A period of drift continues and segues into the Christmas holidays. A single trip to my studio brought a near resolution of one piece, which you can see in the photograph above. It’s been years in the making so it’s great to have it finally take shape.
It was wonderful to be at work again and feel the connection to the making side of my artistic practice, knowing that this space exists in my studio and can be returned to is crucial to my ongoing sense of truly ‘being an artist’, when life pulls me in the opposite direction.
Like many artists I juggle several commitments. My family needs me – I am a carer.
I’m also a person.
Huh. Does this need saying? Yes, I think it does. Because we aren’t machines – we must put on our professional clothes as artists and present an image to the world. But…we are people, ordinary people observing a terrifying spectacle of a rapid shift in world order and our democratic processes rendered threadbare.
The very platforms that enable some of us to flourish as professionals have (it seems) also been agents of this flux. Turbulence of the kind sometimes experienced when an aeroplane hits bad weather usually passes – you hold onto your seat knowing that there’s a good chance you’ll soon breathe easy.
This feels different.
My practice is about war, oppression and dictatorship, sprung from 1930s European fascism, and it’s hard not to draw parallels with contemporary events.
How to respond to this bewildering age is more challenging – so many channels, so much ‘information’ and seemingly random acts of terror (I use the term broadly). There is probably nothing new in human impulse and behaviour, but now the tools are available to spread ideas in image and print beyond human processing speed. It’s all so instant. Worse we can no longer trust what we see (if we ever really could). We are reeling from the horror of Aleppo and the baseness of national populism (Nigel Farage’s comments about Brendan Cox and the Hope not Hate organisation, for example, have hit a new low).
Yes – and it’s frightening to see the US president elect Tweet with the exact lack of care of a “D rate” celebrity like arch provocatrix Katie Hopkins. It’s a reasonable comparison except for the powers and responsibilities each hold, but that’s my point.
How do these people gain such a foothold I ask? Why are their voices given such powerful amplification? I’m rarely this specific about politics in the present day when I blog, but yesterday something snapped.
I fail to keep a hold. This feels silencing. So I turn to what I know. The past.
I weather the storm by piecing together fragments for an installation with the title, They Slept in the Forest. The other pieces in this evolving set of responses to the Nazi round up (of almost 1,000 Spanish Republican exiles in Angoulême, France, 1940) my grandparents evaded, are collages which hang together precariously. This seems fitting.
I take refuge in making at home too. This year I would like Christmas to take care of itself as I’m too busy sewing. They’re modest projects – cushions and a blind (made ad hoc in the same way that I make everything with a combination of precision (a modicum of measuring) and plenty of eye.
The blind is fractionally short – a product of economising on fabric and a last minute feature (a crucial add on) which took up vital millimetres. Last night I drifted off to sleep wracking the little grey cells over a possible solution. The trick will be to find a trim that looks like it was meant to be there from the beginning. Like I planned it that way.
Perhaps my hands know what I’m best off doing. Comfort and inventiveness have never seemed more needed.
I’m tending the shelter.