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

 

 

(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 )


1 Comment

Sometimes it is impossible to blog.

Right from the start I said that whatever I wrote would be honest and true. But that doesn’t mean you have to write EVERYTHING does it?

Sometimes the things I would write about aren’t my tales to tell. Sometimes the truth I want to write is not the truth for someone else. I’ve had a summer of stress, distress, and ultimately disappointment both personally and professionally. The personal will stay unwritten. The professional? Suffice it to say that the things I was really excited about were pulled out from underneath me. I had put things on hold because of those things and it is taking me a long time to get back to where I was, because where I was isn’t there any more… Some of that went out along with the rug pulling. So I find myself somewhere else. Google maps isn’t going to help me reorientate myself…. So I just keep drawing until my mind catches up with me. The resolution I was hoping for isn’t going to happen, so I’m finding another. With some things, NOT writing is the best resolution.
Family circumstances and illness have derailed progress along one path, but have hacked a way through to another… I am without a studio still (although good news soon I am hoping) so progress is contained to my armchair in front of Netflix mindlessness, and the dining table. But actually, if I’d had a studio I wouldn’t have been able to use it over the last few weeks anyway, so I’ve saved some rent!
I sit here writing this in a hospital canteen, aware that I’m at a crossroads of a sort, where the personal and the professional are tangled, and realise that in my work, that is always the case.
I have gone off on what initially seemed like a tangent… But who knows, it could turn out that the frustration about the work that got derailed was the tangent, and the hacking through the creative undergrowth was actually a short cut to where I was supposed to be all along. I’m scratched and bruised, a little embarrassed and slightly humiliated, and feel a bit of an idiot….. but I’ll cope.

My writing this has hopefully enabled me to explain an absence, acknowledge feelings, draw a line and carry on…

 


1 Comment

Lately I’m wondering about why I blog…

I started writing in June 2011 (I think) on a-n.co.uk as a way of recording and talking through my practice while I did my MA. I didn’t stop, and here we are almost six years later. For a while I posted on a-n and on my wordpress website, but due to frustration with posting images, and the inaccessibility for the non-members, I seem to have stopped posting on a-n. This is sad, as I owe them a lot, my loyalty was stretched. I think now I have fondness: I’m still a member, and will continue to be, but I no longer want to spend an extra hour of my time swearing at the way the site works and being annoyed that my images are upside down, sideways or stretched beyond recognition, depending on which device I’m looking at… then suddenly I could only post on my phone! Anyway, that’s sort of beside the point… I will probably post this one on a-n, so that readers that used to visit me there know why I stopped posting and where to find me now if they want to carry on reading.

(Thank you everyone at a-n, for everything… and if I suddenly find everything works, I’ll carry on!)

Back to my opening sentence… why do I blog then?

By writing my thoughts, I can assess them at a bit more distance. I also find that if I’m having trouble expressing what I mean, that perhaps the ideas are not quite ripe. Sometimes when this happens I stop writing, but sometimes I carry on and the comment or interaction with people within the blogging platform, or more commonly these days on Facebook, I can grapple with my thoughts and pin them down long enough to see if they are worth my effort!

When I first blogged, mid-MA, there was a thought that I might have intellectual discussions about my readings and so on. That didn’t really happen, as I discovered that that approach isn’t really me. I had at the time started looking at whether music could be part of my practice. I look back with amazement now that I ever thought it wouldn’t or couldn’t or shouldn’t be!

I also had a regular habit of telling what I was listening to. That it sort of fell by the wayside, but I think I’m going to resurrect it for a while….

At the end of last term’s Songwriting Circle, Dan Whitehouse suggested that over the summer we think about how we might build an album. Think about a theme, songs, a concept, a title, a sound, a genre, album art… all or some of those things. It was a timely suggestion.

I have swimming around in my head and in my sketch book and songwriting notebooks a few songs that aren’t right for singing with The Sitting Room; I have a title which is borne out of the concept; I think it possible defies genres (unless someone wants to help me there); I have collection of sounds, words, lyrics, poems, images, made items, drawings… these things were swimming around as if homeless. Over the summer I started to gather these waifs and strays together. They fit my working title, and there is a commonality… a thread… a theme… So now, I have to see them as a whole. How do I work these things together to make something tangibly, interestingly “me”?

So now I’m listening to how other musicians have done it. And this is what I’m listening to this afternoon. If by any chance you look at this list and think, “Oh! Elena might like this band/artist!” Then please let me know.

It’s not that I want what I’m doing to sound like these people… to me it’s like going to a gallery to see the art, but while you’re there you look at how the work is hung, what it is next to, how it is lit, what is emphasised. Look at the context, not just the content… That’s what I’m doing, in the hope that some good stuff will seep in and have an effect!

Portishead – Dummy

Bon Iver – 22 a Million

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

Tunng – Comments of the Inner Chorus

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Husky Rescue – The Long Lost Friend

 

PS Dear a-n folks… it seems to be working… I’ll check back in with other devices…


0 Comments

The Tenth Woman paints her face, girds her loins, takes a deep breath and walks up to the mic…

 


0 Comments

Do objects speak?
They do to me, particularly garments, or domestic items. But do they say the same thing to me that they do to other people, other artists?

