The Cotton Tempera Diary 1

Part one of Atsuhide Ito’s journal detailing his experiences of working on The Almshouse Tempera Project
23rd February, Nottingham
As Derek recommended me that I took 8.14 train from London Kings Cross to Nottingham on Monday 23rd February, instead of leaving on the day earlier. From Kings Cross, I read one chapter in Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time which I had left unfinished some time ago. I read a section in which Heidegger described Descartes’ incorporation of the human body into the notion of space before Immanuel Kant, that meant before Merleau-Ponty. When arrived at Nottingham Station, Derek and Peter picked me up and Derek drove us to a car park near his studio. The car park was an open area with bare soil, perhaps some derelict buildings had been knocked down and temporarily the space was made into a car park. We walked along a busy street to reach Derek’s studio, which I had visited a few years ago.

The studio was in a red-brick building in a triangle island in the middle of the town. Derek unlocked and opened the main door and we climbed up a few flight of stairs to the top floor. We all huddled together in front of a gas heater and had a cup of coffee while waited for Deborah’s arrival. On the walls of Derek’s studio there were six tempera paintings of non-places in Nottingham. The illumination against the blue skies of early evenings in Derek’s paintings struck me when contrasted against the architectural structures of bicycle storage system, bus stops, and street lamps.

Derek gave us an initial introduction to tempera painting. Although I had used tempera to repair a portrait painting from the nineteenth century my experience of it was limited. Wendy, my student in Southampton had been working with tempera for more than a year now so that I was aware of the potential of tempera in the contemporary context. Deborah, Peter and I sat at a table and tried to use the colours Derek prepared by mixing with egg yolk and water. We needed to use small amount of paints and mix with small amount of egg yolk which Derek carefully took away the membrane out. We spend a significant amount of time playing with the medium, not knowing how it would behave or how we could control. At the end of our attempts, all three of us came up with a drastically different outcome. I enjoyed painting as I had not approached painting in such an innocent way for a long time. There was a sense of contingency on the medium which determined the outcome to a degree.

After our painting workshop Deborah had to leave so Derek drove Peter and me to The Primary, a studio complex which used to be a school. Derek took us to see Mik in his spacious studio. Mik then gave us a tour of the entire studio building. After that we went to dine in a Turkish restaurant.

24th February
In the morning Derek drove us to one of the almshouses in Nottingham. It was facing a busy road and it was under serious repair. Then we met with David Simmons who works for Nottingham Community Housing Associations in Nottingham and in sum he was entrusted to coordinate key parties and manage the almshouses in Nottingham. We only saw the facades of the almshouses. Then the question was “how do we get inside, how do we investigate and how do we search and establish an artistic research methods, how do we know what we do not know yet?”

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