bounced of the dust in the air reminded
me of stars and constellations.
A magical feeling of enchantment set in. In the stillness, it felt
like a temple, shrine and church all combined. This was the space I felt I wanted to explore
for my residency. It was a complete contrast to me thinking beforehand, that
I would work
with the landscape again. Working with light and dust meant the start of an exploration of
how the light interacted with the objects and how the light changed the composition and
meaning of the dust and how the light beckoned leading me to find new stories.
Then as I gently tip-toed through the maze I saw something through the darkness. Peeping
through the grey dusty matter beneath my feet, I found a small leaflet, brown with age
published in 1966 by the then state. It was titled ELET ES TUDOMANY translated in English
LIFE AND SCIENCE.
It immediately got my attention and intrigue because on the cover was
a picture of a black woman with an afro who was playing an instrument.
I didn't recognise
her or the instrument but now know her to be ODETTA BALZAN an American blues singer
and guitarist. It was a long way to travel
to a remote part of Hungary to find a black woman
in an abandoned attic.
I had to find out more. However, as I flicked through the dusty
as a teaching aid, flicking past articles about Op-Art and Military hardware my
eyes rested on the central article which, from the pictures and later research, talked about
tribesmen surviving in South Africa. I was particularly captivated by the images, and the
probably now deceased, picture of a man the Hungarian called 'Busman' (Bushman). He
had cleverly found water in the
arid and harsh environment he was living in and was sucking
it up through
a thin reed of grass. These two newly found cousins from two different
continents coalesced in a European backwater to now form the epicentre
and the base of
my new work going forward.
The reason why they both arrived and summoned my attention, I do not know, only the
future will tell.