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On Watching

From my desk, I can see from my window all kinds of comings and goings in the village here, but I also have a prime view looking out across the road to the studio of artist Mark Edwards. I guess that there’s something of the voyeur in us all to a greater or lesser degree, but while I work I can also get distracted, and my mind wanders, taking in the view. For example, I know when Mark Edwards is in his studio because the blinds are up, and I know that in the lead up to his recent exhibition in London last November, the blinds were up a lot. Had the time have been right to have found a way of reviewing that exhibition, I would have liked to have done so, but it just didn't coincide with a gap in other pressing deadlines. Certainly, I look forward to reviewing his next, though, as I find his work hugely revealing about our times, and Mark Edwards’ work deals with a form of voyeurism, too.

Mark Edwards ,  Through The Hedge,  2014. © The artist.

Mark Edwards, Through The Hedge, 2014. © The artist.

Like all voyeurs, one can get really quite enmeshed in certain details and, in a way, that form of long hard looking is perfect training for becoming quite nimble with what (to some) can often be blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. Committed voyeurs notice things that others tend not to. Taking a break from a long day at my desk, for example, on the occasions that I watch a TV drama, if I have not fully ‘wound down’, I find my mind wandering as I watch intently, still. Why that camera angle? Why that location? Do I know that street? What significance does the architecture of that building (in which the central character lives) tell us about the backstory to their character – that kind of thing. If I’m honest, during a recent episode of the BBC crime drama Luther, I found myself thinking more about the brutalist architectural interior of the house in which a serial killer lived than I did about who his victims were.

Luther, for anyone who doesn’t possess a TV or who hasn’t seen it, is described by the BBC as a “crime drama series starring Idris Elba as a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.” In Episode 3 of Series 5, the teaser-synopsis asks: “With his friend in peril and a young woman kidnapped by a relentless serial killer, can Luther protect the innocent while preventing [old school career criminal] Cornelius's violent revenge from consuming him? Who is Luther willing to save, and who can't he bear to lose?” Well, frankly, I didn't really care that much, but what really caught my interest while watching this episode was one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments as our serial killer entered a room to pour his wife a glass of wine laced with Rohypnol (the intention being that she would sleep while he went about his killing spree).

Luther  (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

Luther (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

About 5 minutes into the episode, though, and there on the wall of the killer’s house was one of Mark Edwards’ paintings (rather suitably titled Through the Hedge, 2014). Stop! Back up! Did I see that? Sure enough, there was Edwards’ painting, hung on a poured concrete wall and backgrounding our serial killer, wine bottle in hand. I don’t know what it must feel like for an artist to find that their art is thought suitable by those responsible for dressing a TV set as the house of a serial killer, replete with art collection. I’m thinking it may well be rather curious to see on screen in the comfort of their own home, maybe even interesting, but, if thought about too hard, rather disconcerting, too. I suppose there is some solace to be found in the fact that it probably says more about the production design team than it does about the artist’s work, but I really don’t know.

Luther  (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

Luther (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

What I do know is that while I watched Edwards from my desk, last summer, going to and from his studio while I was here writing, he was in the process of painting works not too dissimilar from Through The Hedge. Then, just a few days ago, there was I, all watched out, watching a serial watcher (and killer) backgrounded by Through the Hedge as he waited for his wife to succumb to the Rohypnol so she could no longer watch him. Maybe I should stop watching Mark Edwards going to and from his studio each day, and go and ask him about this (seeing as his studio is no more than forty or fifty metres from my window). The trouble is, I don’t want him to think I’ve been watching him too often. It could seem… well, maybe a little creepy.

[EDIT: Mark Edwards has been in touch with me to say that the he has tracked down the building that I refer to above. It is The Grey House, designed by architects Eldridge Smerin and inspired by another Eldridge Smerin house that won awards from the RIBA and Civic Trust. His painting is still in situ: http://www.85swainslane.co.uk/. It seems it was not placed by set designers but is the property of the current owner.]