Patchwork Paint Work is an ongoing collaboration between Alice Chandler and Wes Foster initiated by the Unreal Estates project curated by Amanda Lwin.
"When we first met to discuss creating work for the Unreal Estates project, we went for a walk to explore our local area. We were initially intrigued by our snippets of conversation and observations, focusing on the things that combine together to generate the character of a space or place. In Burley, Leeds, where we both live, rows of red brick back-to-backs with concrete front yards dominate the landscape. These small yard spaces provide each house with a modicum of outdoor space, each varying depending on how the resident has chosen to maintain them. Less of suburbia’s ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’, and more just trying to keep the weeds at bay.
Both the writing and layered drawings are informed by personal research imagery, the mythology of weeds, and architectural floor-plan and city-mapping diagrams, and the concept of utopian garden cities. This creates an abstract record that maps corners, spatial distances, and the memories of the area we both live in, and that Alice grew up in. Working together to create pieces that were not just inspired by the area, but also wrought together by the aesthetics of the area Patchwork Paint Work is an exercise in looking at the overlooked."
Pictured above: Three watercolour studies on fabriano paper, 37 x 56cm.
Breath hits the air and a morning mist sits at the tops of arched streets. Rays of sunlight split through the branches and the spire of a church. A church built where a village once stood, removed in favour of relentless modernisation. In the centre of the city suburb one shop still stands, one road named Village Street passes through. Nothing really remains but faded memories of what once was. Underneath those branches, that spire, nothing has really changed in that spot for hundreds of year, whilst all around it movement transforms.
A rudimentary landscape, made up of ridges and rolling flats. A gentle structure obscured entirely by the parallel lines of terrace red houses. Built in such a way in spite of the presence of the landscape they sit awkwardly, interconnected. Their brick touching but nestled separately. Despite their hulking presences, they are not foreboding. They are almost inviting, their shallow frame showing only half of their true assembly. Each carries small details, and despite their repetition finds their own form.
Red brick transforms into something as consistent as concrete as you pass. The cracks and gaps between each layer dissipate into nothing more than a wash of one tone. The ends of streets carry a mismatched paint over – lewd graffiti hurriedly erased by a council worker. It’s usually more interesting to imagine what might have been than to actually be able to see it. Patchwork terrace walls, shade of red upon shade of red. These areas are full of small textures, patchwork histories laid upon one another. A century and a half, or thereabouts, of mark making and living. The wear and tear of population, etched away at the walls.
Along these suburbs, green is a constant presence. Along rented houses, unruly front gardens spread. Through low income and high rents, most do not possess the time or tooling to do much about it. Privets and other privacy measures mean that there are constant swathes of green. They abstractly block the view to most houses, allowed to grow out and through whatever gaps they can. The nature of these streets will find its way, through wall, through cracks, through decking, through path. As unruly as it might be, weeds here are as much a part of the landscapes as the red brick of the terrace itself.
Nature constantly informs the environment around us. A presence ever changing, but ever present. The continual spread of roots underneath us. Both the city and the nature which surrounds it respond to one another, evolving in spite of each other, finding new ways to exist. In the inner city we think of ourselves as the absolute designers, though outside of this it is just one force against another. The small path of weeds, the way the hedges fold themselves across one another. The fight for their sunlight, and the thriving to survive. There is a beauty in disorder, as they push through themselves towards the light.
The smallest details are what make the red terraced concrete what it is – from the evolution of the weed as it pushes through cracks, to the small details in the brickworks faced by a stonemason a century ago. Built by labour, for labour, hands slowly formed these houses piece by piece. Where these streets once served the factories and mills below, they have now become the realm of students and renters as light industrial begat light entertainment.