My first blog ‘Keeping It Together’ came to a natural end when I moved in to my studio. ‘Keeping It Going’ picks up where that left off. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

www.katemurdochartist.com

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart

August 2016: See also my new blog, ‘Keeping It Moving’

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-moving


0 Comments

It’s ten years since I attended a series of meetings in which a number of regular a-n bloggers were invited to speak about the advantages of writing as part of their creative practice: Alex Pearl, Emily Speed, Rosalind Davis, Rob Turner & Jane Boyer are some of the names that immediately spring to mind – I’m sure there were others. And Andrew Bryant, editor of what was then, Artists Talking, was of course, instrumental in co-ordinating and overseeing the whole thing. I was inspired by what was said and though I had no idea when I started out just how advantageous maintaining a blog would be, I’m so glad that I made the decision to do so.

Yesterday was a case in point: via a facebook memory, I was reminded of a blog post, written almost to the day in 2017. It’s so good to have a record of it – an accurate description of what was going on in my life, both creatively and personally, four years ago. I’ve never managed to maintain a journal or notebook. I’ve started one every year with great intentions, but manual note-taking has always fallen by the wayside – unlike writing here, on this blog. This year marks the ninth year of pretty consistent writing here.

The image included in the blog post (above) is from an ongoing body of work, ‘Och, Daddy.’ It felt timely when it appeared on my timeline yesterday, at a point in life when themes relating to family, friends and relationships and an appreciation of those we love and hold dear have taken on an even greater significance. The roots feel particularly symbolic – of the way in which we’ve been forced to live our lives this year – digging deep, holding on tight and staying strong – grounded and rooted. The rules we’ve had to live by have also played a significant part in how we think about the places in which we’ve put down roots – our homes, essentially, for those of us lucky enough to have one. Where we live, who we associate with, who and how many people we’re allowed to let in are questions that have become a way of life that we could never have anticipated. If there’s ever been a year to stop and think about who and what we value, that time has been over this past year.

Re-reading this post has made me think about just how much the past four years has brought in terms of life events – how they’ve affected me and crucially, how many of them could never have been predicted. Being ill and needing to take a lot of time to recover wasn’t something I could have predicted at the start of 2017. It changed my life, and the way in which I now approach it, quite considerably. Physically pacing myself became key and, just at the point when I started to feel that I was slowly emerging from this extended hiatus, the pandemic struck. Life as we knew it, changed spectacularly.

I always feel sentimental at this time of year. Over Hogmanay and the days that follow, thoughts inevitably turn, even if just for a moment, to those I have loved and lost. My late Scottish father is more prevalent in my thoughts at this time of year than any other – and 2020 of course, has been an exceptional one, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected everything. Looking back on the comments here from 3-4 years ago, it feels completely surreal. How dramatically life has changed since I wrote it!

The past 10 months or so have been a sharp reminder that not everything in life always goes to plan – or more appropriately, to use the classic quote from the great Ayrshire born poet, Rabbie Burns: ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley …’

Meantime, in the studio, themes of love and loss, specifically around my late father, forms the bulk of the work I intend to focus on when I return to the studio. It’s all there, waiting for me – a pile of Scottish paraphernalia stacked up on the studio floor, gathered together in my recent sorting in the shed, all waiting for the day I’m ready to relaunch myself into work again.

In the meantime, here’s a link to the post from January 2017 (scroll down to second post) in case you’re interested:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-going-1/date/2017/01/


1 Comment

A 10×10 exchange made in Hastings, 2012

 

When I was invited by artist Jenny Timmer to take part in a challenge to post 10 pieces of work from my past, I was in no doubt that 10×10 should be the first piece, not least because it feels so timely and relevant to what’s going on in the world around us right now. Created in 2008, 10×10 was created in response to a call for work addressing themes of barter and exchange. I gave up 100 objects which were precious to me, inviting people to take an object and leave something in its place.

2008 was also, of course, the year of a massive global financial crisis. In an introduction to 10×10 I wrote about how, according to the dictionary, ‘In times of monetary crisis, barter often replaces money as the method of exchange’ and how  ‘… though we hadn’t quite reached that point yet, that in the current climate, it might be as well to prepare ourselves.’

That was twelve years ago and we’re very much back at that stage now – facing even greater economic disruption as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and just yesterday, a second lockdown announced. The pandemic first time round has already had an adverse effect on our lives with restrictions on travel, cuts to employment and industries and financial markets facing massive disruption, both locally and globally. It looks set to get worse and being immersed in creative work as usual, offers a welcome distraction.

It’s been good to stop and take the time to think about 10×10 again – to dig out the many images of exchanged objects and to be reminded of the numerous stories associated with them. If interested, you can read more about 10×10 on my website here:

http://www.katemurdochartist.com/10×10.html

 

 

I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There’  (detail) 2011

 

As if all the complications of COVID-19 weren’t enough, Brexit hasn’t gone away!

