John D Petty – Mud and Spit
GALLERY ONE, | 03/06/2017 : 16/07/2017
Five Drawings of Holderness Churches
That these small Holderness villages should have churches of such antiquity has long fascinated me. It is a solid reflection of the prosperity of the area when farming the land was everything. Nineteenth century census records show that in some villages more than half of the male population aged twenty and over were employed as agricultural labourers. My own great grandmother was a domestic servant at a South Holderness farm.
In speaking of sacred places in general, a friend who was closely involved in the development of the drawings said “The reason I love them is the emotional intensity and meaning that people invest in these spaces. It’s to do with mortality and the realisation of what matters to humanity…death, birth, praying for the healing or protection of loved ones, what I think of as the mud and spit of life. Personal stories are engrained in the stones, land, architecture of such spaces, they are dense with them and I feel a very strong connection to that because it’s meaningful stuff.”
These drawings are an attempt to symbolise some of those stories that are held within the stones, the bricks and the cobbles of these buildings. The drawing process involves repeatedly making and disrupting the drawing; the drawing is done with graphite and the disruption is done with gesso and by scouring and scratching the surface with sharp tools. In places new paper is sometimes collaged on; this may be to repair an area where I wish to start again or it may serve no purpose other than to develop the textural qualities of the drawing.
As the work progressed I came to see the contrast between the more carefully rendered elements and the loose and random textures of other areas as an oblique reference to the buildings’ decay, their rebuilding and restoration, their survival over centuries of change and struggle, the mud and spit, indeed, of daily life.
The obscured and hidden layers of the drawings reflect the layers of history and the stories that the buildings have seen. It is right that some of the drawing is obscured and lost as are the lives and stories of the people that once invested so much in these places.