This weekend I found myself (with my family) among “LOST” by Issam Kourbaj at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge. The pieces were set among the museum’s permanent display of over 450 plaster casts of classic sculpture. It is, quoting from the museum website “…an exhibition of plaster dipped items of clothing belonging to (Syrian) refugees who were lost at sea whilst attempting the perilous journey to the island of Lesbos.”

So the plaster-dipped clothing is from children who have died. The textures and features of the garments are intact, and have been split along the side seam and sleeve in order to open them out. They are not casts, as the surrounding sculptures are, the original garments are still inside the plaster. They are hung from pins and nylon wire.

The things that I treasure garments for, are not there. There is no softness. It is a hard memorial. I recommend that you watch the video of the artist here:

http://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/museum/exhibitions/exhibitions/lost

These garments and the words on them are final. What I use in my work is the life, the continuation, growth and memory…and these garments are the death, the premature halt… There isn’t a name. Just an approximated age, boy or girl. They are heartbreaking. The splitting of seams to me seems unnecessarily brutal… And that upset me…

The text, although I couldn’t read it, I knew what it was. The terrible way these children died was reduced to a cataloging… A list? There was no way of knowing anything about them (I presume DNA was taken for future reference?). The placing among plaster casts of classical Greek sculpture was poignant, and I approve of the material links, but it felt a little cold. These “stone” memorials hung from breezeblock walls with nylon didn’t seem quite appropriate, it wasn’t tender in any way. I swing between thinking that tenderness would be inappropriately manipulative of my emotions, and thinking that memorialising in this way is more appropriate, as after all, I’m bringing my own brain-full of sentiment… hmmm…

So, then, these are no longer garments. The seam splitting and dipping renders them non-garments and takes the one piece of soft humanity away. Having the same starting point of a discarded item of clothing, I understand that the manner of their discarding, and the manner of their finding means that they are very different to the garments I use. You could hang them un-dipped, un-labelled, next to un-worked garments I have collected and wouldn’t know that. The work of the artist then, is to take that garment, and it’s story/history and say something else, draw attention to its difference.

This then, is an interesting point for me to think about when looking at the garments I collect.
What does it say before I start, and how has its life changed it before I get there? What do I do with it?

I suppose the story starts for me when I get the item, and work on it.
But these “LOST” garments have had their story, and Kourbaj has drawn attention to the stop?

Is there then a moment at which these two garments worked have a common point of contact? The point at which they leave their place of manufacture labelled “Age 4-5 years” …is it only at that point when the two say the same thing? Or is it even then?

I look forward to the research happening with The Museum of Object Research, and hope to find a little clarity for my thoughts…

 


0 Comments

It’s a complex raft of emotion…

My friend Sarah has moved out of our shared studio and I am bereft. In some ways this is ridiculous because our arrangement was that we never actually worked in it at the same time: timeshare was the thing. We had a blackboard calendar and chalked up our times.
But I miss the presence of her beautiful work and her quiet thoughtfulness.

At the same time I had to weigh up whether I needed to find someone else to share with. How could I replace this unique partnership? The more I thought about it the more I couldn’t bear it. So…. Having got the ACE funding recently I decided that for the next six months, initially, I could afford to occupy the whole space.

This is huge.
(Both the space and the decision)
But I recognise that this is an opportunity here. The space is breathtakingly beautiful, large, white, slightly crumbly Victorian walls… Enormous windows and shafts of light fill the room… It’s bigger than my art room in school was. I might never again in my life have access to such a space, so I must say yes. So I must occupy it in a way that I’m not forever mourning the absence of Sarah….

Yesterday I exhausted myself both physically and mentally trying to expand physically and mentally across the invisible divide. Furniture helps start that… I inherited from her some shelving and tables. I decided that I could separate areas for producing sound from the rest of my work… If it is all permanently out then I can pick it up whenever the mood strikes. Equipment and materials are now on show, instead of shoved in boxes under the tables. I have more table space. I can sit six people very comfortably around the table, and so I will be able to do a few workshops!

I have spread work around the walls in some sort of ordered fashion so can see the connections clearly, and the progression of the ideas… I’ve moved things around, so that when I come back from a few days away, I can come into the space renewed, refreshed and ready to make the most of it while I can.

I look back over my life and I realise that every space I have worked in has had a developmental effect on my practice: my bedroom, the kitchen table, my workplace, out of the back of my car, my shed, my school artroom, my first studio above a community art space in a shop, back to my dining room working out of the heap of boxes, sharing a huge space and now having the whole space… Each one has its own special way of making its mark on what I do. At the end of six months I might end up working from the garage at home. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that that will probably be ok too.

Thank you for rescuing me, Sarah, when I needed it the most. I shall miss you. Love xxx

 


0 Comments