The increasingly intense exploration of drawing…

and the threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes…


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I’ve just got a few days left of my solo exhibition “Cause and Effect”. Over the last couple of days there has been a couple of reviews… it’s so gratifying to hear what people say… that they “get” the work… that they appreciate it, and most of all that they are moved by it.

It’s been a great experience to put up this new work and have the opportunity to talk about it with visitors to the gallery. I was full of trepidation… my first show without textiles…

But actually what I have found is that people who knew my textiles work have looked at this and said “Yes, that makes sense…” It fits. I know that I should know that, that I should be confident in it… but it is new and exploratory still. It’s good to know that what I’m trying to do is being understood.

And I must confess, reading these two reviews, as well as comments in the Visitors Book, and on social media… I have been a bit overwhelmed and emotional.

The path ahead is clear for a while. I feel I know what I am doing… for a while…

Catherine Jones, a relatively new friend and fellow artist, a writer, and musician (and other things) wrote on Facebook:

Went to see Elena Thomas’s fabulous exhibition today at General Office in Stourbridge.

What a wonderful selection of, on the surface, calm and mainly pastel toned watercolour and pencil works with collaged words, but look more carefully and see the visceral, twisted angst and pain, read the fragments of phrases and sentences and hear the suffering, the loss, the undoing.

The works remind me of skeletons and stretched muscles and tendons, underwater worlds where fish eat fish and plankton swallow plankton… Strangled seaweeds and broken bones. Wonderful.

Elena, you should be very proud of this body of work. It’s a privilege to see how these have developed, and know you as a friend and fellow artist. I am so inspired!

There is a General Office review also on the a-n Reviews page, written by Sarah Goudie:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/reviews/cause-and-effect-by-elena-thomas-5th-18th-august-2019/

This Sunday 18th August from 3-4pm Sarah will also be interviewing me and chairing a sort of Q&A session in the gallery. Please let me know or book through Eventbrite (it’s free) if you’d like to come, so I know how much cake to make!


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Cause and Effect is at the half way point… and I am feeling relaxed… I’ve actually had a normal amount of sleep the last couple of nights!

When I look around the gallery now, I do see a clean and simple hang. There is space to see these large drawings, and enough small detail to draw in the viewer. I’m satisfied.

There’s so much hard work involved in getting this to look easy, and I am so lucky to have the General Office team to support… Shouting out to Simon Meddings, Exhibition Design Superstar and Sarah Goudie Art Mentor and All-Round Guru particularly.

I have had conversations throughout the week with people about what constitutes a drawing, and why I don’t consider these works paintings, or myself a painter. Pushing boundaries and definitions is interesting…

Having a large solo exhibition does help you look at the work differently. Having the best works from the last year up on the walls together gives insight into how the themes bend and stretch and what is solid, and what needs work. Even if nobody else sees it you get that… but when other people do see it, somehow you see things through their eyes. It becomes possible to see where and how they are accessing the work… what strikes a chord. It’s also interesting that the small amounts of collaged text draw people in close, they read, then step back and look again. Then some look again at the works from earlier that don’t have any text. Interesting.

The PV evening was lovely… Lots of people I hadn’t seen for ages, some familiar regulars and a sprinkling of people I didn’t know – perfect combo! The band (The Sitting Room) played a set in the middle of the evening and that felt just right too. The band were astonished that the art audience were so well behaved, and attentive listeners… we don’t get that often and it is lovely! It’s great when someone comments on the lyrics, because they have listened carefully… it’s brilliant when they compliment the vocal harmonies that we have worked hard on. I introduced the set as an opportunity to listen to some more drawings… there was a strange “hmmm/ooh?” Sort of response. Nice.

So this week I will be sat in the gallery space to receive visitors, and chat if they want to. I’ll have my note book with me, and my small sketch book. The experience has already sparked ideas in my head what I want to do when this comes down. One thing being that I’d like it to go into a different space… Any ideas?

EDITED TO ADD: I’m doing an Artist Talk Q&A thing at the end of the run on Sunday 18th August 3-4 at General Office… if you’d like to come please book through Eventbrite. It’s free, but I’d like to know how much cake to bake!


