Grey Matter:

Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here. And we are in no condition to comprehend them. Old traps vanish, new ones take their place: the old safe places become impassable, and the route can either be plain and easy or impossibly confusing. That’s how the zone is. It may even seem capricious. But in fact, at any moment it is exactly as we devise it, in our consciousness............everything that seems to happen here depends on us, not on the zone.

from ‘Stalker’ by Andrei Tarkovsky - 1979

What is Grey Matter?

Grey Matter is an artists’ book project created by Jonathan Houlding (Artist) and Sean Borodale (Writer and film maker) in collaboration with the Fundacion Pilar i Joan Miro, Mallorca and the Print Research Centre at The Slade School of Fine Art, London. The ‘Grey Matter’ project was conceived over a period of a year through a series of independent works and discussions between artist and writer. This also included a residency at the Graphic studios Fundacion Pilar i Joan Miro in Mallorca, Spain, where one of the map prints was produced.

About Grey Matter

Grey Matter began with the idea of a discussion between an upland bog and a cold war bunker. This followed initial visits by each of the artists to nuclear bunkers and high moor bogland landscapes.

Grey Matter alludes to the substance in which we think and into and out of which we bring to bear our understanding of the world. It tries to pin down the representation of an interior world, a world which has no outwardly discernible or physically palpable spaces.

As a narrative, Grey Matter plays out the experience of a conscious being in emergence from a state of trauma or deprivation, a body or entity moving slowly through repetitions within ill- lit environments or dim memories, towards a point of possible absurdity or non-sense, such as ‘spoon without eyes’. The inwardness of the text is resonant with the drawn representation of impossible space, the return to a colossal number of random marks, scribbles, congested layers warped and tangled together. Like the artists who made this work, the reader/the listener/the observer is left clutching at straws.

What is in the Grey Matter box set?

Each box set is made by master technicians in Spain and England.

The box is approximately 34cm x 43cm. The box, book CD and cover are all paper-covered in grey ‘Colourplan Smoke’. The box has four bespoke compartments and contains two maps; one book; one audio CD.

Each ‘map’ is an etching comprising of 20 individual prints mounted onto grey cotton. Each is hand printed by a master printer. The open maps are approximately 220cm wide by 147cm high, and when folded, 34cm x 40cm.

The book, hand printed by the artists (silkscreen) contains 56 pages of text, printed black on grey ‘Colourplan Smoke’ 135gsm paper. The books have been individually hand bound. The CD (printed grey to match the ‘Colourplan Smoke’ paper) contains an audio recording of the text, read by actor Benedict Wong.


Jonathan Houlding is a practising artist living and working in London. After graduating in Fine Art from Wimbledon School of Art and Kingston University where he received a Masters degree with distinction, Jonathan worked for eight years as a set designer in the feature film industry, working alongside some of the world’s best designers and directors. Jonathan also holds a Masters Degree from the Royal College of Art where he is currently a visiting tutor in the Interdisciplinary Program. His work has won him numerous awards and is held in many collections in the UK including the V&A Museum.

Sean Borodale is a writer and film maker living and working in Somerset, England. He is a Masters graduate from the Slade School of Fine Art. He was a Fellow of the Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria and a Guest Artist at The Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, where he wrote his novel- length topographical poem ‘Notes for an Atlas’ which has since brought him numerous accolades. He is currently a Royal Society of Literature Writer in Residence.