Out, way out, of where the city is a source of light, it’s just a picture. Cars drive on the motorway fast and towns melt into houses and then trees and change colour, elide. They slow as they approach a tunnel. The road dips, declines steadily and the silver trees that line the highway rise up, going grey. The birch tree is an escalator. Going away: there is no turning back. There is no way of knowing if what you saw at the roadside was a rabbit or a paper bag. It feels like everything would change if you could just release the tension in your neck. Cars drive through the tunnel one-way. It is dusktime. Traffic builds up as you get older and sitting in it, waiting, is part of being on the move. Tiny pieces of insects are etched into a windscreen’s tempered glass like a lozenge for a bird. There is traffic, it is an inconvenience. Some people roll their seats back and play I Spy. Some people do otherwise. Everybody anyway has to pass the time. There is bad traffic. Enumeration is not population, but the tunnel is over-full. The traffic is not much moving. They look ahead, the drivers, to where the light is red and eating at the darkness of the tunnel’s sides like bleach into a hood. There is and then there isn’t any driving. There is a filing. At bay, the cars have their engines on and are hot. The drivers still drive. Like sleepers mootly writhing in a bunkbed, lying on their sides, curled foetally as hooks on a world that will let the light go regardless – there is no turning back.
The scene proceeds upon the going of the light. A tree with no leaves is leaning on its disappearance the way a day can. The sky at sunset swallows an apricot whole. The last bird glows away with the leaves and there is a sucking sound. Something’s in the mud it’s pulling down. Something’s in the air and is being rewound: the leaves refuse the ground.
You can go anywhere in a hi-vis vest. By herself, but with reason, she walks down against the traffic’s one grain. She is overhot in her clothes but she wears them. The traffic is clogging up; less and less moving. All of it pointing towards her with white headlights drawing, she cannot see, out from her jacket light that is standard, wide and yellow-green, not really enough answer to the question that is inarticulated but whose inarticulation is not avoidance but immersion, involving everyone, of why is she doing this, what is she trying to do – and behind her the light is red. Cars, she has never before considered, are something you cannot just touch. Cars touch her while she’s walking. With her hands a little lifted, she walks within them: locks eyes with the windscreens in an eyeless, motive way that lets them know that she’s about to go this way, she’ll go here, make space. Colour is a way. All along the tunnel is a clenching, an attempt to be clear. She squints. Quiet. She walks like she’s explaining something: there’s a reason for what she’s doing, they may not all know but they might imagine. She is wide-nibbed, a highlighter pen. She sort of nods. Tall and easy, the shade of her is bleeding. There is very little space. She lifts her bag above her head, as if to say, she is saying, I’m doing everything I can not to scratch or harm your cars: please move. There’s a reason. She walks between the cars with a clemency, locks eyes with glass on which is settled, like the past, a film of dust. Weary. Easy. She walks through the crowd of them pointing her way and does everything she can not to touch them, sometimes touches them, a blush below the remark on her face: there’s an explanation. Shushing sounds like cars moving their wheels when they’re not driving – locking full left or full right before putting foot to pedal, inching – spading out dry plates of space into a fan. There is no wind. There’s a little tremble in her hands. Cars touch each other. Engines on, pedals suspended, hands on wheels and licks of violet sweat on the necks of children dozing in the backseat. Not one window down. There’s low-, very low-level revving. She will be gone. Cars up ahead shuffle backwards so that cars near them can move, clear a little space so that a car that’s small enough can push in while another peels back. A motorcyclist has his helmet in his hands and thumbprints on the visor. They get very close to the tunnel walls. Their wheels are almost perpendicular to their casings. They wear away at themselves. There is no turning back. They fill each other’s windscreens; they don’t scratch each other much but they do disturb slightly each other’s paint. They carve themselves away. It feels like the lights and not the colours change. So tight it’s like tie-dying her brain. All along the tunnel the view is the same. She swallows, breathes through her nose. Drivers paying close attention lean forwards in their cars shining white headlights directly into the lights at the back of the cars they’re almost touching which are red and which, with brakelights coming on and off, pulse – expand and contract, panic and relax. They press closer and look with focused faces in their windscreens like roses being burned alive. Tomatoes trying to exit the vine. This is as easy as it can be, the long meantime of unnatural proximity. Restless. A hand reaches out its window and folds its wing mirror flat. Slips away. Others, then, do the same. She sucks her stomach in and walks on tiptoes, both eyes open in the light that’s making her pupils cramp, so strangely does it change – unseeing and animal, arms held in balance, always shy of falling but with nowhere to fall, such is the scale of the mess that’s made. Gone
Text by George Lynch
Tom Hardwick-Allan, born 1996 in Derbyshire, lives and works in London, UK. Hardwick-Allan treats image making as a digestive process in which the shapes of ideas are broken down to activate the latent chemical potential that they contain. His carved reliefs emerge through planned motifs mixed with searching excavations and erasures of imagery, scratching away at an array of surfaces, in an attempt to dislodge a framework through which something from a different place might arise. Going Light at Zarinbal Khoshbakht is the artist’s first solo presentation.
His recent group exhibitions include ‘Winter Wonderland’, Fan Fiction International, Hyde Park, London (2021), ‘The Correspondence’, The Residence Gallery, London (2020), ‘Flow My Tears, Christopher Tracey’, curated by Schrott Kipple and Paul DD Smith. ACUD Galerie, Berlin (2020), ‘In the tame beast’s eye: a grotto’, curated by Agnes Scherer, Zarinbal Khoshbakht, Cologne (2020), ‘Breathless: London Art Now’, curated by Norman Rosenthal and Harry Woodlock with Elisabetta Barisoni, Ca’Pesaro, Venice (2019).