I began to draw a reductive version of a prison hulk. These hulks were originally naval ships but were decommissioned and used to house prisoners offshore in the 1700’s to late 1800’s. Conditions onboard were grim according to records in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Guildhall Museum in Rochester. Prisoners were poorly fed and clothed, had to do long days labouring shackled together and disease was rife. Often prisoners were sent to America and then Australia as convicts. I wanted to draw these hulks on a tiny scale, with fragility and attention to detail which was quite challenging. I then put them inside the bottles reminiscent of old ships in bottles. I like the fact that the drawings become incarcerated; both a nod to the historic version of events but also a reversal of events. Instead of being the prison, the hulks have now become the imprisoned.
(8th June 2012 – Extract from Estuary Dialogue blog about my early drawings of prison hulks)
It is probably seen as a dirty, lonely, charmless place which is ripe for development. These are the very reasons that I love it though. It teeters on the edge of definition, defys it even. I suppose that I really do feel like a pilgrim when I go there. Every visit is similar to an equivalent of going to Mecca or Lourdes for me. I know that sounds rather dramatic but I really do feel very moved by the place.
(6th January 2012 – Extract from Estuary Dialogue blog when I began these drawings and my reflections on the location of the Thames Estuary)