Threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes…

… and the ongoing exploration of drawing…

 

 

(Occasionally, images posted here do not display correctly depending on your browser or devices, if this is the case, please try my website where these problems don’t seem to occur: www.elenathomas.co.uk )


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I’m no athlete that’s for sure…

I admire the women athletes who have begun talking about how their menstrual cycle affects their performance. I admire the marathon runner who allowed her flow to flow to make the point. I think I am probably too old to make such a personal and public performance/demonstration, and I certainly had the sort of upbringing that continued and reinforced the taboos. But I’m older now. I am more of a feminist now. I see the importance of eliminating such taboos now. I think it would have been helpful to me as a young woman to know more about my own body. How I have come to know it is through my own experience. I could not have done, and would not make now, that public a stance. Some things are too ingrained. But I can support and admire. And of course I can write.

I am 57. Peri-menopausal. Every 28 days (or close, it’s getting rather more unpredictable lately) My heart sinks. Here we are again. Surely I’ve done enough?

Those things have an effect on my work. Of course they do. Many days in the month I have boundless energy, I am well up for life and art and gigs and fun…. but…. Yesterday, to be frank, was a fucking miserable day. Really. I dragged myself out of bed just before noon, having hardly slept until 4:00 ish, when I descended into a deep and weird-dream-filled sleep until 11:30… THAT day. My joints ached, I had a headache, my eyes wouldn’t focus properly, I had cramps… the whole box of delights.

I read a little and drew a little. The drawing was grim. Fitful. Frantic. Vile. Cruel. It was a direct representation of my mood on the page. Bones and blood and gnarled forms. I slumped in a chair. I ate the wrong things at the wrong time. I snarled at anyone who approached, in reality or virtually.

Today is a different day. Throughout the awful days I try to tell myself that I will be ok tomorrow, or the next day. I try not to make important decisions or do important things. But of course you can’t always predict with accuracy which day it will be, and some things you have no control over. Sometimes the gig or the work elsewhere is on THAT day and I’ve spent 45 years just getting on with it. These days I do less, but it still gets to me. Every woman will have similar experiences, some more, some less.

Anyway… the point of all of this is that in amongst the abject fog of yesterday, an idea started to grow. It had germinated ages ago I’m sure, but I have only just recognised it. From under the quilt and hot water bottle the connections between the drawing, the songs, the sounds began to coalesce around The Tenth Woman. I knew it was there, I trusted it. I’ve been working through it every day for months now. And yesterday, overnight, and this morning it has become real.

My work goes in cycles as well as my body. Every part of those cycles has a purpose and meaning. One part relies on the other. I can’t have those periods of high energy and productivity without the periods of stillness and pain.

For The Tenth Woman, this is how life is made. This is how life is lived. And it is certainly how the Art is made.


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I registered my new project with the Arts Council and began to write the words in the letter boxes.

(Handy Hint no 1: DON’T type them in the letter boxes on the form, type them somewhere else, check the character count, then paste them in, then click save IMMEDIATELY)

About half way down the page concerning the quality of the project, where I describe in more detail what it is I want the funding for, I realise that Ive registered it under the wrong title. The stupidity cuffed me round the earhole. For over a year I’ve had two titles rolling around in my head, and for some reason I decided one was to be the project title. I was wrong! Big Time wrong! So I have changed it. Im not going to say what the wrong one was, as I might use it for something else down the line. But the right title is:

“The Tenth Woman”.

Now those of you who have been following this might recognise the title. Now I’ve changed it, everything makes so much more sense, is balanced and focussed .

*forehead-slap*

(if you feel inclined to look back, the dates of the posts are 03/05/17 and 12/05/17)

So this is the “new” project, with myself and my multifaceted, interdisciplinary practice I embody The Tenth Woman. Under her auspices I can gather these elements and work. I can allow myself to just BE The Tenth Woman.

Suddenly it all makes sense.


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Trying to write an artist statement while at a crossroads in your thinking is difficult, as you want to sound confident don’t you? My friend Debra Eck is currently in this place too. I feel empathetic as I sit here trying to write a funding application from a similar position of uncertainty. Changed work… Shift of focus… But this is precisely why I need a period of funding, to get me through that period of precarious perching to a place where I can commit to a body of work and plough through again to (hopefully) find a higher plane.

So I’m teetering on the brink again. Applying for funding is very much about speculating to accumulate. If they say yes, then it’s all worthwhile. If they say no then it’s weeks of work down the pan. Work that will never be paid for or offset against the joy of being given the money!

I’ve spent months pondering the amorphous blob of ideas, willing it to coalesce into something firm and focussed and useful.

Last week, thank god, I could actually see it. So it’s time to start filling in the form.

I’ve spent time helping and supporting other artists fill in their forms so I am now quite familiar with the format and the idiosyncrasies of the Grantium platform. I’m even now in a position to offer professional help if anyone wants me to, and if you have any specific needs in terms of accessing the forms (for example if you have a visual impairment) then ACE will pay for that support for you. They are wonderful people and it is an amazing organisation, but the application process can be a nightmare.

But however familiar I am with the process, writing my own bid is a different beast. the emotional attachment to the work creates obstacles. My own terror can too. I have decided that one of my targets for this project should be to gain the confidence and technical skills required for a solo performance. These words have been inserted, deleted, and inserted agin every time I open the application.

