Stephen Felmingham presents a new body of work made in response to the Cold War bunkers of the Royal Observer Corps that still exist, abandoned, across the UK.
Using the possibilities of drawing as a ’sensitive detector’, he sets out to investigate the trauma of the generation that lived through this most dangerous period in history.
The bunkers have been an enigmatic presence in the landscape for Stephen since childhood and now, as an artist, they have provided him with objects and contexts for drawing. They also act as conceptual ‘laboratories’ for experiments into the subtle field of perceptions that form his work.
The work in The Violet Club continues Stephen’s exploration of the abilities of drawing to hold cultural memory and anxieties.
By drawing the bunkers and their objects from his peripheral vision he brings forth the haunting and uncanny forms that populate the edges of his vision while in the bunkers.
He has become fascinated by a primitive pinhole camera device (the ‘ground zero indicator’) used by the observers to detect the direction and elevation of an explosion of a nuclear device on the horizon.
Working with the imagined latent negative images resulting from the long exposures in these detectors has resulted in drawings and film works that make visible these potential hidden landscapes.
The drawings have a spectral presence and are drawn in the round (or ‘tondo’) form that is the image in-camera and which references the ‘Claude Glass’, a black convex mirror used as a means of distancing the viewer from the landscape in the 18th century.
The work provokes a longer gaze at the commonplace landscape, as if to seize the memory before it disappears. A feeling of waiting pervades the work: his response to this has been to make a series of Super-8 films that gaze out from the bunkers in the cardinal directions, locked off on the stand that would have held the ground zero indicator. The viewer is held in this suspended time, waiting for a moment that is always deferred.