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>> FURNISHING A visual story OF TEMPORARY CLOSURE

Anne Waggot Knott

Anne is a geographer and artist based in Cumbria. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on our physical and metaphorical journeys and connections with the landscape.

If all had gone to plan for this exhibition, I would have invited you to go outdoors and poke around the fells and lakes of Cumbria, to seek out fleeting glimpses of wild, dark, mysterious environmental artworks inhabiting our mountains and meres. I would have tried to get you to understand our chocolate box landscape in a new way.

Covid-19 put a stop to all that, for now.

In March 2020 my working parameters changed overnight, physically and psychologically. Initial disappointment gave way to a realisation that this was a unique opportunity to explore an unprecedented situation. For thousands of years, art has been pivotal in recording crises and social change. Soul-searching, I realised this was such an important time for artists to be working.

Instead of lakes and mountains I looked to our domestic environs and anchored my project around a family of four old, mismatched wooden chairs. Chairs are very symbolic, grounding us in our environment to pause, think, connect with others. They became my miniature landscapes.

Chairs (series of four linocuts on newsprint)

I started documenting the pandemic using them as both canvas and inspiration. Their structure invited craft-based approaches and the thought that they were once used for now much-missed social gatherings was evocative.

How do we furnish our lives during such strange times?

The last swim (digital photograph)

Gradually I themed the chairs: one for lockdown, one for movement, a third for natural habitats and a fourth for the human body. It was strangely liberating to respond with no studio and very limited materials to such an unpredictable situation.

This exhibition offers reflections on this significant piece of past and thoughts on this uncertain future. Both can be beautiful.

Anne Waggot Knott / 22 May 2020

>> lockdown

This chair was my visual journal for lockdown. I returned to it periodically to attach elements of importance. It is a set of prompts, experiments, spin-offs, a dumping ground for thoughts and emotions. It is ambiguous: nothing is clear. Clarity is a rare commodity right now.

This chair inspired two further works.

Keeping things for best is meaningless (acrylic, linocut and collage on plywood)

The grid structure of Keeping things for best is meaningless borrows from Foucalt's concept of Quadrillage, using the built environment as a method of social control during the plague in Paris. The empty chairs speak for themselves. In contrast, the captions and the title are lifted lightheartedly from the headlines in various middle-class UK style supplements. Some people will curate a perfect lifestyle despite our desperate circumstances!

Thoughts generated by my journal chair for lockdown also inspired the following short film, Words are Weapons ii.

>> movement

The chair for lockdown needed an antithesis, an embodiment of what we cannot achieve in our current capacity: movement. I started to covet extensive movement after a few weeks - cravings for travel and exploration. You always want what you cannot have, in an increasingly crazy sort of way.

This chair is an achingly cool 1960s model with a pattern of six intriguing holes in the backrest. Perfect for miniature explorations by these wild creatures, this mama and her bébés. I cannot stop the wild things creeping in. Together we created a story of movement, observation, capture and imprisonment.

Creatures (honeysuckle stems, wire and found object sculpture)

>> habitats

We have hunkered down, nesting and making home like never before. We have planted ourselves. We have watched through the window, from our daily walks, as nature luxuriates in this slower pace of human life.

Nesting (willow, paperclay and scavenged wool felt sculpture)

Our homes are little stage sets, capsules for performance, for rest, nourishment and repeat performance. Eat, watch, sleep, repeat.

Nesting cinema (sculpture with film in progress)

>> the human body

My fourth and final chair deals with us, the humans, in a physical sense. This crisis brings a huge question to the fore: how do we feel about the fragility of the human body? About our connection to the world? We all encounter the death of loved ones at some point but it is often so very private and personal. Only something on this scale forces Brits to consider the act of death collectively in such a raw way, as a community, as a nation, as a human race.

The chair is gilded in recognition of the value of the human body and those who have worked so hard in this crisis to care for it, to care for us. Decoupaged with a 1917 anatomy textbook, another nod to the medical profession, it invites us to look in grotesque detail when possibly we would rather not. From a distance it looks like a classic decoupage chair. Up close, not so benign.

Stay with us (collage, linocut, acrylic and graphite on raw canvas)

Stay with us uses the metaphor of the empty chair once again, gradually slipping away toward the lower right corner, with phrases commonly employed to illustrate both hospitality and death. It is printed on the Respiratory System section of the anatomy textbook to suggest the physicality, the corporeality of our situation, and mounted on a pre-folded canvas like a historical holiday route map. It is like a product, a commodity. It folds up so you can take it with you.

>> easing

The easing of lockdown gave me license to take my practice and escape into the outdoors again.

This week I ventured further

Reconnecting with old ground -

A gradually broader landscape.

I feel alien

But this is also home.

We slip back into old habits so quickly.

Old rhythms

Slip back.

Temporary closures

Slip away.

Self portrait with Creatures projected onto a bothy wall

I have hesitated to finish the project in the normal sense, simply because the Covid situation, the situation to which I am responding, is in itself far from any conclusion. We are in limbo, still locked down (sort of), under control (in a way), still at risk (depending on your perspective). There is no projected outcome or timescale, and we do not yet fully understand the consequences. So I am not concluding the project - this exhibition is just a staging post on a journey.

What now?

Connect: Work in progress and new projects are on Instagram @knottintheoffice

Shop: My online print shop is now open.

Visit: My workspace and print studio in Cockermouth is open by appointment. This sounds very formal but it's not - it's just how I need to operate in a shared space to ensure distancing. Email a.waggot@gmail.com for a slot. This project has prompted so many potential further works and explorations. I shall need partners in crime, so get in touch if you want to find out more.

Explore: This has been my final major project for the Foundation Art and Design course at Carlisle College, AKA Carlisle College of the Arts, AKA The Archipelago Art School. There is a lot of complex background to this work - if you're interested in the process, have a look at the project blog below. I am also really happy to talk to anyone considering the course. I would thoroughly recommend it to budding artists.

>> Thank you

To tutor and printmaker Kate Timney, course leader and illustrator Paul Taylor, and teacher and fashionista Wendy Oxley for all the support, encouragement, emojis and absinthe. You are forever my encyclopaediae of inspiration.

To Sarah Elliot. This is just the beginning.

To Valerie Pellatt, Stuart Knott, Andrew Waggot, and Cara.

And Dad... thank you.

Anne Waggot Knott / 22 May 2020

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Anne Waggot Knott
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Anne Waggot Knott 2020