The Secret Staircase
10 April 2008 - 14 June 2008
The Secret Staircase is an installation comprising a woodcut block, a woodcut print, a printed text and an artist’s book. It explores mother-child separation, the loss and grief felt by an adult daughter as her mother goes through the process of dying.
We took as our initial inspiration the tokens at the Foundling Museum. These tokens (identifying tags, rings, plaques, coins, etc) were left with the foundlings by their mothers.
“The exhibition book/text takes the form of an inventory of items connected with the mother, such as a hairbrush or a button box, which provoke childhood memories plus reflections on the present. Underneath the daughter’s direct speech runs a series of rewritten nursery rhymes, which express all that the daughter does not dare openly say.
The narrative sequence of the text, printed on a single sheet of paper, begins at the lower left-hand corner and continues in an anti-clockwise direction.
The visual component’s images suggest folklore, legends and myths, with particular reference to animals, domestic artefacts, and children’s writing exercises. These images have been printed as an unusually large-scale woodcut (1 x 3 metres). The form of the woodcut block itself is a table, inspired by the elm refectory table at the Foundling Museum.
The text and the woodcut print have been folded into a limited edition artist’s book, bound in a table-cloth formerly belonging to Monique Roberts, Michele’s mother. Her monogram M.C. is visible. As a young woman she hemmed the cloth and embroidered it with the initials of her maiden name Monique Caulle. Before she died in December 2007 she gave the cloth to Michele.
The small cabinets display materials relating to our work process. These range from sketches to commemorative items to found objects.
The Secret Staircase represents a joint project. We collaborated all the way through, discussing ideas and methods at every stage, naming and solving problems together.”
Caroline Isgar (artist) and Michele Roberts (writer).
Image: The Secret Staircase, 2008, detail study for woodcut by Caroline Isgar 80cm x 290cm © The artist
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