Hondartza Fraga in Hull – ‘a still better seaward peep’

Hondartza Fraga, our occursus artist in residence in 2011, has begun a new residency at the University of Hull, funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

Based at the Maritime History Studies Centre, Hondartza will be examining Hull’s whaling history in the year 1780-1850.

Ms Fraga will examine and represent the various relationships that evolved while whaling crews undertook lengthy, arduous and dangerous voyages to Arctic waters. She will explore how whalers understood material objects (like their ships and equipment), arctic environments, whales and whale products. Ashore, she will consider the domestic lives of families left behind for long periods, their notion of whales and their engagement with the material culture of whaling. Ms Fraga will also respond to the social and economic roles of whale products in the emergence of a modern consumer society and in the evolution of Hull as a port-city with transnational commercial interests.


Read Hondartza’ s residency blog here.

Revisiting – some ideas

The notion of coming back presumes that we have gone forward somehow. It implies looking from a distance. This distance may be physical, temporal, cultural, emotional or imagined. What are the reasons that drive us to look back: nostalgia, melancholia, loss or dissatisfaction with the present? Can we revisit unknown places, or can we only revisit where we once belonged? And what happens when the physical place is no longer there?

There is an impulse to reconstruct the past, to understand the journey. What is the meaning and purpose of revisiting in relation to a virtual context, as opposed to a real, physical one?

We can never look at the same place, event, photo or text in exactly the same way. Every time we will bring, consciously or unconsciously, something new to our reading. Every time is an attempt to reconstruct or deconstruct the original. To visit derives from the latin word visitare (‘go to see’) and this in turn from visare (‘to view’) and videre (‘to see’). To re-visit is then to look back, or again, to re-encounter, connecting the present with the past, to build a whole from the fragments, suggesting narratives, filling the gaps.

What are the objects and images that we take on our journey, and which are the ones left behind? What is our relationship with these objects that constantly invite us to revisit some long lost place or to lose ourselves in an imaginary landscape, beyond our scale and time, an echo of home or perhaps a romanticised idea of a utopian ‘unknown’?

The section on re-visiting invites words and images that revolve around notions of displacement, longing, repetition, the meaning of home, the fragment, the archive, individual and collective notions of native and foreignness, of departure and arrival.

Format: please send your submissions (which can consist of or include photographs, drawings, etc; if text, max 1000 words) to before the 31st of August.


Today is my last day as Occursus artist-in-residence.

Mainly, it has been a month of re-visiting. Re-visiting ideas, photos, texts, videos. And it has flown by. I haven’t revisit all I wanted to. But the end of this residency is not the end of the process. Simply a change of location, a pause for recollection and gathering before moving forward. Re-visiting is my continuous and endless way of working, sometimes is unconscious and others it is the very core of the work. But it never ends and it is never complete.

Looking back at my posts during these weeks, I realize that there is some form of surfacing going on in my images. There is a dialogue (or it could be an argument) between two images that are forced to share a sole surface, and therefore have to fight for prominence. Or two images that contradict, negate or hide each other. When I look at found postcards I can’t decide if it is the front or the back what holds the message, I am not even sure there is a message. So I try to merge both sides. Or even if I promote one side over the other, it will refuse to be separated and will find a way to implicate and reference the other.

There are perhaps multi surfaces, the surface of the screen, the surface of the found photograph, the surface of the landscape. And to me they all seem to be both remote and found at the same time, distant but inseparable from each other. The model and the reality fused and confused. At times, one surface is removed and the rest have to be rearrange, redefine or re-imagined. On other occasions, a new surface is incorporated, invited to bridge two non-communicating surfaces.

I have been tracing maps, doilies and fragmented wallpaper patterns. The doilies are broken and the blank areas designate a polar vision of the northern hemisphere. I have re-visited my work Mappa. The land is in negative, missing. The drawn areas cover what has to be identified as the ocean. It is a doily for a map, or a map for a doily. I have enlarge their scale. No they are wall maps. More image than instrument. The lines suggest a certain topography but the repetition exposes the doily, and both subjects are yielded to the off-white surface of the paper. From a distance the paper seems to be all there is, it is only on close inspection that the drawing can be discerned.

