I was thinking about this new work as if everything around me had melted into a colourful liquid. I could record it, the liquid, but it remained unfixed, soft.
I had left London for the time being and was working out of my partner’s studio on the outskirts of Paris. Large green trees surrounding large depot warehouses, lorries parked with drivers asleep in the cabin. Everything I owned was in storage in North London and I didn’t know where I would be able to live next. The repercussions of the election were still playing out but whatever happened Brexit still seemed like a hard inevitability, and Trump was still in the White House.
At the end of July Andy approached me about doing a show, so that was what I was doing. I chose some photos I had been thinking about since before finishing at the RA. They had a sense of narrative space, a potential for something to happen. A photograph of my grandmother's town at night lit by refineries, a storm I had photographed hanging over the Summer Palace in Beijing, or the pixels of a computer screen.
I had heard on the radio something about Empedocles, a pre-Socratic philosopher, who had a theory about evolution that went like this: All parts of every animal grew independently; eyes, livers, hands, legs, horns and so on. These parts floated around in the aether until the unifying force of Love caused these parts to join and form new beings. The force of Strife meant that only the correct combinations would survive.
What I liked about this theory was the idea that at some point, any number of radically combined beings existed simply because each part loved the other. I got the book of his writings, which only exist in fragments. The fragments say things like:
Naked arms wandered about,
bereft of shoulders,
And eyes roamed about alone,
deprived of brows.
all things are divided in form and are separated,
While under Love they come together and desire each other.
I was stuck with an idea of things floating while I was working on the photographs, using them as grounds for paintings. The paint floated on top, more vibrant than the prints, and in my collages I tried to get this feeling of elements floating and combining, but nothing getting fixed down in the conventional planes of space and perspective. I myself was floating in a situation that also felt unfixed, shifting, image sliding over other image.