Thinking about Europe and especially about the freedom my sons have enjoyed over the past few years in their travels to and from various European cities has called to mind another piece of work from my past – ‘I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There.’ Again, it feels like a timely piece to introduce … inspired by my late grandmother, the title is from a conversation I had with her in 2010, the year in which she died. I wrote this in 2011:

Shortly before her 102nd birthday in 2010, I had a conversation with my Nana about a souvenir that my cousin had brought back from The Seychelles. She looked at it, said how pretty it was, and then added ‘I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There.’ Considering the furthest she’d ever travelled from her rural Cambridgeshire home was 50 or so miles to London on a couple of occasions, her words were not just surprising but incredibly poignant.

It was as if she (my Nana) realised that life’s opportunities were beginning to close down for her. In today’s climate of redundancy, job losses and increasing living costs, ‘I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There’ takes on an added poignancy. As share prices crash, retirement funds go down the drain and savings become a thing of the past, so too do the dreams and aspirations for the future and opportunities for travelling the world at large close in.

Though written nine years ago, these sentiments are highly pertinent and relevant to the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

‘I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There’ features an assortment of souvenirs, typical of the pieces that were brought into my Nana’s home over the 70 years or so she lived in the same house. They were displayed with pride in a glass-fronted cabinet, representing the various parts of the world her large extended family, neighbours and friends had visited – their memories brought into her home.

I often used to wonder what Nana thought about these objects, mementoes of other people’s joy of travel and holidays. What did they mean to her – these plates from New York, the cream jug from Jersey, the spoon rest from San Francisco? What images did they conjure up for her, a woman who hardly ventured from the small Cambridgeshire village, the place in which she lived the entire 102 years of her life?

Thanks again to artist Jenny Timmer for the invitation to present ten different works from the past. ‘I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There’ is my second choice, reminding me of my continuing fascination with objects and how central they are to the work I make.


1 Comment

HOPE:  ambition, aspiration, expectation

to desire, to wish, to aim, to plan, to dream, to daydream

a longing, a yearning, a craving, a hankering

 

‘HOPE’ Kate Murdoch, 2020

 

Some time in early July, at a point when I just couldn’t seem to focus on getting anything done, I made a decision to invest time in a large-scale piece of creative work. The materials were all there – I just needed to show up at the studio and apply myself to getting the work made.

In my head, this work would be completed by the end of July. Scroll onto nearly the end of October and I’ve finally, just in the last day or two, declared the work finished! I didn’t realise at the outset just how substantial this piece of work would turn out to be – preparing, sizing up and colour co-ordinating the numerous flowers took much more time than I’d anticipated, as did the sticking of them – tiny, tiny flowers in many cases.

But the slow pace turned out to be the beauty of it in many ways: making this work became my ‘go to’ lockdown project and the studio, a place to be – on my own, for much needed time & space. I embraced the peace & quiet the studio offered every time I walked through the door – the work waiting for me. It’s also been good to touch base with other artists while there, however fleetingly.

The message I chose to write in vintage artificial silk flowers isn’t subtle, but I’ve been holding out for hope in so many other areas of my life in these past few months that I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word. Hope is what’s got so many of us through each day and certainly, making this piece of work proved to be a cathartic exercise for me. I lost myself in making it and welcomed a much needed distraction from thinking too much about the dire state of things, both in the UK and the world at large.

It’s also been a topic of conversation between myself & my elderly mum – something to share with her onscreen and something to talk about during my visits to her. I’ve been flattered that she’s shown such an interest in the work and has remembered to ask each week – ‘how’s the HOPE piece coming along?’ It’s clearly a piece of work that’s spoken to her.

I’ve photographed it now, both in and outside of the studio, but it’s hard to get an image that fully shows the detail, or manages to capture the true colour of the flowers, I feel. Still, the message remains the same and as news bulletins once again become full of reports about daily deaths from COVID-19, it feels particularly important that we hold onto at least a degree of hope about our future.


0 Comments

It was while I was recovering from illness last year that I finally managed to get around to sorting through a couple of suitcases, stuffed to the brim with images I’ve collected. I managed to organise them into various folders, filing them according to theme. I had put the suitcases back on top of the wardrobe, not anticipating needing to gain access to them again quite so soon.

I was so glad to have them to turn to over the first few weeks of lock down – an eclectic mix of fascinating images, gathered together over some 20/30 years – and still appealing to me, for one reason or another. It’s not surprising that a file marked ‘Exercise’ caught my eye; it was just a few weeks into lockdown, in April, at the point when we were still only allowed to leave the home once a day for a walk. The whole concept of exercise took on a much more significant meaning than usual as a result.

 

Images around the theme of restriction followed soon after. Though the rules changed and we were given more freedom to go outside and exercise as much as we wanted, lockdown had started to take its toll on many people. The images I posted on social media looked at restriction from different angles and extremes; from prison sentences to systemic racism, to fashion and health and helped me put into perspective how relatively manageable the government lockdown rules were.

Here are some of my favourite images – from women tanning their legs from their prison cells in a German prison (photographer unknown), to the iconic I AM A MAN photo by civil rights photographer, Ernest Withers. I have several other images to post on the theme, all depicting being restricted in one form or another …

.


1 Comment