The first two floors were entirely submerged, in keeping with the rest of the street, but despite the fact that it was clearly a post 1945 building incorporating a steel structure, the block was listing like a slowly sinking ship.
Inside, water sluiced in and out of the gaps between the stripped back floorboards now blackened with rot. Although barely visible in situ, the angle of the slope was enough to have sent the furniture sliding down towards the lower end of the room. Everything was there: large scale canvas boards, fibreglass, reels of fencing, oil paint, emulsion, stock piles of fabric, miles of circuitry, flexi-screens, cables, cables, cables, everything… an entire working lifetime’s worth of materials, source materials and then, of course, the work itself. The range of tech piled up in the void above the desk between the cupboards and the slowly slumping wall spanned several industrial revolutions. This was no amateur. The range of media and technique was such that it was impossible, given the urgency, to distinguish the artist’s work from source materials. I unpacked the padded flotation containers and started to fill them, working as quickly and carefully as I could. The work was so unusual, so unique, that even my years of experience provided little clue of how to proceed. I filled the four extra large containers I’d brought, tethered them to my harness and pushed them out across the placid surface ahead of me.
As I had feared, storms prevented me from returning for a further three days. When I did return, against the advice of the authorities and invalidating my insurance in the process, only a five storey office block on the north side was now visible. The studio and the remainder of its contents are now lost to the ever rising tide…
North West Region
Artist: Unknown, attributed to Studio 41
In the few short months since its discovery 2015 has come to be regarded as the definitive work of this trove. Internationally, curiosity, attention and admiration has turned into fierce debate polarising critics and demanding a reappraisal of this whole period. Sutki Griffen described 2015 as “incendiary”, while Natalie Ortka has claimed that art is now discussed in terms of pre and post 2015.
Both artist and original title, assuming the figures refer to the year of production, are unknown.
Reconstructed in a vast, former military warehouse in Caithness, true immersion in this installation requires several hours, an appetite for exploration and a willingness to endure protracted sequences of confinement in almost total darkness. The overwhelming mode is sombre with recurring motifs of crescent forms expressed with varying presence, from the subtle and insidious to the bold and threatening. Transformation, metamorphosis… these are key themes evoked through the evolving wave-like structures, no two of which are the same.
At the perimeter, looking in towards the central chamber, the brittleness and fragility of the fragmented surface underfoot is eventually supplanted by its firmness in relation to the infinite expanse, the void revealing endlessly in every direction.
It is here, at the loci of 2015’s intense mystique, that interpretations differ the most and it is here that the schism begins: is the work entirely abstract, are we reading in, making shapes in the clouds, conjuring waves from chaos? Or is this some sort of uber-realism where those famous illuminations are burning stars, tiny boats dwarfed by the squall, or even lights on a distant shore?
Despite the fact that 2015 is now a reconstructed presentation and we can only imagine the impact of the original installation, to experience it is to place your feet either side of the fault-line and feel the world tremble through your soles.