Recorded for the catalogue of the Retro-perspective Exhibition – 100 Hundred Works
Diorama Gallery, London.
Colin Crumplin: 1 I first met you in autumn 1970, earlier that year Guy Brett had written a review in the London Times of an exhibition2, where he talked about the piece that you had exhibited in relation to other artists in the show such as Richard Long and Robert Smithson, can we begin there?
Graham Day: Sure, he talked about a piece, a walk. I didn’t put it in the retro show, it seemed out of place. It was a list of instructions that suggested you draw a line on a map from your base, home, etc., to the place you most often visited, work, studio, lover, whatever. Use that radius to draw a circle and with the same radius step off the other five locations on the circle. You could visit these peripheral sites and when you were at base camp in the centre you were literally ‘centered’. It was a feature that ran through a lot of my work, trying to create a harmony, sounds a bit neurotic!
c.c. Makes me think of Long and Sol le Witt.
g.d. I wasn’t interested in those people, it wasn’t the walks as such that I was interested in, it was the geometry, the order and harmony. I’d moved to this new place in the middle of the country. I’d never been in a field before in my life. I was born in the centre of London and had always lived inthe city.
c.c. So it was about being in a new place, in the country, in a little cottage?
g.d. No, it was Stafford’s Farm behind Pickwick3. I remember David Spurring4 who had the room below mine, we asked Ma Stafford if we could watch the 1968 moon landing on the big black and white T.V. in the kitchen surrounded by shotguns and piles of dead pigeons, the stove alight even though it was high summer, that sweet smell of horse manure and feeling so depressed because the moon landing was such a fabulous display of weirdness, technology and bravery that anything I was thinking about seemed so insignificant in comparison.
c.c. Why did you want to go to college in the country ?
g.d. Because before that I’d been at Hornsey it was 1968 the évenéments remember? It was very dramatic, although for me it was annoying, as I’d been trying to get to college for a few years, having left school without the right exams and had been doing evening classes6. I just kept failing English Language which you needed and finally my best friend, Billy Slade, a poet, took it for me and of course he got an A grade which was great except that the school thought it was a reflection of their wonderful teaching and pestered me for years afterwards for stuff to put in their magazine. So I finally got to college and the whole place started to collapse around me.
c.c. (laughs silently)
g.d. It was funny because to get to the next college you had to have a reference etc from the Foundation course, but there were no staff. The Principal had been locked out, international T.V. crews had the place staked out, it was chaotic. So I wrote my own glowing reference.
c.c. But why did you want to go to the country ?
g.d. London was incredibly druggy in the mid 60’s, people were dying, people I knew, it was grim. Also it was an opportunity, being an independent student you could go anywhere. I looked at those little prospectuses and went on a tour of schools in the south with a fellow student, Jenny Delfont, in her red mini, got to Corsham7 saw the beautiful avenue of yew trees leading up to the mansion and choose that. The next three years were like a wonderful dream. People put it down, I guess they didn’t get the point. Everything was taken care of for you, all you had to do was your own work.
1 English artist. Born 1946
2 VISIONS PROJECTS PROPOSALS. MidlandGroup Gallery, Nottingham, UK.11 July – 2 Aug 1970
3 Near Bath, South West England, UK.
4 Engish artist Born 1949
5 Hornsey College of Art, North London. Now part of MiddIesex University. The évenéments, a student uprising that began in England and rapidly spread to France, paralysing Paris in May 1968 when workers collaborated, causing de Galle temporarily to flee the city.
6 At the Working Mens College in Mornington Crescent, North London. Now mixed.
7 Corsham was the village that was home to Bath Academy of Art from 1946 -1986 when it merged with another college and moved to its present location in Bath, S.W. England where it is now called Bath Spa University College.