I managed to come over all decisive today and finish off the mixed-media piece I started a few weeks ago on a course at Malvern Hills College.
It was acrylic-based and also I learned how to do gelli prints and transfer prints, all totally new skills for me.
I had intended to do something akin to my ‘Half-remembered dreams’ series but with a head buzzing with some family history research, it turned into this nod to my lineage and the town of my birth.
The unique Piece Hall features twice, and I have a great affection for the place. It was the cloth exchange originally but in my great-grandfather’s day it was the wholesale fruit and veg market. Frank Marsden, greengrocer, went there regularly to stock his shop. My uncle Nigel’s words about the flickering yellow gas lamps, inscribed on the larger Piece Hall image are from the description of a childhood visit there with his granddad.
The two pictures of the Piece Hall are photos I’ve created; I always feel the family connection as well as being simply impressed by the place.
My mother, Jean, features with her cousin in a happy picture against the backdrop of the hills around Halifax, and the music score is from one of her ‘party pieces’. My father appears twice, once in a happy group with his mum and sister, once just with sister Joyce. I worked out that the photo was probably taken just before they entered a local orphanage as my widowed grandmother was unable to support them in the 1930s depression years. That would certainly explain the solemn expressions.
The plans and architectural drawings are of West Hill Park, a model estate where my paternal grandmother lived – and so did my parents and I, briefly. A classic terrace, still with outdoor toilet in the 1960s, I only realised it was in one of the spate of Victorian model estates in latter years!
The music references my mother’s family; all three siblings played instruments and sang, grandmother and grandfather were in the chapel choir and grandfather Clifford Morton had ‘a tenor voice like a golden trumpet’, according to a newspaper review – under his stage name of Morton Clifford.
This gift was a double-edged sword as it led to his leaving home to go to the Carl Rosa touring opera company and then a divorce. Clifford married a singer from Carl Rosa and ended up in South Africa.
Finally, the maps are of the Northowram area, where I lived as a child, and have just discovered some distant 18C relatives who lived there, so we’ve come full circle!
The painted and printed background tries to hint at the hills that surround Halifax (Beacon Hill remains a key landmark) and the many mills that nestled in the ‘bowl’. Before the clean air acts, the smoke and steam from chimneys and cooling towers would sit like a witches’ brew in the hilly cauldron. Dean Clough mills remain as a massive memorial to our industrial history, now repurposed and housing small businesses and an arts centre.
It’s not the best executed of pieces, I have yet to refine the photo transfer process with the intriguing partial effects that it gives, and I have no clue about painting! Whatever the shortcomings, I am happy with what it evokes for me. and have taken immense pleasure in the process. I hope you find some enjoyment or interest in it, too.