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


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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 …

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People sometimes say there are ‘no words’ to convey what they are feeling. This is usually a reaction to a situation that’s so extreme and distressing that it’s difficult to move beyond an emotional response. That’s how I’ve felt over these past three weeks in relation to the killing of George Floyd. Today, I feel I’ve found the words to at least say something …

The New York Times reported George Lloyd’s death:

‘On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.’

As well as news reports, a video covering George Floyd’s horrific death was put out into the world. The video went viral, its contents distressing and gut wrenching. How utterly shocking that he died as a result of his pleas being ignored by the person supposedly there to protect him. George Floyd’s calling out for his mother in the last few moments of his life has haunted me from the first moment I read about it: ‘Mama’ he cried to his late mother: ‘Mama … I’m through.’

Not long after the video of George Floyd’s death became public, this slogan started to appear on posters and city walls worldwide and shared on social media:

ALL MOTHERS WERE SUMMONED WHEN GEORGE FLOYD CALLED OUT FOR HIS MAMA

His words resonate deeply; even in adulthood, most of us know what it feels like to need the comfort and reassurance of a mother. I’m a mum to adult sons myself, but I’m not black, and while I’ve had moments of worrying about the safety of my sons, particularly in their teenage years, I’ve also had the privilege of not having to live with the fear of knowing that my children were never completely safe – even from the people who were supposed to look out for them and protect them. My timeline is currently crammed with evidence, captured on camera, that the lives of black people are frequently put in danger because of systemic racism and violence inflicted upon them by people in authority.

‘SILENCE IS VIOLENCE’  is another strong message being relayed as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign. And so today, the very least I feel I can do is add my voice – to honour the life of George Floyd, and also to add my support to the people who are continuing to campaign and to demand reforms to the criminal justice system.

A number of radical changes have been made already since George Floyd died and yesterday, this BBC article reported ten things that have changed in the past three weeks:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-53007952

Here’s to continuing to address these issues and to continuing to move forward.

Rest in peace, George Perry Floyd Jr. October 14th 1973 – May 25th 2020


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Connections with other artists and arts organisations continue to feel like a lifeline in the current climate. At points when I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by what’s going on around me, focusing on my work has felt very grounding. I was delighted to be invited to talk about my creative practice with artist Mary Modha recently. It was a very welcome distraction during lock down and I’m pleased to now be able to share it with you, alongside Mary’s interview with artist Sharon Walters. You can read them below:

https://mary.planetmodha.com/interviews-with-artists/

Rosalind Davis, curator of the group show, ‘Me Myself and I’ (currently postponed at the Collyer Bristow gallery in Holborn, London) also mentioned my work in a recent podcast for the Heatherley School of Fine Art. Rosalind spoke specifically about my work ‘Objectification’ currently on display in the postponed exhibition and more generally, about the process behind the work I make with found objects:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwZmYfQ2tfY&fbclid=IwAR2eL7GaPXZi6FpO0eguNVQDXx8Y7ElJBRGXlc_WxKJs-x5yLhFUVaXNzfE

Artist David Minton reviewed the ‘Me, Myself and I’ exhibition for a-n, which was published last week on their website and can be read here:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/me-myself-and-i/

 


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I’m going back on myself a bit today in order to try and keep a proper record of everything that’s happened (or not) over the lockdown period. Apart from writing ‘cancelled’ across a number of pages, I’ve effectively stopped using my work diary since March 23rd, the day Boris Johnson announced that we were to stay at home. That’s two months of not keeping a diary – very unusual for me. I got caught out last week through not doing so and missed a deadline and so, decided over the weekend, that I should get back into the habit of noting things down again.

This blog has proven its worth many times; not just as an extremely useful part of my creative profile, but also as a place that logs and records the day to day minutaie of being a working artist – some more significant than others. It acts as a useful reminder and reference point for the creative work I make which can sometimes get a bit lost; I frequently come across images of work here which haven’t been recorded anywhere else.

And so, before it becomes buried and forgotten, it feels important to mark the work that has been made and the things that have happened during these extraordinarily unsettling and uncertain past two months of lockdown – work that has, however tenuously, essentially kept communities of artists connected.

 

‘Me, Myself and I’

Acknowledging the group exhibition ‘Me, Myself and I’ at the Collyer Bristow Gallery, for example – a show that was closed almost as soon as it opened at the end of February, 2020. It’s remained closed for a subsequent 3 month period, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, and a timetable of various artists talks and events organised by the curator, Rosalind Davis, to run alongside the show, have also been cancelled. Rosalind has done a great job of staying connected with the artists with work in the show and has continued to keep the show as alive as possible under very difficult circumstances through online talks.

