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This report is taken from PN Review 152, Volume 29 Number 6, July - August 2003.

Stephen Raw's Memory Language Andrew Motion

Words spoken at the opening of Stephen Raw's exhibition Memory Language at the Lethaby Gallery, Central St Martin's College of Art and Design, on 13 May 2003

At the end of her novel Middlemarch, George Eliot invites us to remember the unremembered dead, who rest in unvisited tombs. It makes a great democratic end to a great book about democratic feelings (or the lethal lack of them) and the need to communicate across all kinds of boundaries. And it's a good place to start when we're thinking about Stephen Raw's work. Its central commitment is to remembering, as the title of the show, Memory Language, tells us, and all its linked techniques are dedicated to exploring the ways in which we need to talk to one another - across languages as well as in them, across time as well as in it.

Kilvickeon, for instance, takes a remote burial site on the Isle of Mull as a place of remembering. As Stephen has said himself, `the headstones you see [there] today appear to represent the sum total of people buried there, but nothing could be more misleading. The vast majority of the people buried at Kilvickeon in the last 1,400 years have no headstone, no marker of any description. Their memories, and the memories of those who buried them, have gone "unkept".' Well, they have until now. In Stephen Raw's painting, which is perhaps better described as a palimpsest, he doesn't so much recapture what ...


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