Joe Dean

MA Fine Art

I am a multidisciplinary artist who works in print, photography, and painting. My work is inspired by journeys, and memories. I am drawn to the meeting points of nature and the manmade, ordinary landscape that has a rich history or personal resonance, and the disjoint between memory, reality, and the subconscious. An important part of my process is to research and create personal archives.

I begin with found images, photos, or film - sometimes captured with a mobile phone and recorded instinctively and without prior planning. I find out as much as I can historically and explore the way we respond to a place after the event, as well as remaining true to what is seen or recorded in the moment.

I explore rhythms, repetition, and layering, and often fragment, alter, and edit. As the images take shape, they become an abstracted view of the original reality, a way of holding onto a fragment or experience, making it concrete. The result is densely layered, ambiguous and open to multiple readings and interpretations. These fleeting and transitory moments are filtered and abstracted in our subconscious. Time is frozen or expanded to allow space for further contemplation of what might initially seem unknown, insignificant, or inconsequential.

The series of works in this exhibition are my response to hazy childhood memories of woodland near where I grew up in Bedfordshire. We used to visit regularly to walk the dog, make bracken shelters, and to sledge - when there was snow! As children, we were barely aware of it but next to Chicksands Wood stood a military base and a 70-metre tall AN/FLR-9 Wullenweber antenna array that looked rather like a metal Stonehenge. the USAF used it to gather intelligence data during the Cold War and it was one of only eight related sites across the globe. It was known as the “Iron Horse Defence” and would provide early warning in the event of a nuclear attack. Locals knew it by another name, “The Elephant Cage.” My parents were much more aware of its presence than we were and became active members of CND, which meant that they were on watchlists and probably had their phone tapped.

When I graduated and returned briefly to the area in 1996, all traces of this huge structure had gone, and the base has since become the British Army’s joint intelligence training corps. The Elephant Cage had become a white elephant, obsolete and superseded by satellite technology. From the air, it is still possible to see traces of the concrete piles that supported the structure. I wanted to create responses that simultaneously capture the beauty of the woodland, and the sinister presence of this huge listening structure.