Watermark, how an idea became a piece of work.

I’m currently out in Istanbul working as part of a residency for POST Liverpool. It’s the second time I’ve been here (the last time was March 2012) and I came with a plan to re work the ‘Watermark’ piece I made. Well, today that happened.

‘Watermark, an intervention in Four directions’ took place on Barbaros park, which is a public square in Besiktas. It’s quite a transport hub with ferries, buses and Taxis galore and as a result there’s lots of people passing across the square; the sort of place that I love to work in response to.

I’ve been looking at pavements for the past 12 months and thinking of them as a canvas for my work, so when I originally found this space it was perfect to make a piece of work on.  The courses of paving stones run from corner to corner of the square, and this is the predominant direction that people move across the space.  As I had no permission to make work here I needed to find a way of making a drawing on the floor without leaving a mark when I was finished. 

I think I was influenced by seeing lots of water traces around, pavements being cleaned, mechanical sweepers leaving a wet trail behind them, so I decided to paint water onto the floor. The basic method was trialled in March, using a small paintbrush, a Jam jar of water and a touch of bravado. At that point I only travelled in one direction, and having worked on some sketches back in my studio in St Helens I decided to make a better version of the work while I am here in Istanbul again.

I’ve had a 30cm paintbrush made (this involved me, a man in the market who makes sieves out of wood and mesh, a verbal language barrier, a diagram and some hand signals), bought a big roasting tin  (not your typical souvenir) to hold the water, am probably the only person ever who’s travelled with gel filled knee pads, and arranged for a filmmaker to document the while thing.

So that brings me to today, when I made my work following the paving stones in four directions, using 20 litres of water, avoiding a world peace day celebration with international folk dancing, getting filthy feet, a bit of a suntan, and very sore knees.  9 hours after starting (only 4 of those were performance hours) I painted the final square, and now you’ll have to wait to see the film, which gets edited tomorrow…

This residency is part of TRADING STATION, a POST artists exchange. It is funded by Arts Council England and UK trade & investment. Thanks also to all my assistants today, Dilek, Dilek’s friend, Mandy and Sue.