(Now that would be) Telling brings together contemporary art, literature and history through a big dollop of imagination. The project features site-specific artwork made by Hayley Lock and texts written by Jessica Hart, Lucinda Hawksley, Ben Moor, Hallie Rubenhold and Liz Williams for five stately homes.
Using the portraits and collections in the houses as starting points, Hayley created parallel worlds through her work. She used the documented histories as much as rumour and hearsay, mining the lives of the people living, working and visiting the houses for inspiration. Hayley has also collaborated with a different writer in each house to bring out a different aspect of the work.
At Ickworth, Ben Moor wrote Please Wait Here, a contemplative and often absurd tale of a questionnaire writer suffering a block for the remarkable and barmy Ickworth House in Suffolk. Historical novelist Lucinda Hawksley created stories of those In the shadow of Ruskin for Brantwood in Cumbria. Romance novelist Jessica Hart created a bodice-ripping yarn full of torrid affairs amongst the noble classes; broadcaster. Novellist Hallie Rubenhold penned The Johnsonian Mysteries, including an entirely fabricated contents page full of wry references for scholars of Dr Johnson. Finally, science fiction and fantasy writer Liz Williams wrote the lifetime in a day of the Parminter cousins who built A la Ronde in Devon, their octagonal house created to have a room for every function throughout the day.
Hayley's works are densely layered in terms of their references and their facture, with a mix of digitally manipulated imagery, hand drawn and collaged surfaces decorated with intricate lines of glitter, gems, feathers and textiles. The references threaded through the writer's texts too, with tartan squirrels appearing in Ickworth and characters dancing from one form to another. A dark glass appeared in every house and in several stories, a connecting principle with occult undertones. The Claude glass was originally a drawing tool - a darkened convex reflective glass - but became synonymous with the all seeing eye and various connections to another world. We have brought them to the houses as part of a meta narrative and darkened heart showing views of other worlds.
Historical houses offer guided tours and information about what visitors are seeing, interpreting their own histories. Part of our aim is to inspire visitors to create their own versions of history, to see the rich heritage of the UK as starting points for adventures and magic. The stories take different forms - visual, written - and hopefully don't stop with the work created by the artist and writers, but continue with each visitor's imagination.
We are delighted to bring some of these works into a dramatically different context to The Kitchies’ Steampunk Evening at Blackwell’s, an entire event celebrating the folding of history through imagination. We're looking forward to seeing the works on their own and reading the texts in a space where books are king. I suspect that, whilst you can take the work out of the homes, you can't take the homes out of the work, so I like to think we're bringing them too.
Catherine Hemelryk is the Curator of (Now that would be) Telling and is on the panel of judges awarding The Kitschies’ Inky Tentacle.