Without fully understanding what I was getting into, I joined a mixed bag of restoration nerds and arty types on a night walk along the disused Cromford Canal that once ran 14.5 miles from Langley Mill (Notts) to the Arkwright Mills at Cromford (Derbys). I knew it was some kind of art gig in service of Charles Monkhouse’s Breath of Fresh Air Cargoes project, but wasn’t expecting to cover the distance at a gallop, or wear head torches front and back! That was in May, and within a week Charles had sent through the first fruits of the photographs he and David White had taken of our progress through the night. Seems they were lurking with highly sensitive time-lapse cameras at key points along the route. Whatever was going on was very well organised and looked equally promising.
Last week Charles sent through a concertina folded card, printed both sides, depicting the finished piece – a 34″ x 96″ ‘Japanese style screen’, which hopefully will be exhibited at the Arkwright Centre this summer (if summer ever comes).
While I like the piece and can’t wait to see it full size, there was something wonderfully simple and animated about the original photo that has been lost in the final panel now that the context has emerged. It all looks a little too Photoshopped. I understand why Charles has forced the background, but it doesn’t work for me, maybe because I experienced the beauty and thrill of the night, of not knowing whether this black shape or that was animal, vegetable or mineral. Nevertheless, the hard work and ingenuity invested in the project by Charles and his colleagues is to be applauded and encouraged.