When your energies are strictly rationed (I’ve got M.E.) you constantly have to prioritise and, instead of focusing on all that you can’t do, make the most of what you can (there’s a Crosby Stills Nash & Young song in here!). I have been on four cultural outings this year, all exhibitions: Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern (where I celebrated my birthday), Collectible at Zeitgeist Art Projects (to which I had contributed a piece), Ori Gersht at the Imperial War Museum (an exhibition that moved me immensely and I still think of every day), and, last Thursday, against all the odds a brief and intense visit of the Louise Bourgeois-exhibition at the Freud Museum.

Best conditions: because of a (thankfully punctual and to the point) medical appointment (even Dr. B. wanted me to go!) we were already nearby; London was gleaming in the hot sun; our bags were laden with sandwiches from the tiny coffee-shop opposite hospital; wheelchair in the boot; and most importantly: my friend M. was ready to pull out all the stops to get me there.

I hadn’t been to the Freud Museum before (the shame!), and it would have been a thrill just to be in the house where he and his closest family lived after they’d managed to escape from fascism in 1938. Freud’s study cum treatment room is still as it was when he died in 1939, somewhat sombre with curtains drawn, his glasses on the desk, leather-bound tomes in the shelves, and anthropological objects proliferating on all surfaces. The famous couch is there, of course, with the chair behind, and it might all get a bit too reverential if it weren’t for the (temporary, alas) installation of LB’s Janus fleuri, which hangs heavily happily from the ceiling above the couch. Perfectly, ideally placed, in view of both analyst and analysand. Imagine the conversations!

As my energy was trickling away fast I could read little of the psychoanalytical writing displayed (notes, diary entries) but focused on her sculptural work and drawings. There was much I hadn’t seen before, and it looked fresh and disturbingly at home in this intimate, half domestic, half professional setting. The boldness of LB’s art continues to surprise me. She consistently and relentlessly circled her themes (female desire, aggression, guilt, fear, love and its pitfalls, pain, conflict, compulsion – the stuff of (psychic) life and death), round and round, like those tapering spirals she made part of her vocabulary, getting closer but never quite to that elusive point of resolution. Nor meaning to. Her work can be rude, tender, brutal, explicit, soft, tough, secretive… Often disturbing, but funny too: we laughed a lot, out loud at her daring, but also her light touch: the breast shapes on one of her torsos turned out to be made from berets! I kept exclaiming to M. ‘this she did when she was 92”, ‘here she was 90”…

When I got to tired (much too fast, I only had bit-glances of each work) we repaired to the garden, and consumed our sandwiches (corned beef, sauerkraut, gherkins, swiss cheese and mustard – oh my!) in the shade, next to the spider on my trusted light-weight blanket that accompanies me everywhere so I can lie down at the drop of a hat. Then a stopover at the shop where I stocked up on cards, books and a Freud finger-puppet.

By the time we got home my body felt like a bell’s clapper after vigorous ringing, and the next day I had virtually no speech, found the back-garden moved beyond reach, and my arms turned into tree-trunks again, but: I was there, touched base.

The figure on the right is my Hunchbacked girl (2003)
Materials: newsprint and tissue paper/chair
Dimensions: 32 cm x 25 cm x 61 cm


P.E.-fossil. Darling of the fall. An image, like the shadow thrown at a moment when a child holds her breath lest she be seen and made first in line.

A lot of my work is to do with childhood memories. Mine are few and far between and usually bare of dialogue or movement, but their emotional weight can be considerable. I see my artwork in that vein, each piece a compressed snapshot of being. It’s not about the factual recording of an experience down to the smallest detail, but that its distillation takes you to its centre. The sensory details that I recall when I allow myself to fall into the stillness of a memory breathe life into it, and slowly I come to feel the girl I was.

I’m thinking of proposing this and another piece for Outside the White Cube for their Outsiders’ Celebration of Sport–exhibition. Wished the application fee wasn’t so high.

Materials: crocheted from black cotton and white wool/synthetics mixture, bit of fur
Dimensions: 23 cm x 38 cm


It’s been interesting reading other artists’ blogs – I’ve come across several (Barefoot Blindfold, a project by Anne-Marie Culhane and Paul Conneally, or Phil Illingworth’s Notes from an obsessive/compulsive butterfly), where the focus is pulled away from the visual to draw out other senses, or the visual is emphasised in unexpected ways (Kyra Pollitt’s wonderful People of the Eye).

I started writing here as I wanted to extend how I connect into the (art-)world, virtually, while I am pretty much housebound. So yesterday, in far-off and probably one-sided sync with Barefoot Blindfold, I sat outside just after 5 am, propped up against the house-wall, with my eyes closed, to listen.

I like birdsong as much as the next person, esp. in spring, but the quality of concentrated attention naturally deepened the experience. A blackbird’s clear tune and ducks’ calls from the nearby park were the only ones I could identify. There were some funny, kind of rasping bird-sounds, and the tiniest, high-pitched tweet which seemed to travel on a thin line into my left ear, where it almost stung. A couple of times it got quiet and I thought, oh, that’s it, but then one bird started up again and others joined in.

And while I wasn’t blindfolded or barefoot (I feel cold by default nowadays and my feet would have touched cement), wasn’t in Loughborough with the group and traffic noises underlayed my dawn chorus, I wouldn’t otherwise have sat outside, fully alert for close to half an hour in the crisp morning air, and thought about how individual birds’ trills and warbles seem to traverse space like ribbons, interweaving and making dense textures. I remembered a song from my childhood (Amsel, Drossel, Fink und Star, und die ganze Vogelschar… which I need to look up) and pondered how in Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation the moment the Virgin Mary conceives is often represented by a straight line from a white dove (Holy Ghost) into her right ear… Then I went back to bed, happy.

