The Fence and the Shadow
An Arts Council England funded one person exhibition with extended education program by Dr Sally Payen at mac Birmingham in 2017. Curated by Mandy Fowler.
I started my creative journey and initial decision to be a artist via the landscape of Greenham Common and surrounding area. I was 18 and it was 1982 and I used to cycle round the perimeter fence of Greenham Common. I remember wearing a tartan skirt and florescent yellow jumper I had clumsily knitted, I was cycling a heavy old bike newly painted red and yellow with a basket on the front. I was feeling happy and alive because I’ve always loved cycling and also because I knew I was moving to Brighton to go to art school. Anyway as I was zooming along someone shouted out the window at me ‘What gate are you on?’ This remark dislodged me out of my cycling dreamscape, now I was cycling through contested land and it felt liberating.
This was the backdrop to my growing up years, boring suburban market town I couldn’t wait to leave meets the contested politicalized land of Greenham Common. Once common land, now taken over by the military to become the home for 96 US Tomahawk cruise missiles and the longest runway in Europe and also home to the make-shift camps of the Greenham Women who set up residence in order to bring the issue to public notice and who at the same time so disturbed many local people. I remember being amazed at the mass ability to totally ignore these deadly weapons of war actually sited on our very doorsteps and instead be angry at the dirty camps ruining the roadsides and have notions of female identity so fundamentally up rooted. No longer was it clean neatly made up women including housewives, mothers and grandmothers all safely at home; now some had escaped with very loud voices; they were unwashed, hairy, living rough, all ages and classes and making a new mass movement.
I am making a new body of artworks chiefly paintings and the extended space of painting pulling back and pushing at the surface of things around Greenham. Really its the conjunction of how painting can meet Greenham Common as a place and in particular the Woman’s Peace Camp and Protests from the 1980’s. Its not a legacy project or a archival project, even though I am interviewing some Greenham Women and researching archives. It is a project about how that contested landscape touched my life back then and the experience of what is still alive and vital today. There are still nuclear weapons based at Faslane Navel base in Scotland for instance and the Faslane Peace camp sited there since 1982, hence I am just as likely to interview activists working now.
This space is for background and foreground thinking, it could lead me to examine some processes behind my paintings, and exploration of what painting could suggest within a context of political art, both in history and today. It is a place to exhibit objects from archives including research and photographs; to explore the Greenham narrative that impassioned so many women.
‘The present object evokes the absent one, in its place. Other of the there, who is there, there where light takes place without place, there where sounds resounds without duration, and so forth. A witness in proportion to there being none, and there can be no witness of this blow that, we repeat, abolishes the periods, the surfaces of the archive. The tables of memory fall to dust, the blow has not passed.’
Jean-Francois Lyotard ‘The confession of Augustine’
My website http://www.sallypayen.info
mac Birmingham https://macbirmingham.co.uk
Greenham Common Peace Camp http://www.yourgreenham.co.uk