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Sat having my breakfast, looking out at the garden… that middle distance staring thing… (it’s probably the new varifocals?)

I’m having one of those self imposed pauses… I know that from about 12 today till the 19th, I will be permanently “on”… so a couple of hours of the staring is ok.

The work is prepared, the walls are clean and tidy… all we need is a few hours with spirit level, step ladder and bad language and it will be up! I’m hoping I have planned for all eventualities, but there is usually something untoward that happens isn’t there?

But as long as I have tea bags and the kettle doesn’t fail me, I’ll be fine!


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The wonderful thing about blogging is it lays out a platform for prediction, then lets you see everything in glorious hindsight later on.

I’m finding it hard to believe the things I believed. Because now I believe something else.

When I was doing ‘Nine Women’ in 2015, I was reticent, cautious, scared about performing. I believed it didn’t fit. I liked the music with the installation but could not see it as part of my practice. In fact I remember saying that it definitely wasn’t part of my practice. I had to be persuaded to do a few songs live at the PV, just as I had to be persuaded to perform a song for my MA final assessment three years earlier.  I now find it hard to understand why I thought it wasn’t the thing to do… even taking into account the sweaty palms and shaky knees thing. Intellectually I couldn’t see a way through. Though why intellectually should have a say in it I don’t know. I then went through a period of saying “fuck it!” and doing it anyway… “life’s too short!” etc.

I’m not quite sure when the worm turned… it must have been a gradual thing. 

My solo exhibition opens on August 6th, and the PV is on the 9th. (Do come, lovely reader, it will be wonderful to meet you!) My band The Sitting Room will be performing a short set in the middle of the evening (see flyer below for details). It is as I look at the songs in our repertoire, all lyrics written by me, with edits and input by my musical co-writers Andy Jenkins and Ian Sutherland, and arrangements beautifully rounded by Lloyd McKenzie and John Kirkman, that the truth cements itself into my brain. The intellectual has caught up with the instinctive. I have stopped making excuses for myself, and I now accept.  I trusted the process, and I trusted myself to bring it all together. No one else could have written these lyrics. They are irrefutably a big part of my practice. The way I write them, prompted by conversation overheard and participated in. Prompted by interactions recent: sharp, and ancient: dulled by time. I talk of childhood, love, loss, and that bloke I met in the pub. I talk about these people in song, just as much as I carve them into my paper with a 6H pencil. The fact that I perform with my bandmates adds another layer of meaning for me. They are songs, yes, and I’m really proud of them. I love that the guys are serious about making them really good too. But the songs are, to me, another way of drawing. These drawings lodge themselves into the heads of the audience. I know, because I’ve heard other women singing the chorus in the loo half an hour later. If my work is about Cause and Effect. If I am talking about how one person influences another, leaves a trace on them… then how much more part of my practice could this be?

I am really looking forward to this performance. It feels important because it is in the gallery. I’m setting out the stall.

I no longer have even a small vestige of doubt here. If anyone else does, that’s their problem. But let me finish the set, then I’ll get a drink and we can talk about it.


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A few posts back I talked about the upcoming show with Bo Jones. Due to unforeseen circumstances this is now going to be a solo show for me. Don’t worry, we haven’t fallen out! The work with Bo will pop up again later, but as we worked towards this booked date, we realised the timing wasn’t going to work. As I said in that previous post about collaborating, sometimes you don’t know things until you start…

So………

Faced with the large gallery space, and only my work to fill it, I change tack and start to look at my work on its own, and not as a response or prompt or in juxtaposition to something else. (yes, I used the ‘J’ word… sorry).

It has been an interesting exercise. Because the work in itself is about the relationships, between people, their circumstance, and the way the materials react to each other as a loose metaphor. But it is ok. I can do this on my own. The speed of the change as deadline approaches has forced me to look more closely. No bad thing. I now hold the responsibility alone. This work is very different in a lot of ways since the last time I shared a gallery space with Bo, so maybe it makes sense in the long run for it to stand independently and establish an identity of its own?

The title, now I have thought of one, suddenly seems obvious… right and fitting.


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