2012 has been a rather challenging year, sign of the times-stuff to deal with on top of being unwell, and it’s important to remind myself of what has been good. Posting as part of Artists Talking is in my top ten. It has become a great framing device for my (flatling’s) art-life, a place to present, ponder, vent and wonder, and I’ve been sustained and invigorated by its connective potential. Because some of it has been so personal I‘ve often felt ambivalent about my appearances here, esp. when writing about how the M.E affects me. Illness is such a private thing, and while groping for discerning words and images has become a way of acknowledging its incontrovertible reality and shooting a little arrow into its gleaming eye, it’s also made me feel exposed. And yet it’s the right thing to do, for the moment.

Funny that I wrote so much about pain when its impact is usually secondary to the fatigue. It seems after all there was something that I might be able to convey. The real depths of fatigue are beyond words. You can’t speak from within as there’s nothing but. Body and mind are held to ransom in a barren grey zone and if I can write about it at all it is after the worst is over. I wish there were a kind of litmus test to measure and describe fatigue, but in the mean-time I’ll just have to try to express of it as much as I can. I’m grateful for your comments, always thoughtful, supportive, positive.

I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my art-practice, showing my work, sharing my exhilaration about art-outings and connections. While my art-life in general is somewhat precarious my ideas are clear and strong and excite me. There’s much to learn, to explore, have adventures with. Metaphorically speaking I’ve thrown a big ball of wool into the new year. Let’s see where it’ll drop, how it will roll and loop and knot. Meanderings and entanglements welcome.

And it’s been wonderful reading you, seeing your work, connecting with you. Want more of that, much more. Time for a break though. For now I’ll wish you happy holidays and a good start to an art-filled, heart-filled year. Until soon.

And where, and how (2003/4)
Material: Japan paper
Dimensions: The shoes are life-size. Measured in a row the dimensions are approx. 150 cm x 25 cm x 15 cm

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Last week I had a really good, concrete tutorial with Rosalind Davis, funded through Shape ArtsCreative Steps Mentoring scheme. Kindly she came to my home-studio-home, which meant it didn’t gobble up a whole week’s energies. Rosalind is so open, interested, imaginative, committed, positive, and real, that the tutorial not only gave me lots of leads but turned out to be a pleasure. We ended up on the floor looking at my foundlings and LR’s boy and girl. It meant a lot to have face-to-face contact, to be able to show work. I’ve got an audio-recording to go back to, and a couple of artists to look up: amongst others David Ketford and Nick Kaplony.

Although I am grateful for this opportunity I got upset with Shape Arts, a disability-led arts organisation. After I sent them an enthusiastic thank-you-e-mail they insisted that these tutorials could not take place at someone’s home and that I’d have to go to Rosalind’s studio for the follow-up appointment. When I let them know that it’s not always possible for me to go, given the M.E., they suggested skyping. It seems there are insurance issues. I wonder about artists who are completely housebound, who make great work of which we’ll never know because they are just outside of everything. I for one crave presence – of art, of people, which is why you can see me getting so excited every time I make it to an exhibition. I don’t know what I’d do without the internet, but nothing can replace direct engagement. And to show physical, actual work, not just its image on the screen, surely makes all the difference to how it’s perceived: you get the dimensions of a piece in relation to yourself, the colours and textures as they are, you share the same physical space and from there access the imaginative space the work opens up if it’s any good…

A friend of mine asked why it isn’t enough for me to make my pieces, but it’s not a way of keeping busy, nor is it a rehabilitative work activity. I went to art-college, my work is good, do I really have to make a case for myself? So what if I need support with stuff? By the by: I also struggle with calling myself a ‘disabled’ artist. Labels make me uncomfortable. And this is of absolute importance to me: I make art. Not disabled art. Not outsider art, as an art-professional suggested to me a while ago. Art. If I knew how to change the font-size and colour here, you’d see this in huge, red letters: ART.

Still, skype is a few steps up from chatting on-line or holding monologues, and the opportunities the internet offers to someone who doesn’t leave the house much are wide-ranging. I do want to explore that more, which is why in the new year I will put any Xmas-money I receive into the purchase of a tablet-thingemy (I know I’m dazzling you with my technical terms). I’ve got a computer, but given that my sitting times are’t very long I use a netbook. It sits on my belly while I’m lying down – may it not explode – and has been a great little helper these last few years. However its screen resolution isn’t very good, and looking at art or blogs is done as if through a drab curtain. A tablet is also much lighter and easier to handle. I see it as an investment in my art-future. It will connect me into the world a bit more. And I promise that I’ll keep up with your posts better too.

