Mahu: an exhibition at the Hardy Tree Gallery - June 6th to July 14th 2015

My first solo exhibition in London will ran for five weeks in the Hardy Tree Gallery, in Kings Cross, just behind the British Library.

Mahu was an exhibition of writing - a novel written upon the gallery walls, growing as the exhibition passes. A living book in ink, veering between sense, story and abstraction. The gallery was covered in scrolls of paper, onto which I wrote, without preparation and entirely within the gallery. As the exhibition passed, so the walls became entirely covered. The text will never be typed, only read, ready to be unfurled.

Mahu remains a novel, in the true sense of that word, employing abstraction as a necessary part of the narrative, a narrative that will evolve as the exhibiting takes place. Ostensibly the story of a man living on a farm in Devizes with his mother, theological manuscripts and loyal bulldog, Mahu must leave the only place he has ever known to follow the polluted river Kennet out of Devizes, tracing the clues left by the one human in town who'll tolerate him. A story of menace in small town England, Mahu can be read in cursive from the walls. 

As part of the exhibition, the gallery hosted 11 events videos from which are below.

A concept that cannot be understood until it is realised. I had three days from exhibition opening to when I arrived back in London from time in Wales. During that time I had three events, including the launch of my book. I spent 25 hours in those three days in the Hardy Tree Gallery, writing the beginning of my novel by hand. I did not plan the content, but I did try and keep it, strictly, narrative (if strange and menacing) and clear. I began by writing on the wall, then I realised this would be a profound waste. So we got scrolls of paper to hang on the wall. Then I wrote on the scrolls. Then after 5 hours and one scroll done, I got deep stress position pains. So I took the other scrolls down and wrote on them while at a desk, pulling the paper slack up as it was needed. 

The story is of a lonely, scholarly farm child called Mahu, living in the countryside of Wiltshire. The townspeople think him strange and he only goes into town to buy supplies for his ailing, if distant mother. His 12 brothers and sisters all have jobs, while he schemes of ways to keep from working so he can keep secretly reading the church histories and occult papers he has stolen in the company of his dog. He meets someone and his priorities shift. She disappears, and he begins to follow her, leaving Devizes for the first time in his life, down the polluted banks of the river Kennet.

Now I'll be writing a wall of the gallery for each week of the run, so by the end, by June 27th, all four walls will be covered and the novel will be finished. The first wall was an experience of chest pain and some agitation, but I have already forgotten that pain and the response from those who have seen it so far has been really pleasing. They say my handwriting is neat.

The second wall of Mahu finished - 55 hours of handwriting into my exhibition (June 24th)

Three weeks have passed, the original run, now extended. Nearly 500 people have visited, to find me writing at a desk or on the walls themselves, covered as they are by the novel's scrolls, or for the near dozen events we have hosted. I have found the process meditative, the far wall, the second wall, now covered, the novel two thirds completed, already starting to veer into bulging spaces and patterns in the text, always employed with purpose, contextually relating to the content of the novel. I have been careful to break up the writing into bursts, not spending too long at a time, as it was beginning to have physical affects and so it remains a pleasure, and all the more so to see the narrative grow, remaining, as it has always been, unplanned outside of the intimate room in Kings Cross.