At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!
Thus Samuel Coleridge recounts the composition of his poem, ‘Kubla Khan. Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment’, in an opium-induced trance in 1797. Before his imaginary dream he was reading Samuel Purchas’ Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625), an volume of global journeys that included Marco Polo’s travels in China. And, with Coleridge and Purchas in his pocket, this is how Italo Calvino imagined a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in his Invisible Cities (1972), a fantastical taxonomy of possible and impossible cities, each realising a single idea or principle:
Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone.
‘But which is the stone that supports the bridge?’ Kublai Khan asks.
‘The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,’ Marco answers, ‘but by the line of the arch that they form.’
Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: ‘Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.’
Polo answers: ‘Without stones there is no arch.’
The two artists in this show consider the lines made, and the spaces realised, when fragments travel between and among media, like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, the line of an arch implied by a single stone.
Rochelle Fry’s drawings begin with arbitrary rules. A song in the background prompts lines on paper, which are translated into fabric, which are in turn placed in a new context, with the song still echoing around them. What survives this transmediation, and what new comes of it?
Matthew Draper suggests narratives through playing with the illusionary possibilities of paper and charcoal. Sometimes that is where a simple staging can take us, a fragment of a scene that serves as a sensation, or apertures into the undefined or imagined. Sometimes that is no further than the artist’s worktable and the activities thereon. In Draper’s case, lines become thresholds, divisions between audience and scene. Borrowing from mime or theatre, minimal marks are used to generate a feeling or prompt a narrative the viewer is at liberty to develop themselves.
The lines are drawn, sung, sewn, the players are makers, performers, musicians and dreamers. Here are lines without players, though you may find other combinations.