What extraordinary times I’m living. Sometimes when I talk about the political sensitivity of my work it can be hard to convey the edginess of what I’m doing in a British context. Recently I expressed my sense that the works for EXILIO have a yearning to return to Spain, particularly the landscape paintings – to return from exile, as it were. This is something I know to be delicate – and yet I must say it.
And so I do say it in this blog, but also to my Spanish friends; to friends of the project who know. They know the context and the history, and their reactions remind me that this is non-trivial and possibly my sense that a return is somehow part of the scheme of things is still a surprisingly red ‘hot potato’.
Such a response came my way today in an email from someone who knows the lay of the land in Spain deeply and at first hand. Her confirmation of what in my heart I know still jolted me. I felt as a child would; that bodily sense of shame flooding through me for stumbling on this ‘out-of-my-depth’ adult truth. What I work with is quite literally a blood stain of such proportion that it can’t be covered over, and yet there is enormous vested interest in trying.
The exile experience continues in a true sense. My work would not be welcome in many quarters and I must touch deeply upon the pain of my father and his Republican compatriots at their continued expulsion from the narrative. The door is still closed in official quarters to their memory and their honour as Spanish citizens.
It is here that I begin to grasp another meaning in the new works that are emerging with garments and landscape labels attached. Working with post memory exile trauma is a no choice situation. This is my history and my reality. The new work signals both the childlike innocence in inheriting this through the family (by birth) but also the adult mantle I must wear. Learning to tread the waters of this polluted geography requires a certain know-how (yet to be acquired) and I must bump against it, for even as art often diffuses it also clarifies and casts light.
I must tread with care and cast the beam of my artistic torch with discretion and tact. My impulse is of course to cry murder!