It’s been an exciting week for me, as my piece ‘It’s The Little Things’ is being shown as part of the This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibition, which launched last Thursday. Like so much of the assemblage/installation work I do, it took ages to install. But it’s the part I love best and the reason I do what I do. I was pleased with the end result and I’m happy to have been given the chance to show my work in the brilliant, spacious APT Gallery, Deptford and to have it placed alongside other artists whose work I’ve admired for a long time. And it feels good for a change, to be writing about getting on with some real, actual work rather than endlessly talking around the whole subject of creativity.
As well as getting the chance to meet many of the other artists involved in the exhibition, the evening also felt like a celebration of the hard work put in by the show’s curator, Jane Boyer. It’s over a year since the seeds of This ‘Me’ of Mine were first sewn and made public, so it felt good to finally see it launch and to see so many people turn out to celebrate the start of what is to be an ongoing, touring exhibition.
It also feels good to have handed ‘It’s The Little Things’ over to a new, fresh audience. Like ‘The Fabric of Life,‘ it’s a work that’s primarily made up of objects I rescued from my late Nana’s home – the little, seemingly insignificant things that take on a whole new meaning once the person who owned them has gone. I’ve had more opportunity this time round to process the emotional attachment I hold for the assembled items and, in the grand scheme of letting go, feel more prepared. I’ve even managed to put a price tag on this piece, a significant shift on my part as I never seem quite able to equate the work’s emotional value and worth with anything financial. Consequently, very little of my work in the past has been for sale.
As part of the evening’s artists in conversation, organised by Jane, I was asked to speak specifically about detail in relation to ‘It’s The Little Things.’ Seeing my work in a different setting helped focus it and enabled me to appreciate its true aesthetic value. The generous space surrounding ‘It’s The Little Things‘ in the Gallery means a greater emphasis on the work; it stands alone – as a piece in its own right – as opposed to in the midst of the clutter of a working studio.
I talked about how the pieces had been accumulated, largely as an emotional response to the clearance of my Nana’s home in which she had lived for some 70 years. The items I salvaged and assembled together were reminders of the many times I’d spent with my Nana as a child and the close relationship we had. The detail is in the pastry cutters, the icing nozzles, the left over soap, the embroidery cottons, thimbles, darning mushroom and tape measure – all reminders of the many domestic skills my Nana taught me. The fun side of my relationship with her on the other hand is reflected in the lipstick, powder and perfume which she sometimes let me play with at her dressing table, while the ancient pocket Bible and the red poppy speak of the history of a woman who lived through two world wars and would engage me with her stories about the war as she taught me the rules of a waste-not-want-not life. It is quite literally the little things in all senses of the word that we retrospectively come to appreciate and value.
The subject of our immortality is one that has always fascinated me. There’s such a fine line between being alive – or not. As I say in my Artists Statement: ‘My work reflects a fascination with the passage of time and the contrast between the permanence of objects and the fragility of life. ‘ I created ‘It’s The Little Things‘ as a homage to my late Nana; the objects remained (and still remain) despite her no longer being here. That to my mind, is a true indicator of the fragility of human existence.
I haven’t even started to write about the experience of meeting the other participating artists yet. But as I so frequently say here, more perhaps, about that next time …