Monday, 27 February 2012


I've decided to start with taking my visual inspiration from the posters I like so much; my starting point for the content comes from thinking about the layers of history and the words echoing across the centuries from that first opening night. The experience I had while visiting of being in a silent theatre and that expectant hush; that feeling that if you strain your ears enough you might be able to hear an echo of those first words.  I was so taken when I first went on a guided tour with the fact that the theatre was shut for such a long time; it had decades at first of light and sound and activity, but was then closed and used for other things. Then suddenly rediscovered and refurbished in the twentieth century, so it saw all that activity start up again. Two significant opening nights - one in 1788 and one in 1963. And we know what was performed on each occasion. We even know the members of Samuel Butler's original company in the 18th Century as well as who spoke and what was performed at the reopening in the 20th Century. So I have plenty of content to work with and some visual hints as well.

I'm beginning with sampling - trying out different materials, different weights of paper,  to get at the idea of layering. I'm using some different thin lightweight papers that might work being layered together... thinking about layers of memory, fragments of text, the ephemeracy of a performance...its transitory nature.

For this sample I've planned out some text using the name of the first piece performed - 'Inkle & Yarico', an opera by George Colman. I found a photocopy of the script in the archives and there's usefully a copy of the script online as well. I found an interesting snippet in a contemporary newspaper reporting on the reopening of the theatre in 1963 which says that the first production to be staged after the gala reopening was to be 'Inkle & Yarico' but I couldn't find any more reports of this actually happening.

There's a playbill which features a later production of the same opera so I used the letter shapes from that in my sample.

This first small piece is cut from Chinese rice paper; I like the quality of it very much - its quite tough so withstands sharp scalpel cutting and quite intricate detail. I  use a surgical scalpel for paper cutting -   a Swann Morton handle and 10A Swann Morton blades. It does tend to curl and move - a bit like a fabric more than a paper. I need to try cutting a larger sample from the A3 size that I have and I'm ordering a bigger size to see how large I can go - its really how much weight will stand up to being hung/pinned. That's another aspect to this piece, which will be how to present it so it stands off the background and creates some shadows as well as how to achieve a layered effect. I've tried pins which I think work as its a bit like trying to trap the memories and preserve them, rather as people preserve insect and butterfly specimens. Again its a case of trying out some variations, for example, these are lace pins but I'm getting some entomological pins which should be longer and finer and might look better.

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