(16mm, colour, silent, 16:00 mins)

Pattern is a suite of three intently observed portraits; of a woodworker making a complex joint, the maker of a hand-built geodesic dome and a gardener shaping the future growth of a tree, as they make, envisage and describe things they are intimately close to and understand intuitively.

Focussing on bodies, hands, gestures and glances Pattern emphasises the subjects’ complete absorption in their tasks and draws the viewer into that same immersive, meditative ‘time out of time’.

The three short films that form Pattern were shot between 2015 and 2019 alongside other larger projects and each focus on a single subject, shot on a couple of rolls of 16mm film in a single afternoon. The films are shot in available light and largely edited in camera with only a few revisions in post-production.

The subject of the three films - a gardener meticulously pruning a tree in the Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu, a complex traditional Japanese wooden joint being cut, and a hand-built geodesic dome in a South London garden, are things that we wanted to look at through the camera. Things we wanted to spend time looking at, and to be ourselves absorbed by.

This notion of the absorption and refuge of making and the imagination is reinforced by the circumstances under which ‘Pattern’ was made. Unable to continue with other projects during the pandemic due to travel restrictions, lock-down and shielding we revisited these ‘sketches’, all shot several years earlier, in online meetings and conversations. As we looked at the films again we began to see them in a new light in relation to each other and in relation to our other ongoing films about making things.

We also realised that the films refer to three different time frames - the future (Hiroko Suwaki the gardener attempting to shape the growth of a tree, making decisions, the effect of which won’t be apparent for several years), the present (Asako Shiroki, the woodworker’s utter attentiveness to every irreversible cut and alteration she makes) and the past (Mary Mellors, the dome builder tenderly recounting her story over plans and photographs from 1971).

The title, Pattern, recognises and draws out something at work in each of the films; a preoccupation with how things have been made, and with things being made by hand, the slowness and precision of these processes, and the immersive experience of watching someone totally absorbed in an activity. Further, we can see other recurring tendencies; close cropped details, glimpses of actions deep in a scene, the hand-held camera ‘examining’ a surface or an activity, a table-top, an object, and very often shooting directly into late afternoon light.

So Pattern refers to the making of something to a pattern, the making of something to form a pattern, the projection of a pattern onto a thing to predict its development, the way a pattern in internalized, but also for us, a pattern recognised in retrospect that shapes what we look at.


Pattern One: ‘Crossbill’

Tokyo Geidai, Torride Campus, Japan. 22 August 2018, 2:00-6:00pm.

Pattern (part one) was shot in August 2018 at Tokyo Geidai's Torride campus and follows the artist Asako Shiroki as she makes an Isuka-tsugi, or crossbill joint, (a halved rabbeted oblique scarf joint typically used in the building of temples and shrines).

The film was shot with the support of a residency at Tokyo Art and Space. Thanks to Asako Shiroki, and Kione Akao Kochi.

Pattern Two: ‘Dome’

Residential garden, Dulwich, South East London, England. 28 June 2019, 3:30-6:00pm.

Pattern (part two) was shot over one afternoon in early summer 2019 and centres on a geodesic dome hand-built in the early 1970s in a residential garden in south London. The dome was built from instructions published in ‘Domebook 2’ published in San Francisco in 1971, an ‘instruction book for builders’ that developed Buckminster Fuller’s original ideas and designs for dome architecture into a model for an experimental form of building that ‘can be done by hand’.

The film interweaves images of the unchanged dome with footage of the owner, Mary Mellors, as she looks at the original plans for the dome drawn up by her husband, Alan, and reads through their copy of ‘Domebook 2’.

Thanks to Mary Mellors.

Pattern Three: ‘Ritsurin’

Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan. 23 July 2015, 1:00-5:00pm.

Pattern (part three) was shot in one afternoon, in July 2015, in the Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, and is largely edited in camera, the minimal events unfold in the film exactly as they did that afternoon in the garden.

The film is formed of tightly framed shots of Hiroko Suwaki, a gardener at the Ritsurin Garden, as she painstakingly prunes one of the 1,400 pine trees, making a series of tiny decisions intended to constrain the height of the tree, and shape its growth over time.

The film was shot with the support of Tokyo Geidai’s GAP Programme. Thanks to Hiroko Suwaki, and to Hayato Fujioka.

Processing and digital transfers.