In Glasgow, wandering around Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the Burrell Collection, “Angel’s Nightie” was never far from my mind. In fact it was pressing down on me with many urgent questions requiring answers.
Back in Eastbourne, before leaving for Glasgow, I had made a start on it in the studio space. I had asked a friend to lie down and then I encapsulated him in chicken-wire. When put upright the structure measured about 8 feet high and scraped the ceiling of my space. It resembled a torpedo, or as my 6 year old daughter put it: Mummy, you’ve made a giant bottle.
So I worried at it, in my mind, whilst I was away from it. And I took photographs. Of taxidermied birds and stone birds around fountain-places. Of Angels with golden wings. And photographs of surfaces: gilt on wood, gesso on hessian, cord quilting, wadded quilting, embroidery, painted wooden statues, painted stone statues. Questions, questions, questions. were there any answers anywhere in there?
At night in the peace and dark of the hotel room I worried some more. And thought about bodies suspended in water, about Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the foetus in utero, about Christ’s body hanging from the cross, about meat hanging from butcher’s hooks.
But mainly about bodies in water. As death as a “sea-change”, as in:
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.”
(The Tempest, Shakespeare)
And I knew that I needed to work on the basic structure of the chrysalis. That in order to change it I would need to do drawings of a body with a bowed head and knees drawn up slightly, a curved back, “wings” wrapped around itself: a structure that far more closely resembled the curvature of a chrysalis. And that would work best when suspended in air. Or in water.
So far away from my studio space I longed to get back to it and make a start.