Somewhere In Yorks… (Stories from Forgotten Space)

It’s always around these cumulative moments of exhibition staging, seeing my works together, that I realise I’ve been putting exhibitions on/yelling about the same things/physically knackering myself out with similar endeavors for the best part of a decade. Yet it is only in that my large drawings show duration that I am able to observe the time that has passed. I often fear I live in an eternal present, as I can’t often remember the here and now, and constantly look back over ten years to when it felt that memories and experience stuck, rather than blew away with every given day. These half-truths of stories based around cognitive mapping processes, are an attempt to counter this sensation. This section deals primarily with the 4 Yorkshire cities/towns I spend most my days in.

24 September 2015

IMG_20150930_0002“In the village I was raised in, a distant cousin stands across the road, noticeable by the high-vis jacket he’s wearing. Not sure why he’s stood that side of the road, as by crossing that road you literally leave the mining-settlement-overspill I know as home, to face the farmhouses and barns that predate that former, and in a sense it is a different village entirely. The high-vis vest now alludes to something very different than the sense of pride, or at least place, afforded to the sight of the 20th century miners once present here; for what the high-vis vest signifies is a lack of pride and place – just another number in the global flow of labour, and affords a 25+years local little respect, lacking the worker solidarity of their forefathers, in an aged of ‘LinkedIn’ endless careerist-congratulating, it’s all seen as individual failings/shortcomings – no matter how many of us end up joining the high-vis ranks. I walk past the bookies, which I’ve never stepped foot in, and then the Working Men’s Club, which I haven’t been in since I was 6 or maybe 7, and down the back of the convenience store, crossing the road that literally cuts this settlement into two incompatible pieces; one of council houses for the former miners, and one for the commuters who came once the M1 motorway cuts through here.”

P1040188 P1040192“Sitting backwards for the last leg of this all-too-familiar rail route. I’ve spent what seems like my lifetime, or somebody’s lifetime, looking out of train windows at the same section of the country – a glare never set loose from the feeling, impounded in post-30 life, of being on borrowed time, even if that simply amounts to an awareness of wasting a small wage packet on train tickets. “Don’t Just sit there, do something!” is what the atmosphere on these carriages says to me, as young professionals who seemingly float upon the gaseous quality of this dominant agenda, hijack my window-gazing-solace and force me to listen in to their sharing of next year’s sweetly-poisonous vocation plans. It all sounds so rehearsed, like they’re on a BBC documentary, and I know some of them are imagining shooting themselves in the head whilst they talk, but yet they still carry on making the lie, and make sure the rest of us are beaten down with it. I deal with it by clenching my fists and gnarling my teeth; the only possible response for the unprepared native as he faced the colonisers – and in a way yuppification is colonisation.

P1040193“The night is closing in now as I get on the Supertram. Always like getting an opportunity to travel via Sheffield’s tram system. What is it about it that appeals to me? At a glance, from these sideways seats, it conveys a potential (and the longing that such potential creates) which is what lures me into this city centre, only to be faced with the fall out (and build up) of a neoliberal reality that this city seems to suffer/endure badly more than the other regional cities. Leeds and Manchester seemed to have prospered somewhat in this age, despite vast swathes of their respective populace literally being left in the gutter. But in Sheffield, the homeless issue (for example) stings that little bit harder, because the adaptation to this imposed-agenda here seems so ‘unnatural’, or unnecessarily dominant , like an entire city reacting badly to a medicine it’s been forced to swallow.”

P1040194“Langsett View – the tram stop I get off at that refers to the peak district area not far from here. As within Sheffield there is always a possibility of reaching plentiful people or total wilderness at the same time. Perhaps the city is an accidental exemplar for how we should be building our 21st century urban world?”

“Shy and unsure, I find myself slinging my rucksack onto just one shoulder; my default porcupine-posture formed in High School. The steep suburban streets of the uneven sprawl of Sheffield conjure a longing for a good life I think I can recall, but can’t be sure if it’s memories of expectations rather than memories of experience. A distinctly autumn night, perhaps the first of the year. Something that feels like it should be a given right is constantly out of reach. It’s those “avenues all lined with trees” over and over again; those broken promises of, what in hindsight was, a 1990’s cultural counter-revolution against the sci-fi futures of previous decades. I find myself fond of this city, and these leafy, lower middle class suburbs. And I’m unwilling to compromise my meandering to a inadequate substitute – something called ‘life’, but not so.”

