Ortonandon Get Set

The following sentimental story was written on the occasion of Ortonanon’s and their exhibition GET SET, Intermedia Gallery, CCA. Anna, Katie and Sophie Orton make up the sisterly artist trio working under the name Ortonandon, and I am one of four sisters. Here’s a link to their website>>> Go See it…

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***

IT’S AN ODD PLACE TO BEGIN, so close to the end. I will begin at this unmistakable time of year; a period of new starts that coincides with the decay of leaves and flowers and the steady drift into falling. The following story came to me in a vision. By no means perspectival, this was the kind of vision which takes place over tens of years and hours of conversation. As time passed, instead of acquiring strength, my vision was diminishing, so naturally I wanted to render it in text, to capture and fix it. Just imagine I want to go from here to there, but I stall for some reason. So I stop completely, still and waiting, each moment equal and unfolding, time passing, no hierarchy, or force, just trembling and watching the dusk. This slow transition produced as a result of yet another earthly rotation, but nothing repeated. There’s that light again which accompanies this time of day, at this time of year, in this place. I will create the light again next summer, or at a time in the future when this particular kind of fading light is obsolete. My eyes adjust, the shapes become less distinct, and darkness cools the air by a degree or two.

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At some point during this productive darkness I grab a book and begin writing diagonally across the page not knowing if the words are overlapping or slightly ahead of where they should be. Tonight, the comparative depth of colour isn’t uniform and the room is teaming with millions of dots. These specks are vibrating, vying for space and beginning to seek out all the corners, after some time the shadows finally give dimensions to my bedroom. Thinking I am alone in this stirring I start to fidget and something reminds me of the warm bodies who are in the room with me, each in their bed with the scent of sleep barely on their skin. Although deep in our own thoughts, at any point the silent agreement may be broken by a brightly coloured torchlight flashing, on the ceiling off and on, up and down, one at a time, or several lights from opposite sides of the room, then a nudge in your side that maybe accompanied by a whispered “hello, are you awake?” This time I can’t quite recall who started it, but I imagine that I did, by billowing the bed clothes to create theatrical snapping static charges with my nightie, sheets, arms and feet. Never slow to catch on, they all join in with the fizzing and crackling, fusing all the particles, to light up the night.

On the landing, in the coldest part of our house, a long way down the corridor, hang a couple of paintings depicting a rural scene in a pastoral style. The paintings seem a pair, but I wouldn’t like you to make the same assumption. An unknown artist has painted the same scene twice; only close inspection reveals obvious differences. In the foreground a looming, bendy-looking tree inclines at such an awkward angle that by rights it should collapse. An isolated house stands at the zenith of a craggy hill, all tufts of grass and inert grey boulders. The house overlooks a small stretch of water flowing briskly through the mottled landscape, building its strength from an unknown source quietly and unseen beyond the frame. The river appears motionless, still and flat. Much further downstream from the shallow reaches towards the edge of the composition, at the point, a well-dressed romantic is bathing her swollen feet, apparently taking respite from a journey. An animal is close by kicking up hooves and with a nonchalant stance contemplating, as only an insider could, what its really like to be a horse. All these details match, but for a reason known only to the artist, in each work the river flows in an opposite direction across the picture plane, producing a symmetrical effect when placed side by side. It seems significant that one painting is restored to a good standard, leaving the other to await a similar fate when time, money and priorities allow. After living with this seemingly neglected painting for some time, growing accustomed to its muted tones, the cracked and heavily layered oils applied with much effort over a patchy woven canvas, then sandwiched within this flaking golden frame, its carelessly mitred edges fixed with wood glue and mismatched gold leaf filler; I notice that the dandy artisan is clearly exhaling, sighing with her lips barely parted and a misty-eyed gaze following from point to point a particular trajectory some distance away towards the house on the hill. This expression is absent from the painting with the river running in the opposite way. It is neither a poorly executed counterfeit, nor a mass-produced misfit, or indeed a pair in the usual sense; it’s a sibling.

By and by, but with no haste, the girl gets mounts the horse refreshed and ready at last to trot off once more. Through the calm of contemplation, something caught my attention in the corner of my eye. After an initial startle I realised that two more mysterious riders had joined the first. The group disappeared gradually, out of my view to the edge of things and into someone else’s peripheries. I stood quietly, thinking about all these small figments, becoming aware of time contracting around me,the walls gently pulling apart, caused by an unseen force or some imperceptible temperature range change. When I turned around and found the others stood behind me nodding and shaking their heads intermittently we had no choice but to laugh in unison at this awkward situation. Then, facing in the same direction we looked at each other through the mirror with close scrutiny.

Before long we would leave together for the last time, banging the wooden front door and off out into the world. Without straying too far, we traveled on horseback through thickets and forests, over fields and pavement, to the highest mountains, and the smallest brooks, fixing our memories and constructing yours along the way. In our bosom lies a sentimental frontier, a threshold we invite others to cross when uttering under our breath this chant with a sing-song intonation;

Holes in the pocket,
Thread bare thread,
What falls through will make a trail,
But do not be misled;
A northern wind is all around so lend us a hand,
Together we will make a place,
From pixels built on sand

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