Richard Wentworth. Artist.
'You Are Here'. Published in hardback as 'Apollo's Eye' 2009
When we trace back how we met somebody, we often have a profound sense of place. Once, on a hilly wood in Surrey, Jay Appleton explained to me that our penchant for landscape is the consequence of our need for a prospect – a view so that we can spot friend or foe.
In former times, Adrian Hemming might have been what is often called a journeyman artist, somebody who set out for different destinations with opportunity in mind. The attraction of travel and encounter is often associated with people who live on islands, first reaching out towards what they can see (island hopping) and then risking the longer speculative voyages, going over the edge to see what is there. (The ‘port’ in ‘opportunity’ is exactly the one we associate with a voyage, so an ‘opportunity’ is a ‘fair wind’).
The modern use of ‘my place’ meaning home and words like ‘space’, ‘site’ and ‘location’ which have migrated such a long way within language in only a few years, are all coincidental with the life of Adrian Hemming as an artist. This is also the first period since the coming of the railways in which our travelling lives have accelerated over and beyond what was previously seen as an unsurpassable threshold. ‘We take off’ for somewhere, goes the expression.
The science of mass transportation always emphasises that the journey (except for the start and the finish) has got quicker and quicker, but the parts associated with departure and destination, remain much as they ever were, a mixture of footwork and patient waiting.
A confident sense of destination, way finding, footwork (all senses) and patience are Adrian Hemming’s constant as an artist, his stock in trade. For humans, how destination links back to a point of departure, is via desire and contingency, the stuff which art historians like to both ravel and unravel. Along this route, artists create false trails, accidentally and on purpose, and commentators take liberties with what they think they find.
A generation ago, Adrian Hemming was a student at Goldsmiths. This was how we first met. What this Goldsmiths meant for artists was a small, trusting, generous and convenient place to meet, to share and exchange experience. To mis- quote Jon Thomson, who had both imagined and fostered this culture “ If the staff found each other interesting, it followed that the students would recognise the opportunity and follow suit - The place would be engaging, the school would flourish”.
Thompson’s efforts to invent this weather preceded Hemming by a dozen years, so here in a place with a rural name (Myatt’s Fields) there was already an established outward looking self fertilising culture. The fact of ‘Goldsmiths’, in these years being centred on so specific a site is often overlooked. Once on the telephone it was described as ‘ the compound’ by a Nigerian man on the night desk. Like so much of London it is easier to say where it wasn’t, not where it was – not Brixton, not Peckham, Stockwell, not Camberwell, not Walworth, not Kennington, not the Oval. Pinpointing where I met Adrian Hemming is just like this, somewhere round here.
‘Somewhere round here’ seems to me, to be exactly what drives Hemming, another of those things which we can never quite put our finger on, but try so hard to do.
London, February 2009.