Cannon Knitting Mill, East Wall 2012

Cannon Knitting Mill, East Wall #3

Cannon Knitting Mill, East Wall 2012

There has been focus lately in the community regarding the local school board trustees and a bad, short-sighted “oh, Hamilton…” kind of decision they made to re-locate in the suburbs instead of staying downtown and re-animating a historic building. You can read about it better than I can talk about it at this excellent blog here.

Since I moved to Hamilton the importance and dynamic of architecture, especially in a post-growth community, has been an influence. I’ve been past this building many, many times and I love, artistically, the monolithic ruin of a once grand building. Since seeing the Lister Block restored, and the importance of “Built Heritage” to a city, I can also start to see the opportunity that the Cannon Knitting Mill provides.

With this perception in mind, and with my photo collage work this year I decided to work this neglected but popular building. I am not interested so much in portraying a building or neighbourhood, but in trying to construct an experience of looking at something. In this case, it is the east wall of the building and the surface is full of angles, details, decay and is completely out of sequence and not to scale at all. I like this process so far, for it seems to be most like memory and attention – this building still looks like this building, and all the parts of it are real, but you are forced to look at it through someone else’s interest and perception.

As the good people in the Beasley neighbourhood found out, fighting perceptions (some might say call it other things) is very hard to do.

So I’ve created this husk of a photo collage work that reminds me of a children’s book illustration or perhaps a horror movie post – but I like it. I like the challenge this building presents as a model, and the richness of it’s surface scarred by history and many hands (I have already taken about 2,000 photos). I also like constructing an image about Hamilton with a process that reflects some of Hamilton’s character – embracing the grit, exploring the rich heritage and confronting the subject directly. Ever since I was a kid, I really do love looking at factories and abandoned buildings, and imaging where this doorway led to, or why was that window different than the one beside, or what machine was bolted to that wall. I am dying to know what it looks like inside.

Right now the work for print measures 60″ x 9″ and I am considering making a gift a signed and frame edition to anybody who buys/saves this building. Did I just offer an art bounty? I guess that depends whether you like the art or not. I won’t be giving one to the Ward 2 Trustee, that’s for sure.