One of my key inspirations when I studied fine art, was the work of British artist Tom Phillips, and in particular, his open-ended ‘Humument‘ project, a treatment of a Victorian novel, called The Human Document. The Humument project involved over-writing, painting, drawing and printing on, collaging, scorching, and cutting up the pages of that book to produce new narratives, characters and meanings. I was therefore interested to discover recently that my friend Brian Baker was producing a treatment of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, based on Phillips’ Humument. Inspired by this fascinating project, and by the research I’ve done into the history of bicycle in art, I’ve decided to embark on a parallel project, a treatment of Frances Willard’s A Wheel within a Wheel (1895), a book I discuss in my monograph, Cycling and Cinema, and which happened to be published in the same year as The Time Machine and just three years after The Human Document. Consisting of reflections on the experience of learning to ride a bike in middle age by a famous temperance and suffrage campaigner, I think Willard’s book is one of the most important examples of early cycling literature. It is angry, funny, poetic and profound, and its publication also marked a key historical moment for my project – the peak of the bicycle boom in Europe and the US, and the birth of cinema, with the first public screenings of films by the Lumiere brothers in Paris on December 28th, 1895. Therefore, it seems a good choice for source material from which to make bicycle art.

My intention is to work through the 75-page edition until I’ve reworked every page, compiling them into a new book, A Wheel Within. This will retain elements of Willard’s book, combined with images drawn from elsewhere, elaborating on her original intention to offer ‘some reflections by the way’ on the bicycle.