of Originality and Futility …

Bryan Eccleshall is resident artist at Bank Street.

Over about a month Bryan will create two wall works, each in a separate gallery at Bank Street Arts, that echo older works.

Firstly, the six most popular postcards from the Graves Art Gallery will be reproduced, actual size, as line drawings. The source material for these drawings will be the postcards themselves, rather then the actual paintings. Consequently the re-making of the images will be subject to fractured faulty translation.

Bryan and I are creating a written document that will exist alongside his working process.  The purpose is to create a dialogue between us, the artworks and the concepts behind Bryan’s project.  Bryan has indicated a futility in the project.  He is interested in notions of authenticity and originality.  I think originality is a value-laden culturally-specific term that is futile in itself because it cannot exist in any complete sense, but only ever in shades.  Of course, futility is also value-laden, and could suggest the project is in some way pointless.  I think the opposite is true, that this futility that exists for a society that continues to elevate notions of originality is a reason to pursue an exploration, of what Bryan describes as, the space between.

Here is an approximation of what I wrote today:

of Originality and Futility

Dear Bryan,

The futility you mention – is that because the paintings are exhibited so locally?  Is there a sense that the original status of those artworks undermines any process of replication, albeit in this case, a deliberately inexact replication?

In film adaptation theory, the language they use is “Ur Text”.  This tries to move away from the value-laden term “original” and replaces it with something more neutral, but identifies that one text pre-existed the other, thereby offering equal status.  An adaptation may well be a bad film, but not simply because it does not accurately imitate or represent, or elevate the book.

Is the futility because the pen drawings are necessarily imperfect, or because their planned visible existence is so short-lived?  Is the futility a futility of concept, process or product?

I am struggling in my own residency to pin down the whys of it, although I have ideas.  At its most basic, I want to write, and the residency is throwing up all kinds of new ways for me to approach writing, which in turn, is resulting in poems I didn’t know I could write, not that all of them are good, but that’s another issue: notions of what poetry is, or should be, or what will get me a good mark, etc …

There is a futility here.  As writers, surely we want to be read, at some point on some level?  And the most efficient way to reach a readership is through publication and dissemination.  The most effective route of dissemination is still, I think, through the publishing house.  The publishing house wants poetry that sells.  Seamus Heaney sells, so write like Seamus Heaney.  This is a very basic, generalized and cynical viewpoint.  And if I believed it in totality I wouldn’t be writing at all, or perhaps I’d be writing like Seamus Heaney.  I don’t think it’s completely false, but maybe a narrowed vision of publishing and the contemporary marketplace.

This work of yours is tied to the marketplace, through the popularity of the postcards, but is not for the marketplace.  The idea of the space between is an interesting one, but do we all exist in the space between?  Replication is flawed by human fallibility, and yet we are all influenced by our experience of what has gone before.  Something of that influence will land on the page, or canvas, etc … so our original work is only original in a flawed sense of the word.

These pen drawings are a celebration of that space between, which is, perhaps, less a marginal space, than the mainstream landscape that the majority of us fail to recognize we’re inhabiting.

But also, are you subverting the idea of subverting the notion of originality?  The postcard of the firing squad is a very different image to the one on the wall (pictured).  The one on the wall is unrecognisable as that image.  As you said, the wall becomes the action; this is where the bullets hit, and this gets at something beyond the image, perhaps unintentional, but inadvertently appropriate.

Therefore, the product has a resonance beyond the process, and is, perhaps, original in a way that could only have occurred through the process of replication.

Best wishes,



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