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New film from artist Simon Pope at YSP

October 4, 2012

This week finally saw the installation of Simon Pope’s new film What Cannot Be Turned Aside in the captivating space of the 18th century Chapel. The YSP site clearly lends itself to the consideration of walking as art practice and I particularly enjoy Simon’s emphasis on the aspects of walking that are typically underplayed in this kind of work, such as talking, negotiation and being together. As Visiting Artist during 2010-11 Simon spent time getting to know the Park and being led on various routes around it by staff and those who know best its secrets and stories. One outcome of his first research period that is particularly special to me is a work he gifted to YSP. This work is a pre-determined walk he took me on that I have to remember and that exists only in my memory and Simon’s. If and when I leave the Park, I have to take my successor on this walk and duly pass its stewardship onto them.

Simon’s new work What Cannot Be Turned Aside is an extension of this earlier research and considers our human relationship with the land as well as engaging with issues around legal land access and usage. Simon shot the film at YSP earlier this year in the pouring rain, which, although cold and uncomfortable at the time, has lent great atmosphere to the finished piece.

Unusually in portrait format, the film follows a local horse and rider walking together through a field at Longside. The untethered horse walks alongside the rider, who tries to keep within the frame, the charged and intense relationship between the pair representing an age-old battle between the unfettered desire to break free and a need for prescriptive structures, as well as revealing the potential to come together in moments of harmony.

The process of working with Simon for me represents one of the exceptional elements of YSP – allowing an artist time to develop ideas in extended dialogue with the site and using it as a test-bed or laboratory for ideas, exploring the meanings of site-specificity, and slowly gaining an understanding that results in grounded and resonant works.

Simon departs YSP to begin a PhD at the Ruskin School of Fine Art at the University of Oxford. I wish him all the best with his studies and look forward to seeing how they will further inform his practice going forward.

Sarah Coulson, Deputy Curator at YSP

Simon Pope: What Cannot Be Turned Aside can be seen at YSP from 06.10.12–04.11.12