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Dear Gordon

Dear Gordon.

Dear Gordon

Does anyone write love letters any more? A love letter; the lost art of putting pen to paper, that personal connection of brain, hand, feelings and paper, giving physical form to overflowing passions. And what would you do if you found one?  That private missive loaded with passion, on the edge, secret, intended for one person. HOT reporter, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, came face to face with such a letter, intense and emotive, which has inspired an extraordinary exhibition, Dear Gordon, at the Claremont Studios.

Dear Gordon letter

Dear Gordon letter.

Back in 1996, Jonathon Cole and Caroline Le Breton found such a letter, abandoned and scrunched up, in their new printing warehouse studio in Queens Road. Written in blue biro, capital letters on blue lined paper, the couple were entranced by the intensity, the direct communication and the raw emotion.

‘Dear Gordon. I know by now you are asleep but not me. I could not sleep …..’

Signed by ‘B’. Was it written and sent? Or written and, on reflection, discarded. Who will ever know?

Whatever the circumstances, Le Breton and Cole were moved by the raw honesty of the letter and the mystery couple – and they decided to recreate and celebrate it in Smartie tops – the ubiquitous, colour-coated chocolate sweet tube tops, which littered the streets back then.

The art would be a found letter recreated in found objects.

That letter has had quite a journey – and fostered other people’s stories. Collecting the Smartie tops for the 908 individual letters took three years. Le Breton explains: “One day, we went for a walk along an estuary in Essex and  came across a small beach. It was simply plastic heaven”. It seems Smartie tops had not died, but gone to Essex.

The work was produced in 2002 and exhibited in Le Breton’s former space in Claremont. When, eight years later, moving the gallery to King’s Road, she discovered the artwork loitering in an old cash tin, it seemed right to recreate it. It seemed everyone who saw it, remembered it. It is something about the poignant, raw emotion of the words that speak to people. It even reduced one man to tears.

Dear Darling Andrew & Eden Kotting

Dear Darling: Andrew & Eden Kötting.

Le Breton has extended the exhibition, asking five other artists to respond to the original missive. Some have responded directly, others more obliquely, bringing their own insights to the project.

A direct response is a dialogue between father and daughter, Andrew and Eden Kötting. They have laboriously written – letter by letter, spoken by Andrew, written by Eden – on floral wallpaper, the words of Dear Gordon and Eden’s choice, Olly Murs’ love song, Dear Darlin’.

‘And I miss you and nothing hurts like no you. And no one understands what we went through. It was short. It was sweet. We tried.’

 

Anonymous Bosch I Only Think of You

Anonymous Bosch: I Only Think of You.

An echo of the original letter is Anonymous Bosch’s, Only Think of You. A collector of discarded letters, shopping lists and photographs, his exhibit is a scanned, found photograph with the words – possibly song lyrics – below the image:

‘Looking out of the window, seeing the people how fast they go, I don’t care what they do, I only think of you’.

Scott Robinson’s balloon art illustrates the passing of time. Sad objects, one of two balloons, one blown up, one deflated, ‘Yeah Yeah This was Then, This is Now’ reminiscent of  parent and child, younger and older self, experience and inexperience.

All my pens Caroline Le Breton

All my pens: Caroline Le Breton.

Caroline Le Breton has made colourful work on grid paper, All my Pens 2014. Created as displacement therapy from gallery administration tasks is an abstract piece of oblique, hidden words, but no less arresting. Hieroglyphics, meaningful doodles, secret communication, redolent to herself. A letter? Talking to herself? To the world?

Rachael Finney has produced a sound sculpture of the letter, Un Parleur (All the Things That Could Not be Said) mediated through a computer and recorded onto 16 mm tape; the words are unclear, murky, difficult to say, difficult to hear. Value then and now is illustrated by Becky Beasley in a brass cast of a plastic ashtray, Astray, giving it connotations of lost, unvalued, found and given value in a new incarnation.

Sadly, but somehow appropriately, the original Dear Gordon letter has been lost. The words remain, because Le Breton and Cole transcribed them. Alongside Dear Gordon are the type-written words, with pencilled marks of the numbers of each individual letter needed to ‘write’ the letter.

As it transpires, Dear Gordon will prove to have taken Le Breton’s Claremont twelve-year gallery life full circle. The Dear Gordon Smartie piece was part of her very first exhibition and, for the time being, Dear Gordon may be the last. The gallery is closing for her and the directors to regroup, re-energise and think about future projects. She is proud of what she has achieved and happy for this cutting-edge show of five contemporary artists to be her swansong.

Is the show intrusive? It feels less so with the passing of the years, as they are less likely to be found. Who was Gordon? Where is he now? What happened to B? Did she find a healthier relationship?

Dear Gordon is affecting as any feelings exposed and laid bare are. Go and see it and add your own stories, experiences and memories to the exhibition.

Dear Gordon at Claremont Studios, 48 Kings Road, St Leonards, TN36 6DY continues until 2 August. Thursday-Saturday 12-5 p.m.

Dear Gordon was installed by three A-level students who will be starting an Art Foundation course next year. There will be art workshops, where young people will work alongside local artists and explore art, language and relationships.

Dear Gordon has been funded by The Arts Council Grant for the Arts with the workshops being supported by partnership funding from aGender and The Big Lottery Arts for Everyone fund.  It is a touring exhibition and will have an accompanying catalogue.

 

 

 

Posted 22:51 Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014 In: Visual Arts

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