Walking a high-hedged curving lane: it dips, turns, and up ahead, over the stile, is the open expanse of a pale, meadowy and, in its own way, complicated, emotional field. Standing open-toed, the weight shifting from ball to heel and from foot to foot and spread out over the hard living room floor is a fabric, patched, primary coloured, very tactile, in parts plastic (that is, synthetic), in parts plastic (that is, mouldable) emotional field. It looks interesting. The park slopes. It falls all the way down the side of a hill. Its steep zones and its people, planting, litter, benches, the birds in the trees, the animals closer to the ground, form a populous, living, organized, formal, unorganised, perpetually changing, emotional field. Its playground is an instance of a nested, loosely bounded, enterable and public emotional field. Its features clang together. Its floor is spongy; edged by concrete, grass and clover. The chains of the swings get tangled. Like any sphere of activity or invested interest it makes for a potentially joyful, potentially difficult, potentially painful and potentially transformative emotional field. Crossing the busy main road to reach the park—whether the striped place for designated crossing or the ad hoc place for impromptu community crossing, cued to the timings of the lights, the rush-pause of traffic, the rush-break between the cars, the flushes and pinches, the smarts and pallors, as well the energy of the fast big bus, bowling forwards—is to run the gauntlet of a highly charged and risky emotional field. A bare patch. Nothing much grows in the large circular patch of what once was a field and long before that the community dump, though now it is a garden which is to indicate the layered depths—the history pressing upwards from underneath and raising, even as the contemporary weather falls down into and reshapes, the surface of every order of thickened and thinner, mistier, more finely dispersed, if at times only barely perceptible, but still impactful, emotional field.
There is a valley. It was once a quarry and now it’s a deep verdant fold. Once inside—it’s somewhat frightening. Why? Because you’re alone and committed. Because you’ve only just realised that no one else knows you’re here. Everyone is nervous now. Or, no one is. The recollection of the place must intensify it: the play of forces, its sounds and light-fall and growth and shadows. The muddy smell of the river, running shallow then deep over rocks and small stones. It is just that if you were to meet someone else, anyone else, on the path, you’d have to negotiate your way around them: their body, their dog, and what they want. Their intentions, purpose and direction. Narration: is a space and time opened and supported by language, and it unfolds in the imagination. It opens there, if it opens, and it expands—but not only in view of what comes next. Looking back after having moved through the understanding of a page, any page, registering how thoughts have intruded, how certain words lodged or slipped, how not exactly pictures but dispositions were offered and withdrawn, adopted then lifted—or exchanged, and what was traversed was a patterned, shifting and intensively participatory emotional field.
There are sunflowers. Just off a motorway in childhood, the car is very hot and the windows wind down manually. It is solid colour at a distance: all-yellow, very emotional. A crop irrigated by massive sweeps of timed water spray. It is a working agricultural, wetted and electric, geo-political field. Close-up and the stems of the plants are furry; the hairs are hooked and almost sharp.
The rain water collected on the flat roof viewed above makes a trembly picture of the blue sky and the large loose shapes of three white clouds. Because the rainwater is at least four inches deep its reflective capacity will take a time to evaporate, giving a day or two of permanence to its subtle provision of a local and shimmering, periodically recurring but somehow always unexpected, emotional field.
I saw more rain falling this morning.
Sometimes it is enough to shake your head, put up or take down or rub at however you cut your hair, to shake a mood. Stand up if you’ve been seated or elevate onto a small step if you were already standing. Turn a corner, round a corner, flip the bed sheet over when it’s a hot night to make it cool. The chance of sleep: to maximise it. Is that better? Patting, turning, finding a new position. Does that not make a difference? It does. A small note of surprise: it does, actually. Thank you. Yeah.
Dr Kate Briggs is the School of Fine Art’s inaugural Practitioner in Resident, hosted by Art Writing 2022-23.