(selected by Sean Edwards)
False Dawn, 2007
Artist Sean Edwards profiles Anthony Shapland, an artist and curator based in Cardiff.
Anthony Shapland’s minimal and meditative videos force us to momentarily stop and slow down; they ask for a different pace.
Over the last eight years his preoccupation has been to look at the most minimal of activity that occurs in the hours between dusk and dawn, a period that seems to be slipping away from us. In doing so he creates haunting studies that focus on the most gentle and telling of human stories taking place during these times.
Shapland stages a recreation of the end-point of this period in ‘False Dawn’ (2007). One screen shows an abandoned room: personal ephemera documenting a life lie dormant, with only a solitary canary in a cage for company. The opposite screen shows an exterior shot of the room, where a lighting rig is being assembled. As the real dusk falls, the room inside begins to turn to night and the canary stops its song. It is at this point that Shapland instigates a real-time - but at the wrong time - false dawn. Light falls into the room as fleetingly as it had left and as the dawn progresses, the solitary bird once again bursts into song.
In the slow-paced ‘A Setting’ (2007), we see a view looking out onto a dusk landscape; a moon hangs in the evening sky. While dusk progresses, a seated figure is gradually revealed in the foreground through what appears to be a frustratingly slow dissolve. As the sky turns darker, the figure becomes more apparent and it becomes clear we are looking onto a landscape through a window in which the figure is being reflected, brought into existence by a solitary electric bulb inside, which we had earlier mistaken for the moon outside.
Anthony Shapland, A Setting (still), 2007
Shapland’s work is as much about our universal ways of forcing the continuation of day, of extending our time, as it is about the impending moments of silence and darkness that the night brings with it.
We always need more time both in the short term but also the long term. ‘A Setting’ seems to ask us what is it, then, that we do or have done with this time.
This extension of our time is played out in one of Shapland’s more recent works. ‘The life of Raymond C Cook (title sequence)’ (2009) is at its simplest an opening title sequence for a film that is yet to exist. Shot not in the documentary or minimal gestures of Shapland’s other films, ‘Raymond C Cook’ opens with slow panning shots across a work table, a soundtrack of a ticking clock, whisky being poured and cigarette being lit, accompanied by a haunting flute solo that marks it out more readily as a piece of fiction rather than fact. One immediately thinks of Sunday evening BBC drama.
Anthony Shapland, The Life of Raymond C Cook (Title Sequence), 2009
In fact the work responds to the life of a real man, Raymond C Cook, who once appeared on the television show Blue Peter for the carved sculptures he made from matchsticks.
This man’s life has become something of an obsession for Shapland who had spent the previous two years researching him.
The video may be seen as the first part of a film, or may be the total project in itself: a part fact, part fiction construct of what or who Shapland believes this man to be.
In ‘The Life of Raymond C Cook’, like in ‘False Dawn’, the character is absent but present. In this continually-hinted presence of a life lived, the works give a sense of longing, loss, poeticism, acceptance, and expectancy. They become settings for something to take place.
In 'A Setting', nothing occurs; the setting itself is all there is. But as we glimpse the figure looking out on a landscape that has drifted from view, we gradually accept that the activity he (and we) are waiting for is all that came before this moment now.
In all of Shapland’s works we are held in a moment, or seem to be due to the steadiness and slowness of pace, but actually they, like our lives, are filled with activity. Using the most minimal of cinematic techniques, Shapland focuses our attention on to a momentary occurrence of two parts of our day that usually are only tied together through sleep, dreams or the activities of the night owl. Day becomes night, night becomes a false day, and what we thought we once knew is perhaps no more.
Sean Edwards, February 2011
Anthony Shapland (b. 1971, Pontypridd, Wales) gained a first-class BA Honours Degree in Fine Art at Solent University, Southampton and Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain in 1996. He spent the years following study in London and was involved in several artist-led projects including Cable Street Arts and The Tannery.
Returning to Wales in 1996 he founded g39, an artist-run project in the centre of Cardiff. He is one of a generation of artists who are actively engaged in the commission and presentation of work by other artists as well as continuing to produce work themselves.
Shapland has exhibited nationally and internationally. Selected exhibitions include Ffilm 2, Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea (2011); Manchester Contemporary, represented by Mermaid&Monster, Sptialfields, Manchester (2010); LISTE – The Young Art Fair in Basel, Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2010); Portrait (For a Screenplay) of Beth Harmon, Limoncello, London (2009); En Residencia, Laboral, Gijon, Spain (2009); Suddenly After a Long Silence (solo), Glynn Vivian, Swansea (2008); Night: A Time Inbetween, Royal West of England Academy (2008); Suddenly After a Long Silence (solo), Chapter, Cardiff (2007); Year 07, County Hall, London (2007); Some Vacant Accommodation, SVA Stroud, 2007.