Gerald and I met at Mildmay Park Extra Care Home in September 2015.
He lived in flat no.33 and it was his first home since his stroke 12 months earlier.
I had a studio on the second floor which had formerly been a lounge area for residents. I was introduced to Gerald as the new resident artist. He was introduced to me as a resident who has had an extremely eventful life of (in his words) 'survival'. He was introduced as a man who chose to keep himself to himself, who never socialised or took part in any of the activities or events. Meeting Gerald gave the space a context and that shaped my understanding of how to respond.
In the 8 months Gerald and I have spent talking and collaborating we realised how much our lives had overlapped geographically. Throughout the 90’s Gerald collected his dole money and counted it out in cans and cigarettes. He’d get his ‘giro’ (benefits) from the Job Centre on Elthorne Road opposite the art school I went to in 2003.
Gerald never had a sleeping bag and considered anything other than the clothes he was wearing a burden. He’d seek out open spaces and find a hidden corner. He slept round the back of churches and in parks, but never in doorways or arches. His sense of privacy was not found in a space so much as retreating from people, retreating from the public.
The way Gerald describes 10 years of Ascetical homelessness is complicated by and paradoxically linked to his drinking. Gerald’s freedom from attachment, aspiration and judgment is something few of us in London can comprehend and his descriptions of a drinker’s community both familiar and alien. We would meet every week and I found the time dilation between us compelling in how much it shaped our experiences and expectations.
Our lives had been separated by time and circumstance but were connected in the present in a way that cast metaphysical significance over the past. He listed all the places he used to stay in and we discovered that we know the same streets, the same pubs and the same parks. I visited them and painted them on beer mats.
Over the course of 3 months we recorded one another talking about our experiences of these places.
'Outsiders' (2016) is an concentrated but verbatim account of our mutual storytelling. The paintings are filmed in and around the Limehouse warehouse I rented during the residency at Mildmay Park. The look and feel of the spaces filmed parallelizes the painted and narrated places in the film, but are separated by time and location, making an impression rather than a documentation of a city. Due to a sudden and unaffordable rent increase in June 2016 I was evicted from the Limehouse warehouse. The eviction also ended my residency at Mildmay Park and demonstrates how housing and community are multiplicatively connected.
Gerald listed all the places he used to stay in and we discovered that we know the same streets, the same pubs and the same parks. I visited them and painted them on beer mats.