The show was selected by a-n (Artists Network) as one of their week’s top exhibitions in February and an image of my work ‘#UsToo’ (included in the show as part of my ‘Sweet Nothings’ piece) can be seen in the link below:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/now-showing-334-the-weeks-top-exhibitions/

 

‘The Lockdown Chronicles’ hARTslane London

Another positive to come out of lockdown are the ongoing ‘Lockdown Chronicles’ organised by the curatorial team at hARTslane in New Cross Gate, London. The Chronicles are ‘… a series of artist interviews carried out during the Covid-19 lockdown of artists around the world who have collaborated with hARTslane in the past 8 years.’

The hARTslane team believed in the importance of reaching out and sharing  ‘… common personal experiences, concerns and struggles; beliefs as well as practical or inspirational hidden gems.The hope was that ‘… these artist stories inspire other fellow artists as well as reassure those who might feel alone or isolated or too overwhelmed to create.

To date, 14 artists have been interviewed; I was really pleased to be asked to take part and to be one of them. Mine is number 7 in the series which you can read here:

https://www.hartslane.org/lockdown-chronicles/kate-murdoch

And you can read all the artists stories here:

http://www.hartslane.org/lockdown-chronicles

 

‘Connected’

I initiated an online project for the month of April, a week or so on from the official start of the lockdown period, which focused on finding and bringing together objects which were similar but different. Reuniting 30 small objects in this way was a tribute to my twin sons who, like so many of us across the entire world at that point, were in total lock down in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was a reminder of the importance of the virtues of love and compassion, reaching out, looking out for each other and crucially, staying connected – especially with those who were alone, in such unprecedented times.

It’s not over yet, but ‘Connected’  went out online at a point when the Coronavirus pandemic was at its absolute peak in the UK.  It will remain forever for me, a poignant reminder of the huge importance of art at a time of national & international crisis.

You can read more about ‘Connected’  in previous blog posts here:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-going-1/date/2020/04/

 

Housebound

Curated by artist, Susan Francis, ‘Housebound’ is an ‘online contemporary art exhibition responding to the rooms in an average house.’ I’m very pleased to have been invited to submit work for this online project, not least because it has introduced me to the work of a number of exciting artists, previously unknown. ‘The Borrowers’ Revolt’ (connected to the living room) is the first of my images to be included.

‘Housebound’ runs until mid June and is inviting artists to  ‘… submit their work for our online Instagram exhibition – looking for work that responds to the theme of each room, not necessarily on the impact of lockdown (but it could be) our interest is the room itself and what work connects with that, in a conceptual or representational way.’

‘This is a rolling open call, you can submit work for any of the rooms that are not yet showing.

The next room is The Kitchen, the deadline to apply for this room is midnight on Wednesday 27th.

We are also looking for artwork for The Garage, the deadline is midnight on Wednesday 3rd June. Your submission for the garage could relate to; storage, cars, vehicles, creative space for inventions, repairs, tools, workshop, recycling etc.’

You can visit the exhibition space on Instagram here:

https://www.instagram.com/houseboundart/

 


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Some objects I’ve selected for this project have impacted on me more than others and I’ve used this blog to write about it. Today’s objects are a case in point – a tiny, bronze vintage pendant and an even tinier bronze brooch, both imprinted with ballroom dancers. The initials marked on the smaller of the two suggest that this was once the brooch of a qualified dance teacher. The pendant might have been presented as an award of some sort, or it’s possibly an item to signify the former owner’s affiliation to a national society of ballroom dancers – who knows? Unlike the ballerina brooch I wrote about in an earlier post, I know nothing about these particular pieces of jewellery, other than their obvious association with dance; I have no emotional attachment to them, but was attracted to the vintage patina and the elegance of the dancers.

In terms of collecting and holding onto small items like these, the narrative associated with them often interests me just as much as the actual objects themselves. I don’t know the story behind these dance-related pieces but they’ve stirred my imagination and led me to think about who they might once have belonged to. Were they valued as something special at some point in somebody’s life and if so, at what point did they change from being treasured to something discarded?

While I will never know their history, I do know that I won’t be parting with them any time soon. Though of no sentimental value to me, I feel strongly attached to them. Perhaps because they remind me of my own parents who, years ago, tried so hard to learn how to waltz, tango and foxtrot – putting in hours of practise in my sister’s and mine bedroom, where they pushed our twin beds against the wall to make space to rehearse their steps before their next week’s lesson. The laughter was infectious as Mum ribbed my Dad about his ‘two left feet’ and utter lack of rhythm. Memories of them, in love, shuffling around to the sound of music I still recall – these moments encapsulated in time, tangible reminders of a happy past.

Cut to the present – the harsh, stark reality of it and unbearable, heartbreaking numbers of COVID-19 deaths being reported day after day. I’ve welcomed the continuity and structure that the ‘Connected’ project has provided at a time when, like so many of us, I’ve felt unable to take on the full horror of what’s going on around me. Reaching out and staying connected feels ever more important in these unimaginable, unprecedented times.


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