The Kindness of Strangers

“The Kindness of Strangers”

(An assemblage of wood, sand, bought and found objects, dimensions in cm.: W26 x D30 x H43)

This work began life as a piece about place, there was two reasons for this. Firstly a curiosity about the influence place has on who we are and secondly the object that started the piece on which the glass bowl is held is a holder for a mobile phone to use it as a Sat Nav. in a car, which I bought but it turns out I didn’t need it.

There is a theory and idea with which I have sympathy that we are very much shaped by the landscape and environment in which we develop, but the more I looked at this and my own feelings it was not so much the landscape that shaped me but the other people I met in those landscapes. Especially those who have been many who have shown me a great deal of kindness and support in many ventures I have undertaken.

So the work is about my journey, all the places I have been to that are prominent in my memory, but not just place names, names of buildings, descriptions of places without names and of some of the people I have met. It is like life is a mechanism that has been churning out events and circumstances I have responded to and they have influence the places I have gone to or lived in.

However the more I got into the piece I discovered that the places that most readily came to mind were places where I remember meeting someone who influenced me, and so on the back of some of the place name in the glass bowl is a record of who that person was. The one that springs most readily to my mind frequently even today after about fifteen years was a meeting with a priest in Padua, Italy.

I was visiting Venice and on a day trip to Padua to look at the paintings in one of its famous churches saw that there was notices everywhere to say there was no photography permitted.  Not a problem I enjoyed the paintings and in the afternoon went to view some paintings in another church.  I was walking round the church with my camera hanging around my neck and this priest came up to me pointing at the camera, I hastily babbled “Non” “Non” which the sophisticated amongst you will realize is French, the only two Italian words I knew were “Si” and “grazie”. Anyway I kept trying to make this priest understand I was not taking photographs, without much success because he kept going on at me, he obviously did not speak English, and I did not have a phrase book.  This seemed to go on for a long period which was probably only about seven or eight minute but when you seem to be at loggerheads with someone it is a long time. Anyway after the said eight minutes in desperation the priest took my camera in his hand and proceeded to take photographs saying Si Si! At last the penny dropped and what he had been trying to tell me for the past eight minutes was that it was OK to take photographs in this church. What struck me was that having decided to do me a kindness despite the language barrier and my lack of common sense he persevered until I understood, most would have given up after about a minute.  A small kindness but always remembered.

It is like life is a mechanism that has been churning out events and circumstances I have responded to and they have influence the places I have gone to or lived in.  In 2013 I was diagnosed with something called Pulmonary Fibrosis (it has a broad range of outcomes) and so the timepiece is indicative of the finite time we all have. But what I realized making the work is how little towns, countries and places influenced me and how much people have.

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