Soundings: Sub Rosa 1995
Multimedia installation by Russell Mills, Ian Walton and Hywel Davies
Green Park Station Vaults, Bath for the Society for the Promotion of New Music for the Bath International Music Festival
3 illuminated globes, candles, hair, 7 enamel bowls, essential oils, milk, red wine, paint, lighting gels, 7 looping cassette players
Soundwork composed and recorded by Hywel Davies

Green Park Station Vaults, Bath
Multimedia installation by Russell Mills, Ian Walton and Hywel Davies, for the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) and the 1995 Bath International Music Festival

Vaults: 169’ x 27’ x 8’ high, with custom made candles, hair, three illuminated globes, three terracotta and seven enamel bowls, oils of camphor, bergamot, cypress, myrrh, cinnamon and eucalyptus, red wine, milk and seven continually looping cassette players
Healing and regeneration were the central themes of Soundings: Sub Rosa, referencing both Bath’s long history, which has been shaped around its numerous sites of thermal healing waters and our interest in the transforming processes of the phenomenal world.
Archaeological evidence shows that there was human activity around the hot springs of Bath dating to at least 8000 years BC. Bath’s natural thermal springs were first discovered around 863BC when Prince Bladud was apparently cured of his skin disease after bathing in the waters. Subsequently, the Celts, Romans, Saxons and Georgians continued to enjoy and benefit from the waters.
Originally named Queen Square Station Green Park Station opened in 1870 operated by the Midland Railway. it became Green Park Station under British Railways in 1954.
The vaults, which are situated under one of the station’s platforms, began life as a Customs House. Goods wagons carried bonded merchandise to be shunted into the secure Customs House building, from where casks of whiskey and other such provisions were lowered by crane to the vaults below at cellar level. Goods were transported through the vaults on small wagons running on rails laid in the cellar floor the full length of the platform. In 1981, following decades of neglect, the vaults were sealed up behind brick walls.

When we were first granted access to the vaults we discovered a chambered tunnel whose walls were encrusted with blooms of salt clusters known as crystalline efflorescence, caused by prolonged exposure to an excess of moisture and insufficient air circulation. As both preserver and destroyer, salt’s contrary nature became an added conceptual touchstone for the work. While we praise its ability to preserve food and heal wounds we also curse its corrosive forces that eat metals. The vaults’ salt-encrusted walls demonstrated the dualism of natural phenomena.
As with much of my work, materials used carry stories while also being metaphoric and associative triggers. Custom-made candles, manufactured so as to purposefully drip, their flames symbolising transformation, purification and renewal, were suspended in numerous chambers within the vaults.
In four of the 16 chambers along one side of the vaults, long lengths of human hair, symbolizing devotion, penance, strength, energy, the higher powers and imagination, hung beneath white altar candles. Dripping wax travelled down the hair to fall into old enamel bowls containing either red wine or milk. Opposite, in another four chambers, were displayed single thin red candles, which dripped wax down threads onto illuminated globes suspended above the cellar floor, appearing to float
Along the length of the vaults, ceramic bowls were set between the redundant rail tracks at equidistant points on the floor along the length of the vaults. Each contained a different essence or oil, including camphor, bergamot, cypress, myrrh, cinnamon and eucalyptus, all having medicinal healing properties.
Given the elegant simplicity of the architecture of the Green Park Vaults and its state of decay and desolation, we chose to intrude as minimally as possible, thereby allowing the atmosphere of the chamber to become an integral and equal part of the installation.



"During the prolonged period of enforced Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, I suspect like many others, I spent some time in reflective mode. I found myself returning to the set of 30 works I’d made towards possible uses on the Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks release of 2013. All of these works were subsequently published in the Cargo In The Blood limited edition multiple that was released following the album’s release. I’ve had and continue to receive enquiries about the possibility of some of these pieces being made into limited edition prints, so decided to go through them with this in mind, selecting those that I think will make good prints.

As well as considering the original works, I was also intrigued as to how a set of prints could be made using some of the pieces from the second half of the book, which is titled The Reverse Is Also True. This section features all the artworks subjected to various negative treatments and printed using the four-colour process over a fifth base printing of metallic silver ink. I chose to explore this five-colour process because I was intrigued to see how the unpredictability of this process would affect and work with the overprinted full-colour images. It also mirrored how my work evolves out of experiments with prepared chance, combining chemicals, solutions, man-made and organic materials. The results from such experimentation are always unpredictable, and while there are the occasional disappointments and failures, for the most part, they are surprising and often revelatory. Working in this way ensures that control is surrendered to the unpredictable nature of the materials, thereby avoiding the known and removing any ego from the work.

Having started life as mixed media works, they were photographed, then converted into the digital, after which they became the source of potential new works in their own right, works that could only have been achieved in the computer, the ultimate collage tool.

I’ve chosen a few of my favourites, which, instead of using the five-colour lithographic printing process as used in the production of the Cargo In The Blood book, are to be printed using the digital eight-colour process, onto a very beautiful iridescent PhotoRag Metallic paper produced by Hahnemuhle, the paper manufacturer whose paper is used for all of the Limited Edition Prints.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to emulate metallic inks on a computer so it’s impossible to show what the finished prints actually look like. You’ll just have to take it on trust that they look wonderful; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be being offered for sale.

Both sets of these new series, in signed limited editions of 150

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Russell Mills

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