White Room

This project was instigated by the artist/tutor Rita Donagh. It articulated and extended for me ideas of the crossover of art/life, private action/shared space, personal/global, as well as the multiple ‘others’ that are created through collaboration. Beginning as a life-drawing class, it evolved into a drawing-life action, as the life model became a part of the group. We devised systems and ways of operating and more-or-less lived in the space for three weeks.
We looked at art history and re-contextualised works. Anything from the Nazca lines, to Magritte, to Duchamp’s ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even’ (The Large Glass), to Joseph Beuys’s actions, to Cubism were explored.

We were affected by world events taking place, particularly the killing of students on campus at Kent State University which became part of our work and a haunting shadow evoking the fragility of civilised society and the brutal sublimation of radical actions. The May 4 1970 massacre occurred at Kent State University, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students, protesting about Vietnam, by the Ohio National Guard.

Soon after, as part of the White Room project, I wore ‘lipstick’ from my blood and read out a newspaper article. ‘I speak through blood-stained lips ’ was a work dedicated to Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, all around our age, killed in the massacre.
I did several works with mirrors including having conversations with people only through our mirrored reflections. I also made many drawings and paintings including one shown in Reading Museum and Art Gallery, 1972 as part of an installation of mine, ‘A Womb of One’s Own”, with leaping stools, strings, projections and objects lit for their shadows.

During 2013/16, three participants in the White Room project Rod Melvin, Graham Challifour (whose typewritten notes are in the images) and myself had an intensive exchange including creating works both together and separately, going to life drawing classes with devised strategies for collaborative drawings and meeting up as reflections on the White Room and beyond. I then invited the writer Roger Cook, one of our tutors from the time to write his own reflection on the White Room. (See PDF) We all met up with Rita Donagh in summer 2016 for an unstructured engagement with this significant part of our lives. Tate bought Rita’s painting, ‘Reflection on Three Weeks in May, 1970.’