Interstices of the City
Often those seemingly forgotten or forbidden places, shadow cast and foreboding, hide stories that arterial roads never bring to light. We hurtle by, their narratives not lost on us because they were never found. On a sunlit Sunday, I was taken to just such a place. Between decaying buildings a short access road to a new nowhere, the quaintly named ‘Sylvester Gardens’, was lined with the social gargoyles of other lives lived. Silver nitrous oxide capsules cascaded from the innards of black bags, drinks cans piled together, their chaotic state of equilibrium incongruously crowned by the chess board lid of a small games compendium. These cairns of indulgences past form tribal boundary markers on a journey into a borderland where societal values are potentially contested. They speak of other cultures and existences, a rabbit hole for the ‘curiouser’, or a potentially threatening place where social taboos are enacted. Half swept streets make strange bed-fellows with suburban sensibilities.
With each step, the austere walls of decaying industrial units gradually gave way to surfaces adorned in art of growing complexity. The lane opened out onto a concrete slab relict that betrayed former purpose. Onto the whole played the golden light of the winter afternoon as to our right the Porter Brook roared with the passing of Friday’s snowfall. All around clumps of mucky whiteness persisted in the shadows. Each remnant vertical surface had something to say, or a legacy of someone with something to say. Beautiful, complex and sometimes perplexing images were interposed with short bold statements, themselves often foregrounded with teeming mounds of rubble and rotting timbers. The whole place asked many questions across a bold and unpromising canvas of brick, broken windows, concrete and flaking paint. On the surface the scale of endeavour and striking imagery are magnificent. The whole speaks of a deeply unconventional meeting of minds, a place where counter-cultures can be and are enacted beyond the opprobrium of the bigger society. Is it an appropriation of space, or embellishment? I have attempted to capture some images in this fairly secret gallery. If this is a space in transition how long will it remain?
Richard Ward, 2013