I mentioned at the beginning of my residency that one of my main objectives was to complete a new video work, for which I was writing a dialogue in collaboration with artist Markus Lantto. This work is still in progress. We wanted to write a fictional dialogue for two characters. In the process I realized I was feeling detached from these fictional characters and their dialogue, and I needed to incorporate ourselves in the work in a more direct way. So the piece will fluctuate between the fictional dialogue and our own correspondence about the work. And I realized also that this work could not be rushed and it would have to flow freely and take its time, so its development will continue beyond my stay at Site Gallery.

It has been a strange and enriching experience. I am already based in Sheffield, and I have my studio in this city, so it was not about making work of the place itself but to look back and revisit my work. Being in a temporary blank space always prompts the need to fill up the walls with work quickly with new images. But in this case, after the first days’ awkwardness of adaptation and expectation, the blankness of the walls has provided some relief from my cramped studio. Spending time just looking at one’s drawing or starting at a blank paper allows for new lines of thought to push through. It has given me the time and mind-space. And sometimes priorities get confused and experimentation and play take a secondary role, for which I am convinced the work always suffers. So this residency has provided both, time to play and think, and space to experiment.


A house. A house surrounded by a white fence, lush trees and a small path leading to its white door. A woman leaning over a child, probably saying goodbye before he leaves for school. A borrowed setting, a found photograph. A tiny image removed from its original context, history or time.

And I can’t decide if I am too big or the house too small for me to visit. The landscape is either too small or too far to define myself in it. But If I look at it close enough, it becomes immense, greater than my own scale. And I am there somehow. I inhabit the image better than anything else, precisely because I can’t inhabit it.

found photograph (click to view animation)

occursus curates an exhibition of works by Hondartza Fraga and Paul Evans

occursus curates an exhibition of works by Hondartza Fraga and Paul Evans…

The opening event will take place on Tuesday July 5th 2011.

Paul Evans, Melt (2010)
Hondartza Fraga, Lighthouse (from the series 'As It Falls, Either Remembered or not Seen' (2011)


This is a drawing of a found photograph. Of the back of a photograph. I can’t remember where I got this photograph, in which flea market, in which city or for that matters, in which country even. The image on the front showed a seascape with mountains, there were not identifying landmarks. But in the back, it was hand-written “La Coruña”. So I bought the photograph. I was collecting old postcards at the time, looking for postcards that did not stated which place they showed.

I was born in La Coruña. I don’t know if I bought the photograph for myself or for my work. It was an anonymous image, but the message on the back automatically transformed the landscape into a familiar place, a personal place, a place belonging to my own personal history. But no less elusive for that. The image was still not mine, and I still didn’t recognize the landscape. But I could now inhabit the image in a different way. I could bring my own narrative to the photograph. Although this narrative would be also partly remembered, partly imagined. I know it wasn’t a melancholic impulse what drove me to make the drawing.

Choosing the back instead of the front image, rejecting the landscape itself. I think I wanted to concentrate on the negation of familiarity, the impossibility of feeling nostalgic about the image, to focus on the stranger’s writing. The two narratives (its original owner’s story and my imposed one) would have to be ignored or at less hidden from view. So I hid the landscape. And left only the “signpost”.


Today I went to see an exhibition of some research projects on how different cultures inhabit space, how different people make themselves at home. It was hosted at the University of Sheffield.

You can see details here:

There was a work about Norwegian cabins, the holiday homes for many families to spend some quiet and peaceful time up in the mountains. In the exhibition it was a replica of what it was refer to as the ‘reading corner’, a big type of sofa for reading, do nothing, play or simply get cozy and relax.

Of course, I am interested in these sort of spaces. This type of temporary home, set idyllically in the fantastic Norwegian countryside, far from any other house or road. A shelter for enjoying a fruitful type of loneliness perhaps. It reminded me of another text from my grandfather so I will include it here. The text is about the word ‘corner’, for which in Spain we have two words: one that would translate more as nook, inside corner, recess (rincón); and another that is means corner but also has the connotations mainly of quoin (esquina). So the text may not make complete sense in english… but here it goes anyhow.

Absurd pastimes. Playing at definitions (X) Continue reading “nook/corner”