Mark Rowan Hull (b. UK) | Empty House Studies

I remember the moment my mother announced she was leaving, sitting in the back of a car with my younger brother; perplexed, being told how things were ‘all for the best’. I remember the feeling of aloneness and of sudden separation. As a child I would often climb up the biggest of trees to physically feel at peace, away from what seemed like the emotional turmoil below. 

Only after a struggle with depression in my thirties, in the past 5 years I have started to connect with this time and tackle all this in my art, starting with a moving-image work named Empty House Studies. In this sequence of performative actions, I re-enact small vulnerable moments, gestures and actions that can take on an extra and deeper level of meaning.

I remembered an instance from years ago whilst I was working with a severely mentally ill elderly man who was institutionalised and he could only do up the buttons on his shirt whilst listening to a particular Mozart piano concerto. This small action and gesture opened up a key to his past as a musician. More recently, I have thought of this when looking after close family with dementia. It is the key actions and gestures that we hold onto to the end. 

The Studies are situated within my own abandoned house. One particular piece involves an old silver cross pram which we used for my first newborn son. I re-enact the actions I used to perform daily, to rhythmically rock our baby to sleep. Repeating these gestures and observing them 20 years later transforms them and somehow conveys a poignant sense of loss and pathos.

I sit on the top of some stairs, remembering the witnessing of a violent argument between my parents, making marks on a wall, making large shadows with my hand in a shaft of light to take my mind away. 

Each sequence is about a lived experience, and reflects my fascination with how each gesture can let the fears and facts of our lives escape us.