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?

Foundling (2012/13)
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?


I’m not in touch much but getting closer. Still have got e-mails to answer from the time I was away – catching up is hard to do, esp. as I’m easily side-tracked by the urge to make work, or at least mentally explore ideas of which I’ve got aplenty: they lure me down the garden path, paths really, where makeshift structures hold tools and materials, notions, signs and symbols, all demanding my immediate attention. And a small pair of disembodied legs is dancing across the green…

Communication/connectivity was one of last year’s themes. Writing here has gently pulled me into the (art) world and hooray…, but as I can’t sit at the computer for long I haven’t been able to keep up with your blogs, write comments or tweet my heart out. This may change as I’ve received funding for a tablet and it’s here – a much coveted, shiny little thing, light enough for me to handle lying down once I’ve learned how to use it. My productive=connected periods will be extended, provided that fatigue hasn’t knocked out cognitive function, and even if I can’t read or write I can look at images. Exciting!

A tweet from @rosalinddavis look whose name popped up during mentoring: I admire & would like 2 try & emulate simplicity & coherence of – my work! transformed a very tired day. When @ZeitgeistAP asked Why do artists find it so hard to value themselves & positively promote what they do? a bite-sized, meaningful and enjoyable exchange ensued. Then I found this poem – it tries a partial answer too. Looking forward looking back – I wrote this in 2008 [inspired by Anna Ancher’s painting Sunlight in the Blue Room (1891)], about the time when crochet became my medium. And as I’m thinking about crochet’s relevance for my work and trying to get a better grip on its contextualization as well as articulate its relationship to memory – why not dig out something old, something blue?

Apropos connectivity – a delighted thank you to Jean McEwan for a copy of her zine Reciprocity-1, which ties in with her brilliant thought-provoking blog.


She wields a small metallic rod,
curled at one end,
its miniature bill blunted.

Head bent she stabs a flaggy fleece,
pricks and probes. A mangled triangle
grows in her lap.

The eyeless needle delves in, pulls out.
Between her fingers trail
thin ribbons, bloodless arteries.

Clammy hands drag loop through loop,
stitch curly hieroglyphs, each row
a protocol of checks, of curbs.

From patterns written in secret alphabets
she casts spells beyond her years:
chain, cross, lover’s knot.

Reds, pinks and blues entwine –
her heart in her hands
contracts and expands.

Every stitch unties a knot.


Fully coming back is work in progress; the journey took its toll, energies depleted, muscles slack and sore, head faithless and fickle. My suitcase, laden with clothes, art-books and gifts, sat in the hallway for days and was unpacked ever so slowly, whenever the fatigue relented. Gorgeous gifts: a coral necklace, a ceramic vase from my favourite South African shop, a little red notebook, and money, some of which I spent on a burnt orange dress and a children’s sewing machine. The latter waiting to be tried out, which is not something you can do in the horizontal…

Funny how I still expect to feel better in just a few more days. Unfortunately no amount of good spirits or willpower overrides the fatigue. So I haven’t left the house in two weeks and a day, grumble, grumble, have been laid up while remaining a fully paid up member of the maybe tomorrow-club. But: I’ve managed to read through the Grant for the Arts-application which the wonderful Arthouse has been developing with me. A drawn-out process, but we’re almost there. And a great way to pull me into the new year – the application is the hook on which I’m hanging my aspirations, towards a professional future, a future that isn’t completely on the sidelines. Or – doesn’t this sound better? – the saddle I put on the magic bird that will fly me and my work to far-off shores of the art-world, known and unknown.

In the meantime my body keeps me on my metaphorical toes. After over-exertion I often get what I call my pain-review, with pains flaring up at points that were affected years ago, by a childhood ear infection say, kidney troubles, a broken leg, a root canal, a concussion… Pains logged in the body’s memory which a certain level of M.E-fatigue reactivates. But it also keeps inventing new ones. A few nights ago something befell my hands, very unpleasant though not excruciatingly so: generating an exterior layer of pain, a reverse pain poultice on top of my hands, leaving the palms untouched. It was a strong burning sensation, and when I tried to enter in so I might extract something that I could put into words, which is a kind of fantastical, counter-intuitive process, an image of huge hirsute hands came, furry hands, a Neanderthal woman’s hands. No, image is the wrong word, my hands felt like that, inflicted with a thicket of dark brown hair, about an inch in length. I’ve had pains in my hands before, in sharply attenuated finger tips which seem about to shoot off like bullets, all at the same time; or, also strangely beyond the physical boundaries, emanating from those flaps of skin connecting one finger to the next, making the triangular spaces between my fingers hurt. Why am I telling you this? Apart from wanting to wrestle something from the daily grind of M.E., make it productive in some way, it also seems to link up with the making of art in ways that I can’t quite formulate yet. Maybe a kind of gift too: a very practical way of exploring issues around embodiment.

Yes: art, artwork, arthope, artpleasure: two pieces on the go, a foundling and a new piece, which, as I can see now, sprang directly from the conversations I had with my mother, working title: making do. No photos yet, but soon… And soon I’ll be able to read your posts more regularly – I’m about to order my tablet-thingy, ha!