Roadworks

Roadworks peel back the skin of the city revealing more fully the grid which connects it into one unity. Gas, electricity, water, and transport are intertwined in a system relying on fluid and easy movement throughout. This is the modern city, pertaining to the grid, and renouncing its antithesis, the maze. However, each attempt at modernisation results in more of a maze-like present. Roadworks create a confusing and slow network of diversion signs. The second law of thermodynamics is that entropy always increases, and things always have to get more disordered. My tidy paints in their tubes are forced out of their neat confines, and squashed into each other in open space, dirtying them and confusing their original messages. Physicists call this second law the ‘arrow of time’. But the modernity would rather avoid this chaotic inevitability. Cycling round London I often stop to click a pic of exciting roadworks. My paintings are reworkings of these scientific slices of light in the moment. Every present is a rewriting of its past, and I try to encapsulate this idealism in my paintings.

My etchings of cranes and scaffolding also reference my thinking on the grid, but speak primarily of themes of legibility. The city as a space can be bewildering as one passing through, foot on paving, rubber on tarmac, but as one soaring high above, the system of roads and paths make more sense, and the pattern of things is more easily perceived.

These thoughts on semiotics leads to my interest in the actual act of creation. The workers making the road are focused on the composition of different materials to create a desired specification. Not what the road will mean in the experience of the later users. The people painting the road markings are not reading the road markings. In the moment I am painting I am more focused on getting the light and colour to the desired effect, and my thoughts are less on the meanings that will be derived from the finished piece. In a city of metaphysical interactions, when money seems like an abstract number, and words are series of codes interpretable only through computers, or a smile more often shines from a photo rather than a face, this concentration on material make-up and the natural and physical laws that envelop us gives me a strange sense of comfort.


Yellow Screen - Art by Helen Ruth Smith