Time to shake up my art-practice a little. I am crocheting a set of three baby-blankets that carry injunctions and directly tie in with my inherited memory-project, but also want to explore other angles and approaches that don’t have as their first impulse emotion and meaning. A kind of back-to-basics movement, partly fuelled by an impulse to – if not rid my work of its inherent pathos -, at least question it; to better understand the materiality of my practice, and see what comes if I work a bit faster, away from purpose and planning and conceptualising. Some of the shapes arrived at in the course of making Riefenstahl’s children (how long it took me even to use that name in the title!) fascinate me and seem worth examining in their own right. You may recognise the last in line, which with its contracting and paring down came close to abstraction while still being anchored in outfit-mode, as the starting point.
I began in summer, still in crochet, following an urge towards making that isn’t immediately weighed down by my preoccupation with German history. I needed a breathing space. Salou Raouda Choucair‘s rhythmic abstractions seen at Tate Modern last year, resonated, and those by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, from whom I’ve borrowed the title Irrational forms. (A little engagement with art history is overdue.) These pieces are just shapes, one-layered, and, compared to the variegated or faded tones I often work with, crocheted in strong (for me almost blinding) colours. Although they are slowly growing on me (I find the combined arches and negative spaces very pleasing) I’m not at all sure about them. Thing is, I find this concentration on formal aspects challenging as I always want to say something. Which is why I need to do more of this.
Lately I’ve used masking tape to produce a few textured sketches. Other surfaces await. I’ve also got a series of cut-outs – this is me trying to play…
Last week has been full of unexpected gifts, all bar one delivered online. Two Saturdays ago @rosalinddavis tweeted me and suggested that I listen to @nilsfrahm‘s guest mix on BBC 6, which I loved and keep going back to. In fact I felt like I was crossing a threshold and made my first drawing in years, nothing to write home about, but a start in a medium I find difficult. Then the surprise of the momentous Artists Talking score. Later in the week @Ben_Cove tweeted about Jeanette Winterson‘s lucid The secret life of us which everybody, really everybody, should read. The way she makes a case for art’s living significance, outside and against commodification, made me happy, as did that she illuminated her points by talking about an ambulance driver in WWII. I see/think links to the trauma of war everywhere at the moment, very real when watching the news of course, but also in all kinds of other contexts, where friends and family don’t seem to be able to easily follow me. It reminds me of my dad who wore his memories of war (as a soldier during the last two years of WWII, he was 19 years of age when it ended) close under the skin and in his 70s seemed to be able/compelled to turn every conversation that way, without being able to speak. Co-blogger’s @ElenaThomas1 tender engagement with a greatcoat made me think of him too.
And yesterday I caught up with Alinah Azadeh‘s The Gifts of the Departed and was again moved by the generosity and sumptuousness (if that’s the right word) of feeling, reflection and spirit in the face of mourning, and the beautiful work created from a bleak&breathing place.
One present though arrived by post, a small and rather special chair, with a lovely lovely message of art/life connection.
That the first part of Aeschylus‘ Oresteia was on R3 on Sunday was the icing on the cake, as Iphigenia is often on my mind (the second part is on tonight).
It’s been a good week.
Oh, and before I forget, I’ve got a stake and five pieces in Strand. Hair in contemporary art-practice, alongside work by Ken Ashton, Jane Copeman, Tabitha Moses and Jeanette Orrell, at OrielWrecsam.