For several years now, I’ve been exploring ideas around ritual and repetition, using restrictions as a freedom and aiming to transform in the process. Pre-prescribed sequences of events such as only allowing myself to make a certain series of marks in a certain order helped take myself out of the equation for long-enough to let the transformation from raw materials to artwork happen.
Labyrinths are a perfect form for continuing this exploration. Their restrictions include their deceptively ‘simple’ structure – that of pathways and walls with a goal at the centre – and also their single path format. Unlike a maze, you can’t get lost in a labyrinth.
Each piece in this series shown uses a labyrinth as its bounding box so to speak. In both two dimensions and in three, labyrinths can be experienced as tools, as games and as sacred spaces. Here they help re-map and explore new territory – which seems both unknown and somehow familiar at the same time.
These patterns act as containers – the outside and inside are clearly defined. But they are also expansive – instead of getting from A to B in a direct way, a labyrinth stretches out the distance covered with its turns of direction and intentional loop backs. At times on the path, the walker is physically deep, so close to the goal, but then their journey takes a single turn which pushes them right out to the edge again – tricks of orientation that can be fun or frustrating and everything in between, depending on the walker’s state of mind.
Does mapping the whole contents of a book translate it for us in some way? What else are we now aware of after ‘walking’ these paths? Can we actually lose ourselves in there? Is the transformation contained inherently within the labyrinth or in our own individual experience of it?
As these are flat 2-dimensional paperworks, their presence is fundamentally different than the 3-dimensional ‘real thing’, even though some of them are larger than me or the next person. They are plans, maps, guides. Do they belong on the floor, like the labyrinth at Chartres? Would a scale model help? Or is the next step to build one of these imaginary places so you can actually walk in that territory?
This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test this out, as part of a residency for Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset, with fellow artist-in-residence Christopher Jelley. We created 2 labyrinths – a 20m diameter one cut into the long grass in Longrun Meadow, as part of ‘The Great Get Together’ in June (inspired by Jo Cox MP)…
and a 10m diameter grass labyrinth in Lyngford Park, as part of ‘Pride in Priorswood’ a summer-long programme of community events in North Taunton:
These have been walked (and run, hopped and skipped) now by a few hundred local residents and visitors… and we’re working on a proposal for a series of physical ‘Brexit’ labyrinths on British Islands, so I guess you could say I’m scaling things up a notch right now and working within a whole different set of grids, map references and possibilities…