P1040196“Graveyard train pulls into Wakefield Kirkgate at 12:10am. Frailty borne of fatigue makes a usually familiar UK town seem all-the-more daunting at midnight, amidst the orange lit concrete of its most unfashionable part. Which is why I’m startled, only to become angered, by an over-officious automated voice program, whose distorted car-park warning-info catches me out at the best of times. Disembodied voices with warning-info just impound the sense of distrust in an area you find yourself in. The town is cold, the first cold of autumn. Although nobody is visible, voices that sound best-avoided call out from somewhere. Should I head for one more drink in one of the late-opening bars I would never usually set foot in? Why would I do that to myself? Yet there’s an impulse to do so. As I approach this such area of eternal nights out, Westgate, it takes my fatigue-based inability to show any more compassion to street beggars, to sway me away from it all, as I head up a side street. Just “want to see people and want to see lights” now, no more inconvenient truths tonight. But this female inconvenient truth pursues me a good 50 yards, repeatedly shouting “excuse me” until I can no longer pretend I didn’t hear – she must be that desperate for money. I turn and give her about 25 pence, but I have nothing more, financially or emotionally, to give away tonight.”

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25 September 2015

IMG_20150930_0004“I cycle past Carlton Community College on my way to Cudworth, one of many that have silently sprung up around the borough in past half decade. The place looks all neat and tidy etc,  but I can’t figure out how it’s a merger of two schools, as it doesn’t look big enough. And it’s not a college, it’s a secondary school – as in this country the word college still predominately means 16+ education. I’ve no real idea if it’s a better or worse state of affairs than what went before it, but there’s way too much smoke and mirrors to find such schemes trustworthy. As I turn towards Carlton industrial estate, I remember that the HS2 project is supposed to cut this jumbled up landscape. With Royston’s Monkton coking plant visible in the distance, this area looks like the impression most people who’ve never been to Barnsley seem to have – one which is normally decades out of date. Whist cycling, my young-adult staple A Northern Soul (The Verve) plays out on my IPod. This band more than any other I can think of caught the imagination of many of the semi-professional bands to emerge out of this town during the past 20 years. The Verve were from another mining area, over in Lancashire. I often think of mining villages as not that villages at all, but more like shards of city suburbs cut loose and slung into farmland; because mining communities are of a proletarian not rural mentality. The Juxtaposition between rows of terraces, council estates, working men’s clubs and large rolling corn fields and windy country lanes, brings two things together that would otherwise never meet, and I wonder if this sensibility is what informed The Verve, and is what informs those from similar places as them.”P1040198

P1040199“Meadowhall train station. Flowers stuck to poles at railway platforms seem all the more common these days. I’ve become somewhat prepared for such occurrences on the many occasions I pass through a station, as it’s always on my mind, somewhere. As things stand, I’ve been fortunate enough not be around when anything like this has happened.”

P1040200

“Get off the train at Sheffield and cycle up past Park Hill flats, more talked about now they’re largely unoccupied than when they were full of people. I rarely come this way, even though they’ve towered over the uncountable train journeys I’ve made in and out of this city for over 10 years. Yet another captivating view of the city from up here – imagine what it must be like 5 floors up in the flats behind me. Very few cities give you the chances to panoramically reflect on it as Sheffield does. There may be a few residents here, but by and large the flats look completely empty. The Yuppied section still only clings to one end of the block of flats, despite being given well over half a decade to colonise them. Large vinyl lettering shouts “space to let, space to play” at you; a rhetoric that aggressively says “don’t just stand there, become a professional!”. You’d have thought such language would appear crass now.”

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27 and 28 September 2015

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P1040269“the train slows down for some reason as we go past my old college, Honeywell. Now a distant memory, as even its rubbly remains have vanished. It’s one place I certainly placed much value on in this town, with it’s green breathing space from the town centre – an opening that certainly aided my artistic development. Apparently such value was valueless though, as all the courses got rehoused into a new shiny red box in the centre, whilst this area is likely to be given up for housing developments. And further down the same road  so it seems that the last true bit of open space for 3 miles has been opened up to be eaten up by property developers. I don’t buy the ‘housing shortage crisis’ argument. What I see is an unending frenzy of quick-fix money-grabbing; creating endless dormitories for nearby cities and enterprise zones; filled with consumption-quelled frustrations, aggravated by an unwilling complicity in the making of endless traffic congestion – an hardback intensification of the last 2 decades, with an extra layer of disbelief we work harder to ignore via ever-more absurd retro-rehashing.”

