People move in and out of our lives with no rhyme or reason.
Some are there for just the blink of an eye, whilst others stay with us from the moment we are born.
The ties may be as strong as those of family, or as tenuous as a single conversation over a glass of wine, but one thing unites; when they are gone, we need to remember.
Whilst photographs and portraits perform their obvious purpose, it becomes very clear with the passing of time that memory is not always triggered by anything so conspicuous or obvious as just a picture in an album, or in a frame nestled on a windowsill.
A fragrance, the sound of laughter, a taste, a place. All roads lead to Rome,
Every stimulus leads to a moment.
Earlier this year I purchased a beautiful release called Ghosts Are Real. A self-published artist book issued in a tiny edition of just one hundred.
Although I was not, at the time, familiar with Philip J Brittan’s work; something about this bold abstract collection connected instantly, and I did not hesitate before purchasing a copy. I was very keen to sing its praises at the time, but as it sold out pretty much instantly, it seemed a cruel thing to do.
So, you can imagine how happy I was to hear that a larger edition of five hundred copies was due for release just a mere matter of months after the original had both arrived and disappeared.
This is the first time Brittan has chosen to revisit any of his books to this extent, and as a newly converted fan, I am so pleased that he has chosen to use Ghosts Are Real as the precedent. The new edition is once again self-published, but this time assuming an alternative design and format. The original was a spiral bound “soft cover”, however in this incarnation we have a more traditional elegant and simple case bound design. With regard to its contents, the vivid colour litho printing is rich and warm, sitting comfortably upon a weighty 170gsm silk paper. Being fortunate enough to have both versions to compare, it is fair to say that Brittan’s attention to detail is of the highest standard.
The work is both cathartic and ultimately celebratory, having evolved during a traumatic time for Brittan. His mother had recently passed away and dealing with the ramifications regarding her estate had splintered and divided the family. As a way of escaping the stress swirling around him, he started taking long night walks around the city and surrounding countryside, his camera as his companion. During these solitary sojourns, he began capturing the landscapes, both urban and natural as he went.
The result is far from being a melancholy and sombre experience. If anything, the images became a celebration of the world and life in all its minutiae. Hyper real yet also dreamlike. A parade of experimental imagery paraded before our eyes. Reds, hot enough to burn our retinas. Blues rich and jewel like; as intense a summer’s day and as soothing as the waters lapping on the most perfect pacific beach.
Blips and dots in the matrix of being.
The movement and energy in these images, confirmation of the unrelenting passing of time, the clash and revival of memories, both welcome and unwelcome. Then, the desire to hold onto these moments, like fingers grasping at the sheerest of surfaces, desperate to hold on to and possess, if only for a few more moments, before slipping softly, smoothly, inexorably away.
Presented as a true assault on the senses, these are multi layered abstractions. The suggestion of trees and woodlands interweave with architectural images of a man-made forest.
The flow appears random, as in the deepest of sleeps.
Nothing as predictable as a journey from A to B.
The unreliable, unpredictable nature of memories and dreams.
For the most part the landscapes are devoid of people, save for one which lingers. The silhouette of a small child running, leaping.
A reminder that in the midst of losing one so close, the promise of a young life ready to take the baton, to bear the mantle. The cycle continues, a Mobius strip full of energy, never looking back or slowing down. So many new memories waiting in the wings, soon to be ripe for the picking.
And all in an abstract explosion of both monochrome and colour pyrotechnics.
The randomness and dizzying cocktail of Ghosts Are Real may be Philip J Brittan’s search for inner peace and closure during a time of personal pain and sadness, but in presenting it, he may well be providing us with our own catalyst.
If ghosts are memories, then maybe they are real after all.
Ghosts are Real by Philip J Brittan can be purchased here.
Robin Titchener is a keen, bordering on fanatical photobook collector of thirty years.