c.c. But work happens when you’re not actually working.
g.d. I didn’t worry about it, it’s good to mess around, not be diligent. I wasn’t a student any longer, you have to create your own discipline when school’s over. The Shape of Time piece, which, by the way, all folds up and goes into a little black portfolio which I carried on these trips and worked on in lots of different places. I tried to build something of where I was into the work. There are the names of the months which were changed after the French revolution, Moorish decoration from Fez, staircases from Rome, Japanese glitter. It became like a friend, another travelling companion, I’d worry about leaving it on trains. Making that black portfolio to carry the work around was to have a big effect on my work for the next ten years.
c.c. That sounds dramatic, why?
g.d. Because it was making it that started me studying paper marbling.
c.c. Everybody recognises marbled paper, it’s become a cliche, it signifies olde-worlde, Jane Austinny, unashamedly retro….
g.d. … I know, I know but have you ever tried making it?
c.c. No I haven’t but I know that it’s a big deal for you.
g.d. It’s fascinating. For ten years, mid 80’s to mid 9O’s I did nothing else.
c.c. You did a solo show about it with Rose Issa 33 in London in 1988 34
g.d. It opened on February the 29th!
c.c. I didn’t get to it but, I remember somebody putting it down as a bunch of forgeries.
g.d. I called them transcriptions, forgeries, which must be much more difficult to produce successfully, have an intention to decieve.
c.c. So what was the show all about?
g.d. I presented sixty pieces of work, all on paper, in fact lots of different papers, some new some very old, some I’d made from plants.
c.c. And on them?
g.d. Basically it was the result of extensive research into the techniques and history of marbling.
c.c. Why do you think paper marbling grabbed your attention?
g.d. Isn’t it funny when you look back at how events dovetail and pan out, if you run time backwards like in that Martin Amis book 35. The sequence is so unlikely, it’s so surprising, how other people behave.
c.c. I feel an anecdote coming up.
g.d. I was having one of those distressing end of affair conversations. We’d had the lunch, she had to get back to work and hailed a cab on Cromwell Road and rejoined the stream. We’d been walking and had arrived at the V&A 36 which, with the cabs lurking outside presented us with an ultimatum, on the right lay the fast track, back to biz, on the left the museum promising idle wandering through corridors stuffed with treasure where all that you were allowed to do was look, think and read. Not like the new British Library37 where you can also listen. You’re concentrating on a 8th century Japanese woodcut and from behind you the tinny whine of John Lennon leaks out from earphones that have recordings of important music. We had to wait 30 years for that!
c.c. Get back to the plot.
g.d. She chose the cab and me the museum. There was a show of works on paper from India with a little 17th century picture made up from an elephant and rider in different bits of marbled paper 38. l was fascinated, it hovered between representation and abstraction, it wasn’t absurd to see a marbled elephant. The technique and the subject alternated, vied for attention. Plus, I couldn’t work out how it was made, it was the only example in the show and the joins between the individual bits of paper had been overpainted with gold lines. And so the process starts. You get an initial input that doesn’t fade, you start to read around, seek other examples, arrange to meet people who answer questions and if you’ve got itchy fingers you start to try out the techniques.
33 Independant curator in fine art and film from the middle-east, North Africa and India
34 Abri. The Mysterlous Art of Paper Marbling. Kufa Gallery, London. March 1986
35 Time’s Arrow 1995
36 Victoria and Atbert Museum. London.
37 Now at Euston Road. London
38 Two oxen, a lion and other animals from the India Oflice Library and Records. c. mid 17th cent.