The glorious thing about being in a band, or even with one other person accompanying is the camaraderie. Dan is a wonderful man to have next to me on a stage. I swear that man can read my mind, and can certainly pick up on anything untoward, and steer it off! The band is great too. I have Ian, Andy, Lloyd and John all beside me, or hiding behind me. their support for me up front singing is palpable to me. I feel it properly. It is easy to “perform” the relationships between us all, and in doing so, immediately the audience know we are good people, they see it in those relationships. It is relatable.

But how do you convey that without the onstage interaction?

And this is exactly the point at which my thoughts about the project coalesced.

Those drawings about relationships and interaction rely upon there being several elements on the page/stage.

But what happens when there’s only ONE?

 


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I like there to be some sort of relationship between the WAY that I work and my SUBJECT.

Sometimes I have found this takes a long time to develop. I keep saying “Trust the process!” But I can get to the point of desperation and question the truth of that statement as time goes on.

This new work, these drawings, has been tricky. Textiles and garments are easy peasy. It is fairly simplistic, representational. Stitches are also easy to connect to the themes – see?

But that is exactly my point. That simplicity, while inherently beautiful, is also the sticking point.

I have outlined here in previous posts, how the circumstances of work, home, family, and studio conspired to change everything. I don’t know if everything would have changed if it had all stayed stable? But it didn’t. So what the world offered me, along with all that crap, was an opportunity to think differently for a while. Ditch the objects and the stitching (maybe temporarily, who knows?) and get on with something else. The something else was a diversion, I told myself, occupational therapy… all that… but… niggling at my hindbrain was the fact that I had been stuck and I needed to get UNstuck. The drawings have evolved over the last six months or so to a point where the start is now not visible. I know where it is, and if you’ve been following, you might be able to too.

Just this week, I have, at last, noticed where it sits.

As my pencil searches for anomalies in the texture of the paper and the surface marks of the watercolour, I realise that while I had been stitching, that’s what I had been looking for… a relationship to pick up on.. an unseen “thing” to latch onto, to draw attention to. I have been looking for mutations and anomalies and family resemblance, inherited traits and cycles. In the drawings I have been setting up the culture for these anomalies: Using watercolour, making my own indentations in the softer papers. I then look for one place, one part of the drawing to relate to another, just as I had searched for one person’s affect on another in the garments. I wasn’t pushing or stretching those relationships when I was working with stitches so much. What I can do now is manipulate and provide a culture that allows me to interfere more I think. The drawings are more experimental than the textiles. They are more exploratory. I am able to do more than just point at things and say “look at this”.

With the drawing I am reaching and reacting. I am doing more than observing and illustrating. I am making something happen.

Sometimes you need to get out of the place where you are too comfortable, where things are too easy. Sometimes uncomfortable is the place where things happen.


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Is it egotistic of me to see the world bending itself into metaphors for my life?

Or, being kinder to myself, do I see my life reflected in the circumstances that surround me?

March – it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

I was born in March and my mum used to say I was both lion and lamb. Sometimes simultaneously. Am I like this because she said that, or did she say that because that’s how I am? Would she have said it if I had been born in August?

The studio we were on the brink of securing has fallen through completely, at what seemed like the final hurdle. I don’t know that I will ever know why. It just did.

So I’m here again, the boxes are still piled around with me, but with no new studio imminent. The house is also lion/lamb and is doing neither very well. The lamb might well get eaten if I don’t cage the lion, or tame it. What’s the point in that though? If you have a lion, it’s got to be a fierce wild one, right?

I think I have to forget about the studio option. It’s driving me bonkers. I have to drill down and find the things a studio gives me, without the space itself being a reality. Hopefully if I can do this, the resulting choreography will result in me being in the right frame of mind and in the right place to find something else that does the trick… I will be able to see other opportunities. If I deal with the lion, the lamb will look after itself? But the lamb is under siege, I need to deal with my home. I need to look after it. This I can do, I can control. We have stopped seeing the boxes and excess furniture and absorbed them. We sidle around the bed, we hang our coats on the boxes in the hall, dump our bags on the extra chair that’s wrapped in bubble wrap. We peer at each other over the extra microwave on the dining table, and plonk the post on top of it. I think if I deal with these things, life will be better: I will no longer be in-waiting, and will be able to get on with things. There are things I could and should be doing. Inactivity and indecision have rendered me unproductive. (Having a pile of hundreds of drawings that sit there doing nothing doesn’t count for anything.)

The Lion and Lamb are in limbo. We have deep snow here again. Normal patterns are disrupted and halted. We had those glorious warmer sunny days when we took off our coats occasionally. We could see the spring and the hope: Daffodils, primulas, grape hyacinths flowering, crocuses in the lawn… We had a dark hellebore hiding against the dark soil that is now stunning, purple-black against the snow. The snow, like the end of the studio dream, has halted me again, but the hellebore shows me that all is not lost. Outside the french window while I draw I see the red maple budding, and the sprouting twigs poke through clouds of the drifting snow, reminding me of my own drawings.

Inspired again, my lion lies down with my lamb and all is calm for a while.


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