I would dearly like to show you foundlings 4 and 5, esp. as they conclude the series (the other day I crocheted a tiny armpit even before brushing my teeth!) but I haven’t photographed them yet and most of this week’s energies are going towards and into tomorrow’s visit to Tate Modern, my first art-outing this year which I’ve been organising for a while: booking of electro-scooter, taxi; laying out of clothes for the day (and day after, just in case I can get dressed); putting in place of meals for day before, day itself, days after; checking that I’ve done everything that really needs doing before I re-surface from the post-outing slump which will take as long as it takes; trying not to obsess about e-mails I haven’t answered, calls I haven’t made, posts I haven’t read, and and and; thinking about where I’d like to whizz once I’m there (I want to spend time with Marisa Merz’s work, which I only know from books, and Kara Walker’s, whose paper-cut silhouettes impressed me years ago, and let’s see what excites me on the way); hoping I’ll make it to the members’ room for a rest on a sofa with view of the Thames and some chocolate-cake, and that I’ll find the right cut-off point and get home before things get too bad.
I can’t book my return cab as I don’t know how long my energies will last. Hope they won’t trickle out too fast, need to be able to go as soon as… I’ll enter the Tate with a big grin and heart beating wildly and will end up feebly holding on to the edges of the boat my smile makes while it sinks as fatigue rains down in leaden pellets. All being well I’ll find myself nurtured/stimulated/energized on all kinds of levels in spite of and beyond and after all.
In my tutorials with Rosalind Davis and Freddie Robins I was encouraged to widen the scope for exposure for my work and consider applied art opportunities. Time to dust down my fine-art airs and send off an application for membership with Contemporary Applied Arts. I’m not sure what my chances are as I’ve no background in textile arts and learn the requisite crochet skills while I make the work. Nor do I have any pieces in collections (yet), but I thought I’d give it a go. Time also to learn more about my chosen medium – I’ve just acquired a second-hand copy of Lis Paludan’s Crochet – History and Technique. It’s in black and white and thus has a suitable yesteryear feel: after all it is crochet’s quaintness (even at a time when it seems to come into fashion again), its look and sensory qualities, which interest me in the context of my (memory) work.
Instead of introducing a new project (I’m rearing to go) I’ve decided to get on with my foundlings. It’s all too tempting to fly away with a fresh idea, its excitement, drive, urgency. Then comes the real work.
The stitching here is very very tight and thus fairly tiring to do. Necessary though in order to achieve the holding of shape as well as a sense of strained control. I see my outfits as a kind of visualization of mental and physical states, an outer layer where interiority and exteriority meet and manifest. I’m interested in Didier Anzieu’s notion of a skin-ego (big concept for small work, I know). He describes skin as both a biological and a phantasmagoric feature, with three basic functions: as container/pocket/envelope, as border/protection and interface, and as organ for exchange/communication with an other. It helps me think about what I’m doing and makes me want to explore further. Need an upgrade for my brain.
PS. Last pair of foundlings will be finished soon.
PPS. Skull almost painless this week, who knows why. Counting my blessings – can you hear me sing?
Materials: crocheted from cotton thread
Dimensions: 22.5 cm x 27 cm
Last week’s span of sensations stretched between euphoria about another really interesting and invigorating art-visit (yoo-hoo Shelley and Kate!) and the severing of ties with the world when – after an exhausting health-appointment – fatigue sunk me and struck my head with a calamity: fierce, ferocious, like something had grabbed hold of me and not only stuck to my skull but fused with it. Trying to describe physical pain you’re in danger of cliché-hopping, but a memory from a film hovers, or a story, where a creature of an alien kind sprang in someone’s face and couldn’t be torn loose. Ring any bells? Was there a scream?
Now I’m getting back to briefer surges and a level of tiredness that allows a modicum of life outside itself. The relief/release when such intense pain abates is akin to happiness.
Those severed days can feel like lost days. All I want is for it to end, to sleep and wake up in a different state. Sleep is elusive though when you’re at your most tired and you just lie there, without thought or motion, without even a daydream. But then, in those wee moments when pain and fatigue start loosening their grip, something swims up from somewhere, a drive, a longing, that helps you re-emerge.
More metaphors? If the worst of M.E makes for a kind of secluded fortress in a far-off realm my art is the draw-bridge that leads me out. Temporarily. For practical reasons I work on several pieces simultaneously: there’ll be one in the living room and one next to bed, within easy reach wherever I am. I’ve also got gradations of complexity – intricate patterns and complicated shapes for lucid periods; simple and straightforward ones when neither head nor hands manage more than the very basics. Every stitch counts! Crochet remains the best thing I can do lying down and a couple of pieces are almost done, but I have an urge towards the three-dimensional and in December reworked an old figure of mine that took up too much room. I like the idea of pieces that lean against a surface…
as yet untitled
Dimensions: 31 cm x 39.5 cm x 9 cm
Materials: Paper and masking tape, knitting needles
I had another art-visit! Ben Cove came – the artist whose piece Trans impressed me at last year’s ZAP Open (see post # 36). As it happens our work crossed paths/shared a wall at Peering Sideways – Welcome to the Real World at Project Space Leeds in 2011, and now we have met too, talked about our art, old and new ideas, our dislike of labels. I’m craving face to face art-conversations and enjoyed this one very much.
I told Ben about a grievance of mine and thought I’d raise it here too, find out what you think, what your experiences are. Last year I was contacted by an artist/curator who had found my work on axisweb and invited me to contribute to a small exhibition, which I was happy to do. As it was clear at the time that I wouldn’t be able to travel up north I explained my circumstances and asked right away if it was possible to have my work photographed in situ, just snaps really, so I could see how it was put up and get a sense of the show from afar. This was promised to me. When one curator handed over to another I made the same request, and as previously, was told that would be no problem at all. Suffice to say that no images of any kind were sent, although I very politely asked again while the show was up (it’s over now). My last e-mail didn’t even receive an answer.
Is this normal? I would have thought that in the age of digital photography it would be an easy thing to provide.
Actually, when Peering Sideways was on, Anne Cunningham from the Arthouse sent me greetings and photos with her mobile right from the private view, at which I desperately wanted to be present. It made me happy, and I felt connected. Later I received (as did the other artists) a CD with photos from the exhibition.
So did I ask too much? What is delivered with such grace and matter-of-courseness by Anne or Rosalind Davis of ZAP, – thoughtful attempts to include an artist who for whatever reason cannot participate in person – shouldn’t that be part of the relationship between curator/gallerist and artists in general? (And doesn’t it apply to us all – I can’t imagine that everybody manages to travel to every exhibition they are part of.) I was left feeling as if I wanted something that is completely over the top, beyond what would ‘normally’ be expected, and wonder what is and what should be part of said ‘relationship’ in the loosest sense within the framework of an exhibition. What about feedback (I haven’t dared ask)? What about the opportunity to learn from how one’s work engages with other pieces, and with an audience? Is there something like best practice?