Making Sense of Place - excerpt from 'Four Flags for Chapel Ash' pamphlet

June 14, 2018 by Jayne Murray   Comments (0)

I made a pamphlet to accompany my exhibition. It included some of the imagery, and I wrote this text for it:

As an artist who works with the ‘everyday’ and ‘place’, working in residence in Wolverhampton has meant engaging with it’s ring road, firstly as an unavoidable, frequent encounter and subsequently as the focus of my work. If we go with the flow, the ring road isn’t an issue, if we are attempting to move across it, it becomes an obstacle.

Either way it directs us and defines how we experience Wolverhampton; we have little choice but to negotiate it.


Following the decision to focus on the ring road, particularly the Chapel Ash Island area, research at Wolverhampton City Archives revealed when and how it was built, what was demolished to make way for it and the language that was used to describe this vision for the future, where ‘segregation’, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘fortification’ were seen as positives. Today the vision has proved problematic: ring roads nationally are now understood as a phenomenon that cut off movement, flow, and connectivity, as they create unassailable divisions. 


Research into Wolverhampton inevitably finds former MP Enoch Powell, whose ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech was made 50 years ago: it’s legacy can be seen as having as much impact in current times as the concrete ring road. Both the road and the speech cut through the physical and political landscape, causing divides physically and socially. Parallels between the content of the speech about immigration, and the language, vision and reality of the ring road, can be drawn with other enduring social issues, of economics and housing, where hierarchy, segregation, fortification, and exclusivity arise. The issues all rest on fabrications, of local, national and global significance, but depending on how much we go with the flow, or how much they are in our interest we may notice them less or more.


During the process of learning to screen print for my residency, I found the separation and layering needed to make a print resonated with the place I was finding; as a medium it lent itself well to articulating the complexity of place, and the many layers of the past that make it what it is, and to explore .the issues of structure, system, hierarchy and segregation. Several designs led to ‘Four Flags for Chapel Ash’.  The work aims to create a discourse around the issues, using the frame of the ring road as a metaphor, where these ideas from the past can be deconstructed and analysed, and their relevance to today discussed. When the flags were raised in Chapel Ash Island they immediately provoked curiosity and conversation with pedestrians. The human flag bearers were the vital link in creating discourse.