Situated on a large post-war council estate in Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, it served families who lived there for over 60 years, becoming a central pillar to the local community. Welch sensed a melancholy around this closure and in 2016 began a process of communicating with the school, the community and the local authorities, recording a collective memory. This evolving research culminated in the artist documenting the building in its last days before demolition in 2018.
‘All Things Are Yours’ (a motto taken from one of the school's emblems) brings together new video, sculptural and photographic works made over the duration of this project, while Welch spent time between London and Portsmouth.
‘The film was approached in a very methodical way, documenting each room one after the other, and returning later for the bits I thought I might have missed. I felt a considerable amount of pressure to collect as much as I could. The new school building was being built on the same grounds at the time of filming and I knew very soon the old would be gone. I’ve driven past the site since and the school has gone, the land on which it once lived totally grown over as if it was never there to start.’
The new video piece, made for this exhibition, captures the school at rest. Whilst still open at the time of filming, Welch visited the building after school hours, taking the opportunity to document the remnants of the day’s activity and architectural elements that would hardly be noticed when in use. Close up shots capture the splashed paint that covers the stage floors, the mismatched pieces replaced on the sprung wooden floors and the windows being taken over by nature, a hint to the school’s imminent closure. There is a passiveness to the school’s existence and loyalty in its standing. Window shots offer the only hints of movement, which carries naturally through to other works in the show, including a dual screen video work filmed at both the artists home in London and her childhood home in Portsmouth whilst staying with her parents.
The exhibition is curated by Gaia Giacomelli. The Reading Room, organised in conjunction with students from the Chelsea College of Arts MA Curating and Collections, will present archival material collected over the duration of the project.
Debra Welch (b. Portsmouth, lives and works in London) works within video, printmaking and sculpture. Video works often materialise from a long period of collecting footage and whilst the subject matter itself presents the initial grounding for the work, the filming starts from an observational perspective with no pre-conceived ideas of its capture, script or outcome. This freedom within the capturing of footage allows for accidental elements to present themselves, offering new perspectives within the editing for both visual and audio.
Special thanks to staff and students at King Richard School, especially Gareth Hughes, Arlene Gajdus and Dave
Nutland and to everyone that provided their personal stories and photos of their time at the school. Thanks to the Director of Chelsea Space, Donald Smith, for his continued support and encouragement, Aspex Gallery for the opportunity of a residency to finalise the work, Portsmouth Museums & Library Services, Bethany and Sarah (Capturing the Spirit, Portsmouth City Council), Chris Woods, Maureen Kinchin and Syd & Phylis Rapson.
A public programme event for this exhibition is planned, details to be announced. Please check our website www.chelseaspace.org for information.