My hearing seems to have become more acute since I fell ill, to the extent that noise can make me feel nauseated; but it is also the last moderatively active pursuit when I’m exhausted. A couple of weeks ago I was crushed by the weight of ever more extreme fatigue (I’m calling it a healing crisis), worse than it had been in years. For hours on end I couldn’t speak, couldn’t read, think, daydream, not even watch the tele. I lay on my bed, so tired I couldn’t move a limb, even turning over an exertion beyond the pale. One ear stayed tuned to the radio. For a while the voices flowed, then, gradually, sentences swerved and washed away, words bobbed along new currents and that last zooming in of conscious energies failed too, even though I was still awake.

(I apologise, can’t work out why the first three links sometimes work, sometimes don’t, no matter how often I type in the address, it keeps coming up minus the word ‘projects’, but you’ll know how to find the artists’ blogs on the a-n website.)


I am mourning. Had long been looking forward to an art-outing with a friend, to visit Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed at the Freud Museum. She is one of my favourite artists and the idea of her work presented in the rooms where Sigmund Freud lived with his family and analysed patients is tantalizingly interesting to me. In this environment her work will be charged anew.

In her last decade (she died at 98) she seemed a little husk of a woman, but was still fiercely at work. Memory was her draw-well. Night after sleepless night that cyclop eye roved back in time. Greedy for their stir, their prick, the quickening of her, she probed old wounds, laid fault-lines bare, right ‘till the end.

Well, I can’t go. Body says no. Another ‘if only’ on the scrapheap. Am a tiny bit better, and with some help should manage this week’s medical appointment, but that’s it. Thought this morning (you see, I’m finding it hard to let this go) – if I went, maybe I could rest on Freud’s couch for a few days and then slowly have a look around. Quite like the idea: during the day I’d be part of the exhibit (I won’t move much, promise!), and at night, when all is still, I’d hear the ghosts of Freud and Bourgeois arguing in German and French-tinted whispers about the place of woman in psychoanalytic theory.

M.E. can seem like a thief. Its booty is your energy, half a sackful of cognitive functions and whatever else it can find. Out goes your profession, your social life, the way you were in the world.

The strange thing with M.E. is, that outwardly you’re hardly changed at all. I’m a bit paler, a bit thinner, and not so much in the vertical, but without obvious marks on my body: no operation scars, no open wounds, no bits missing or growing where they shouldn’t… But to myself I am changed, physically, mentally. Looking at this drawing earlier, made in a different context some years ago, I thought: this is a bit what it feels like, as if one moment I’m looking down at my feet and all is well, and when I look next there’s an extra one and I have no idea how or why. And then that becomes normal too and has its own beauty and you make art from it.

Untitled pencil drawing (2001)


Snap! is over and Growing pains back with me, which is nice, even if I’d have liked it to find a loving home somewhere else, for a good price of course. I wished I could ask the work itself how it fared amongst the other pieces, if it made links or asserted its difference… Luckily I can peruse SLWA’s newly published, gorgeous women’s art-diary, get a mini-view of what was on show.

I haven’t left the house in 17 days. Not so bad if I’m still counting, but it’s the worst I’ve been in a while and feels like forever. ‘Normally’ (by my M.E.-standards) I get out once per week, and then need four, five days to get on my feet again. At the moment my body refuses verticality for more than a few minutes at a time. Hrrrmmmmphhh. But (as long as there is a but!): Although it can feel as if I’m whispering from within a deep, dark well I’m glad I started to write (and read) here; found some lovely comments and left a few too. It’s already making me feel more connected.

Really the internet is my most consistent link into the wider world. It is like an open window through which I speak, let down a basket on a string and lightly draw it back up, filled with groceries or books, wools and crochet-hooks or sky-blue shoes (which I haven’t worn yet), receive news from friends, near and afar, do research, look at art and hook up with its makers – at my own speed and without ever leaving home.

I started writing My art grows around me in 2007 and for the first time in years was able to present my work and get feedback. It was thrilling. Some really good discussions ensued. I made blogger-friends across the world but it all slowed down in 2010, when I had my first solo-show at the truly amazing Arthouse in Wakefield (will tell you more one day), and consequently focused my energies on exhibiting.

You might wonder why I came here to start a second blog when my energy is so limited. The thing is that I haven’t any new exhibitions lined up (about which I’m trying not to panic) and feel a bit directionless. A fresh start of some sort seems in order, to push my art practice and communicate with greater clarity and closer to home. I took part in a few really interesting and well-received exhibitions in the last two years and learned a lot, can say: I am an artist! almost without hesitation – now it’s time to explore virtual modes of connection and communication. Here I am quite comfortable. About Twitter and Facebook I remain warily curious, their facility for direct, almost effortless self-promotion makes me want to scurry under a table every time I post something.

Baby steps again.

About a-one who set off to learn about fear (2004, edition of 2)
Incidentally my first crochet-piece. The title is appropriated from a Grimm’s fairy tale, which of course sends a boy out into the big wide world.

Materials: crocheted wool and cotton wool, cardboard, rags and polyester filling
Dimensions: 39 cm x 20 cm x 22 cm