P1040271

P1040254“One noticeable change nestled in the ‘heart of Barnsley’. where the post-hedonist-cum-dead-end-intoxication-streets fork off from Peel Square is the presence of settled homelessness – whereas there’s always been a small visible collective of ‘down and outs’, I’ve never seen so many people laid out in doorway corners – this time it’s different. What makes it look weirder, is that the town is trying to recreate its market-town past, as the stalls have spilled out onto the pedestrianised areas, from their era long residence in the late 60’/early 70’s brutalist complex, that is being demolished; it seems to be heading in the opposite direction from the worry-some future these homeless have stumbled into; both look like they’ve been cut out of different times and pasted into the same place. I head up to the library, but they’re now rarely havens of “silence, please!”, and are now usually laced with interruptive reminders of the anxieties/hardships that so many of us usually so-silently share. Mobiles blurt out, and the ensuing conversations leave you in no doubt that this is another person in desperate need of employment/a wage whose giving is mob number out to as many agencies as possible. On this occasion the agency is only offering this ‘jobseeker’ temporary employment in a line of work he has no experience in.”

P1040287“Sat in cafe in Leeds, two young men with accent-less and upwardly-positive-conversational tones, talk proactively about networking, recruitment, relationships and traveling, without any apparent concern over the blurred lines between work and free time. I can’t help feeling affronted by it: “how can they seemingly flow through this age so freely like bearded cybermen? why don’t they sense this struggle and stuck-ness that engulfs me?” This is why I’m always on the back foot, viewed as a ‘negative person’, and this is why I am currently welding my pens above my sketchbook as if they were self-defence weaponry.”

P1040289“On Boar Lane, my ‘go-slow’ calm down attempts are ruined as a car turns towards me in a place which anybody could be excused for thinking was pedestrainised. But these days the Futurist bust of the 360 degree sight of Mussolini isn’t an ideal, but an hard-managed necessity. Now on my toes I overhear men laughing in that way that sounds like they are looking for targets to mock; professional alpha males who make you veer from the pavement as they walk in fours, side by side, unwilling to move; the kind of moneyed scum that a polished turdopolis attracts. Maybe I’ve reacted too harshly, but 24/7 self-defensive emotions tend to be harsh. How I wished Leeds accepted its dirt and conventional ugliness, and how better it’d be for doing so. I head into the station, with a “when you’ve gotta eat, you’ve gotta eat” poster in the window of the Sainsbury’s store commanding me to do just that, a control command that compliments the “safety and security” post-9/11 staple that greets me as I get on board this local stopping train that nobody would even consider bombing anyway.”

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29 September 2015

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“Arrive at Westgate station. Ticket barriers are open, but sometimes reality conspires to make it look like a snare, and if I tried to avoid paying I’m likely to be caught out. The Virgin train to Scotland pulls up on the other platform, hiding the foggy landscape behind. I’m certain the seating areas are more cramped on these trains – maybe the red paint pulls my attention to it, but they really do look mildly sardine tin-like. A man sits down next to me with the today’s Metro paper. ‘Rivers of Mars’ reads the headlines, and I become uncomfortably preoccupied with the fact that I’d heard about this already today, but already forgotten – “is nothing in the here and now able to stick anymore in this ‘always on’ age?” But perhaps it reflects what a friend said to me in a beer garden in Sheffield earlier this year (yeah, I’m sure it was this year…). She said how new scientific discoveries/breakthroughs just don’t seem able to attain the significance they would have gained in the previous century, and that this is likely down to the near total collapse in our faith in the idea that we are progressing to somewhere/something better, all-the-more impounded by the sickly sound the word ‘growth’ has when spouted from the mouths of our world leaders, etc. Whilst on the train the sun bursts through the fog as we pass through the lower Dearne Valley, and I remind myself about what I kept on reminding myself about earlier: a passage from John Berger’s Art and Revolution, on our ‘meaningless empire’, with his conclusion being that if we decide to live a life which isn’t in someway driven by a desire to see it overthrown, then we’re not living at all, and may as well commit suicide.”

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About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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