Good news: I’ve got three small pieces in Mysteryland, an exhibition in Manchester, curated by Blank Media Collective in collaboration with Z-arts. I was ‘found’ through axis-web and invited to participate! Would love to see what it’s like, was promised photographs. I like the idea of a different kind of venue, different audiences – kids will come, families – esp. in a time when arts-education is deemed superfluous.

Edith’s shoes (2009)
Material: tissue paper
Dimensions: 14 cm x 15 cm x 14 cm


Well, by now you’ll know my ‘outings’ are bittersweet, containing as they do the hunger for experience in the world and the knowledge of this being exceptional and exacting a price, although while I’m surrounded by art I’m grin-happy. If I’m lucky the buzz will outlast the exhausted, painful days that follow and pull me through the icy black waters of M.E-fatigue like a rope thrown from a life-boat.

My visit of ZAP-Open was such an occasion: a thoughtfully curated, vibrant show. Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley rock! I laughed, was moved, challenged, delighted and wanted to go back for more.

Three pieces I can’t get out of my mind:

Shelley Rae’s Perseveration, completely unexpected and yet utterly recognizable as a work of hers. It pierced me, still does, the photograph’s emotional impact stemming from a beautifully focussed simplicity. It seems full of longing and something else, fear, anxiety? But then you ask yourself – whose? Ours? The artist’s or the child’s whose disembodied hand we glimpse beneath the curtain folds? Did the artist catch the child unawares or is this a staged moment? What difference would it make to know? There are no answers in the work, you just become aware how fraught your gaze is. (Writing this I remember my girl-self standing by the window of our living room decades ago, looking out, which I did often. I can’t recall if I wanted to be outside or just watch the river, its slow, steady streaming, freighters laden with coal gliding past as if drawn on strings, their horns’ grave calls still echoing in my mind – a deep, rather eerie and yet reassuring sound.)

Ben Cove‘s Trans (last year we exhibited together at PSL) is unlike anything else. It collapses categories: is it painting? sculpture? 3D? 2D? abstract? figurative? precious? playful? from this earth? alien? I could go on. As soon as you make up your mind about one thing its opposite spins out at you until you give in and admit that it’s not a matter of either/or but of and, and more. Rather strangely this construction (for want of a better word), most of which leans precariously against the wall, touched me and made me laugh – something is alive in there…

I kept returning to Marina Velez’ enigmatic, powerful Lot. Two photographs of a cluttered room taken from slightly different angles are seamlessly joined together, creating a space where a woman sits/stands, wearing a kerchief/curlers on her head, and maybe one moment you think you’re somewhere in the Middle East, but then it’s probably London, or somewhere entirely different? You go close to inspect the objects in the living room/working room for clues – books, plants, shelves, door frames, light switches… – and settle for London knowing full well that you shouldn’t because while you turn away everything shifts again, including the mood. And why do I think it’s a self-portrait (it isn’t)?

These are works that kept drawing me in and I wish I could remember them better or live with them for a while – they slowly surrender layers of complexity but hold out on you, always. Ambiguity is at their centre: here the heart beats and brain-cells gyrate.

I had a double helping of joy at ZAP, briefly re-connecting not only with Rosalind and Annabel, but the artist Kate Murdoch’s too. Ha!

And merci for your comments! Something niggles at me: Being commended for continuing to make work while/inspite of being ill isn’t what I’m out for, though thanks all the same. I’m not brave, it’s just what I need to do. There’s no way around it. – The question, not only to myself, has to be: Can my art stand up for itself in the world? Is it complex, meaningful, well-made, emotive, challenging in its own way, does it have beauty? I realize that the proof is in the pudding – next year I must try harder to get my work into exhibitions again.

We were wicked, we were wild (2011)
Materials: crocheted from combined viscose and woollen embroidery threads

Dimensions: 19 x 29.5 cm and 18.5 x 31 cm

Wonderful, as I was upset about missing the artist’s talks, you can see the video-recordings here!

And sneak a peak at the ZAP Open 2012 catalogue!