‘Monsoon’ – Charles Garrad in “As good as we can make it: Ikon in the 1980’s”
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
Resting in the blackness of the storm.
Thoughts of you trickle the length of me.
The first encounter
A ceiling of corrugated iron, propped on wooden poles, forms the structure of an open sided building. Water pounds the iron, sliding from the roof and collecting in gutters, where it splashes and spills to the floor.
My eyes scan sparse objects illuminated by flashing fluorescent light: four chairs and two tables, two bowls and an empty glass. A television sitting on a small table flicks between a faded image of four men getting out of a car, and the monochromatic blur of a TV without signal.
I sit opposite the café-like building. I close my eyes and behind twitching lids see moments of reddy-orange, like the glow of a candle.
I think of things that remind me of my life:
My nine-year-old-self exploring grass thick with dew; bubbling anticipation as I rush to dip my pale toes into an icy sea; my mother rubbing my arms to warm my blood whilst I dance among the sand in her jumper; my half-nothing-half-glittering self, simultaneously crippled in groping self doubt and sparkling in the knowledge of things I have just learned; the year I fell in love and every detail of the way it happened.
distant drifting songs
dancing in the air and
murmuring voices chanting
they are foreign.
Voices, merge with the rain-soaked blackness
flood me with warmth.
An angry fist thumps behind my chest; startled by a clatter so loud I’m surprised to see the roof has not fallen in on me.
The building still in front of me: four chairs and two tables, two bowls and an empty glass. A television sitting on a small table flicking between a faded image of four men getting out of a car, and the monochromatic blur of a TV without signal.
I crane my neck.
A dark space and
an open door
A huge sheet of corrugated iron rocks gently as it hangs from a wall. Facing the iron sheet is a large, wooden beam. Slowly lifted by a motor, it descends against the rough metal at speed, crashing into the shield like a ritualistic gong.
A clatter so loud I fall to the floor
wondering if the roof will fall in on me.
Garrad demands nothing from his viewer but their presence. The structure, both authentic and dream-like, does not impose feelings or describe exact places or moments. Instead it lulls the viewer into a temporary state of peacefulness. The bareness of the scene; almost vulnerable, the foreign music; as deafening as it is enchanting, the heaving rain; manufactured, the empty chairs; objects.
Garrad creates an untrustworthy space
so enticing, imagination runs wild.
Drawing on memories, experiences, fantasies – the stuff of us – Garrad immerses the viewer into an engulfing space and asks “What can you bring to this work?” and “What does it mean to you?”
I think of an ex-lover, and the food we shared huddled on a tucked-away bench, whilst icy rain slashed the sky like teeth devouring flesh.
With every crash of corrugated-thunder I wonder; is this a memory or a fantasy?
Unsettling confusion sits on my skin and
entwines with flesh.
Comfort in dreams I let myself imagine.