Claire Potter at ‘Portrayal & Perpetration’, Wolstenholme Projects, Liverpool, April 2009

After being intrigued by CP’s exhibition at Greenland Street last year, I juggled a hectic schedule and scrambled into Liverpool at the last possible opportunity to see her latest offering. The group show on the two upper floors was varied and thought-provoking, but my main focus lay below ground! I descended through the yawning trap door and down the anomalously pristine stairs into what appeared to be the black mouth of an unlit, crumbling-walled, spidery Hell, navigating with two flash-lights lent by the most helpful Sue and finally finding the Table & Chair with some relief! Even more relief to discover that it had its own standard lamp! Click! I sat with my back to the gloomy void, put on the earphones, opened the battered, much-thumbed A-Z of Leeds and Bradford. Baedeker-like, CP, who lived in that region as a student, takes the listener through a trip from the Saltaire area into Leeds, partly on foot and partly by public transport. I myself know some but not all of the locations, providing a variety of experience (‘Ah yes, I recall ... Oh, that sounds really interesting!’). The account fluctuates between instructions as to the route (which one follows on a series of pages in the post-it-noted & marked-up A-Z), plain description of the scenes, CP’s own thoughts and impressions, personal reminiscences of events, and (strikingly) interludes involving the apparently unedited texts of emails sent and received at the time of CP’s West Yorkshire sojourn. Inevitably the selections too are personal (we all focus on different aspects of a place). They range from historic buildings such as Titus Salt’s ornate church, via the obviously fascinating bookshop nearby, to the homes of friends where the human dramas of student life were played out. But it is all sculpted into a varied but coherent whole, and it finishes, if anything, too quickly, one’s appetite whetted but perhaps by design not satisfied. By the time the tape faded into silence I had forgotten the darkness and the spiders. The genre is somewhat unusual, and not everyone could bring off such an exercise, especially given the mundane and personal nature of the material. But it is part of CP’s life – and by way of exemplification the lives of the many others who have traversed this urban Yorkshire landscape, and of all of us as we traverse the landscapes of our own life journeys. I look forward eagerly to whatever CP has up her sleeve for the future!

Mark Newbrook

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