Foundation: Study in Blaek

North West Artists Development Lab, Signal Film & Media, Barrow-in-Furness, 2 – 16 March 2019

Foundation: Study in Blaek is, in part, an homage to a recently demolished building which held a special place in many people’s hearts. The work is founded upon an ongoing exploration into how we might deal with an unknown future and provides an opportunity to consider how and why we attach personal significance or meaning to buildings. 

When something is destroyed, what remains may not be immediately obvious as it is all too easy to focus on what has been lost, yet, from disruption new possibilities emerge. 

Laura M R Harrison 

From the worn undulating tessellated tiles at the old door to the eroded steps down to the yard, I always had the feeling of being part of a history, part of the building’s narrative. The paint laden fixtures and fittings spoke of those explorative journeys we all went on, and gave a sense of freedom to use the space in whatever way our creative endeavours commanded. This building left its imprint on us and our work as much as we left our fingerprints on it. 

Michael Coombs 

Black is profoundly about being at ends, and it also has this extraordinary possibility. 

Adapted from a quote by Edmund de Waal, Mono.Kultur #40, Spring 2016 

The symbol on the brick is what is known as a ‘Staffordshire Knot’. A plain knot like this was the trade mark of the brick works associated with Sneyd Colliery, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. Therefore, my initial thought that the brick was an over burnt local brick is wrong. 

The brick will be what is known as a Staffordshire Blue engineering brick. No local firm made engineering bricks. These bricks are very dense, noticeably heavier than a normal red brick, and therefore can stand great weight and tended to be used in large structures such as chimneys, railway bridges and viaducts. They are also non-porous unlike normal red bricks and therefore were occasionally used for foundations to stop water seeping up the walls. 

In some cases, the bricks were used purely decoratively as a colour band around doorways, windows, string courses at door level etc. 

Graham Brooks 

What is more, there is black and then there is black… One is matte and dull, always disturbing often deathly (swart); the other is intense and fertile, so brilliant it seems to light the darkness and allow one to see in the night (blaek). 

Michel Pastoureau, Black: The History of a Color, 2008 

Before coming to the building, I had been living a volatile and transient existence. My great need and desire to create work, towards the only dream I’ve ever aspired to, was perpetually thwarted by my own lack of belonging, networks and self-esteem. It’s not an exaggeration to say that building saved my life. To me, this little nook was a magical place that contained everything I could possibly need. Just as important as the facilities, resources and spaces however was the community the building played host to – People of different ages, backgrounds and experiences. I’m not saying it was a utopia but what the building really meant to me was a place of belonging, a testing ground for ideas and a rich seam of creative potential. I’ve never found anywhere quite like it since. 

Iris Priest 

For Maurice William Harrison 

1919 – 2006 

Bricklayer and Stonemason 

Always Rising

© Copyright Laura M R Harrison.