On Max Reeves’ MIRKWOOD
(Entropy press, 2017)
From Bedlam to Bethlem; one breath taken and torn from the Forest,
Escalates the word as it’s covered by the runic return of old stones.
These litter the dark like the unexpected turns of a nightmare,
Warped trees slicing half light into separate dreams for the eye.
Max Reeves’ MIRKWOOD captures this as his photographs
Challenge vision. His strange locales soon reorder the stated apprehension of fact.
He finds the twist at each thorn as his gaze blurs the roses that fuse with dawn
Like blood splatter and mark his beloved crow’s doom stung flight.
This book is eye poetry. Reeves refines this bright genre.
His photographs tell their story and are stanzas of light and tone odes.
Each composition moves one and then all lines of perception,
States glimpsed through leaf music, reverberating themselves beyond view.
The sharpness of branches at night. The blurring of buds and psyche water,
Newly humanised buildings waiting as beasts to ascend; each are held
By his hand ‘chording ‘away at the camera, as if the lens were no viewpoint
But an instrument made to play truth.
Commissioned by The Wellcome Trust to memorialise the transport
Of the Bethlem Hospital archives, the past reports of lost madness
Here regain tenancy; as if those imprints of mind that so troubled their thinkers
Have infiltrated the forest, relocating themselves from scarred paper
To the fibre and grain of each tree. The photographs capture this.
These are fairy tales of ghost torture. Grimm’s fresh return in which
Each past patient’s spirit is transposed to resumes in the dark.
In both shadow and bark and the pictured wind Reeves has charted,
Images howl with the effort of each misunderstood heart’s spent release.
The Bethlem hospital’s move seeked to contain its long story.
But this book, bred from Dante shows how concentric rings stain like air.
The environment through Reeves’s eyes show how both Bethlem and bedlam itself
Have been chosen as stage and setting for an entirely new form of play.
Blake’s sick rose grows up close, it’s foreground view bridging borders
Which are the photographs clear obsession as they chart the boundaries
Of the real. A vapour trail echoes Blake in his famous picture of Newton,
The air line divining and finding the mythic crow framed by day.
A tangled tree holds the bird, an offering to the book’s premonition
That what we are fighting is not ourselves but the nature whose wildness
Of form taints the sane. Chapels frame the book, revealing religion itself
As a madness,as window and wall merge with moonlight the divisions
Of God stand exposed. What has been created is key as opposed to whatever
Is responsible for it, with the ecstatic blurring of image unlocking the borders
And lines Reeves renames. Dante’s opening verse is invoked
But it is not middle age Reeves examines; it is instead the divisions
That separate where and how we are found. Rehouse the mad in a wood
And the energy held will transform it. Branches will snake. Stones will vapour.
While white cloud and clear daylight afford a new gothic to the detachment
Of rain on a wall. A gargoyle forms from a trunk, it’s saddened eyes search for closure;
there is a sense here that those papers, Bethlem’s pale files
Leased lost souls. The patients people the wood. A tangle of twigs as eyelashes,
The arc of limbs grow distended but in becoming part of the wood attain grace;
Even the disfigured stand firm if given the due presentation, with Reeves himself
No observer, but rather participant in this place. There is a geography to the name
As land and lake rest within it. And understanding through watching that the symbols
Arrive easily. Disrupted water as psyche, rippling itself out of focus.
While the Cypress trees echo structure and in housing the crow, host for death.
A lipstick bullseye. Berry men, with skeletal twigs growing from them.
The peak of leaves piercing darkness while a triffid like branch threatens all.
A leprosy formed by leaves, mutating the house, grounds and garden;
A pomegranate haze acts as music to the fragile heroic of a vulnerable stem’s
Search for love. Each page penetrates and resonates also. The sounds in all senses
Blister and bloom from strained life. Window and witness converge.
Landscape is made out of paving. An eagle and elephant tree-plant feeds on the foam
Of spun leaves. Here then, is so called madness as force, shown as all
We might need flowing through us; exotic greens and black markings starring
The velvet greys of spent sky. Not just a commission of change but an inducement
For us to change with it. A twelve limbed spider of light shows that MIRKWOOD
Is a begetter of life still unclaimed. These photographs show the world
Beyond the known with each capture. An amputated shoe in a treetop
Reveals the ascent we should prize. Here is a book without words,
Beyond Willard Kane’s divine introduction and Reeves’ end statement
That speaks a new language in which the dreamt and repressed spears the page.
It provokes bright response. It demands full attention.
The dream in the day finds fresh portrait as the crow shows
That madness is the defining reward for each age.
David Erdos 2nd October 2018
Photos Max Reeves