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Sketchbook

I had an idea ages ago that I thought would work really well, would take this body of work into the three dimensional, and allow me to project digital images onto something other than a wall.

I’m very impatient.

Having written about it and drawn it in my sketch book, I was certain it would work. It took me weeks to get going on it, I felt I needed the place to myself, uninterrupted to get this up and running. It didn’t work. I turned the air blue with foul and despicable language and now will have to go back to the original idea, and my test pieces, to try to figure out why it wouldn’t work on a larger scale.

I remember having another idea some time ago, that I wrote about in this blog, which prompted me to accuse my sketch book of lying to me. A perfectly sensible idea on paper, just doesn’t work when you do it for real. Where is the lie happening? Before I even get it on the paper? In my drawing of it? In the testing? In the execution?

I am impatient.

I don’t have much staying power. If things don’t work I get very annoyed with myself and the idea, and frequently ditch it. I have boxes, drawers and bags full of unsuccessful projects, abandoned. I will undoubtedly abandon songs too (how fortunate they won’t need storage space).

Occasionally I tip stuff out of the boxes, and review them, can they be used in some way? Dismantled and reassembled? This does, I realise now, have resonance with some of the work I have done with Bo. See? Even when I think I’m doing something new, eventually some previously unseen link rears its (sometimes ugly) head. But the fact there is a link makes me happy nonetheless.

Staying power then… I’m a bit of a grasshopper perhaps? It might seem like that, but in retrospect I see patterns and paths, in the work and my sketchbook. I’m flitting about, in the knowledge/hope that at some point all will become clear. These patterns are reassuring, and ought to give me faith to carry on regardless.

Directionless?

So I feel a little directionless. I don’t know what work belongs where.

I’ve got bits of fabric stitched together with bits of text, ostensibly for the work for “pix” with Bo. Pieces of things. Elements and thoughts in fragments. I’m ok with these things but the edges aren’t there. There are overlaps with other work. But good grief, isn’t that what the pix stuff is all about (for me): the edges not being where you expect them?

I have these tracing paper drawings – not the bra ones, but others, a dress, a hand: These feel connected to the elements, the touch, the fragments, but is it real enough? There are material connections, and a drifting concept. I think it may just be a lack of confidence that makes me want to pin it down. I’ve been here before. I do pin it down, but then there is an obviousness about it all that weakens the work in some respects, leaves no room for the viewer.

All is well in my head, right up to the point where I have to decide what to show in October, because at the moment it is all TOO bitty. I don’t feel the elements have a strong enough connection. I need fresh eyes on it.

Actually, what I probably need is a bit of faith.

I’ll start with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzTbEnUtz9M


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I managed to just about sustain a whole day of songwriting. After a couple of hours of input, trying out ideas and such, off we were sent, to isolate ourselves and get on with it. The challenge was to come up with 20 song sketches in about 6 hours. As soon as the idea is clear – ish, record it, move onto the next. It was liberating to be honest. I didn’t make 20, I got to about 10, exhausted and fuzzy of brain. I love that feeling, when your creative juices flow, you buzz, keep going, unaware of the time, then flop, eight hours later, wondering why you are hungry!

The thing was though, when we came to play/perform what we had done during the day, in the evening session, I had pretty much forgotten everything I had done. The ideas were fleeting, created, not edited. So listening back I lurched emotionally from embarrassment to a state of disbelief, and the occasional “ooh I like that bit!”

So, in an effort to carry on being brave, here is one of the songs I worked on. I’ve had the lyrics for a while, just a verse really. But this is exactly how I left it, to come back to at a later date, unfinished, needs more words, more music… and without the mangled bit at the end. It’s a note/scribble in a sketch book.

https://soundcloud.com/elena-thomas/crewe


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A few posts back, Jean McEwan and I started a discussion that I thought best opened up a little, so I’m posting my over-long comment response here so it perhaps gets a wider reading – I’d like to know what other people think…

We were talking (again) about work that is personal and autobiographical, and validity…

Jean said:

“…I’m fascinated to read your reflections about the autbiographical in your work. I think there’s a general feeling that if work is too directly personal then it somehow has less value? Is there a gender thing in there too do you think? Women artists who make ‘personal’ work being dismissed or perecived negatively? It seems to me a weird thing to judge- for all artists it comes from within, the personal. What happens after, how you desribe it, how it is received, is an external cultural thing .”

My response was:

“….. I think there are all sorts of factors going on here… it is perhaps to do with the intellectualisation of the work. I have “owned up” to what the work is about for me, and where it comes from. Maybe this is a dirty secret I should have kept to myself? Maybe I should detach myself from the work and choose to hang it intellectually on some far-removed French philosopher in order to present it to the viewer? I could do that… I have the technology as they say… I am always very concerned that I exclude much of my audience by spouting arty bollocks, and am very reluctant to do so. Also…. there is the order in which things happen… I cannot wait for the intellectual to attach itself, or for me to find that link, before I make or show the work in order to validate it. I am just compelled to make it…to express it. In my working process this happens after, or during, I’ve often said here that the thought happens during the long processes. Sometimes I make a piece of work that feels right, but don’t see the connections myself, but trust that they are there. If I don’t see them others will. They may be their connections rather than mine, but they are valid nonetheless. When people tell me my work is too personal, or autobiographical, my response/excuse whether voiced or otherwise, is quite often “Louise Bourgeois”. I can do what I want. And more… (maybe this should have been another post rather than comment) I don’t know that I am best placed to judge the gender issue. It is my issue, and I am female… and the work I produce is undoubtedly feminine. Don’t think there is a truly objective answer to that one! Working in collaboration with a man, as I am currently, shows difference in working style/attitudes, but they might be Elena/Bo differences not feminine/masculine differences.”

(both comments have been very slightly edited)

Maybe it is a gender issue? The people I talk to about this are so far, exclusively women…

I have heard accusations to artists doing personal/autobiographical work that it is self-indulgent occupational therapy. I am incensed by this… for a variety of reasons…

Hmmmm……


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Still drawing bras, still stamping and embroidering words on bits of muslin. Still playing pick ‘n’ mix with patches and pieces for the joint show with Bo.

I’ve now finished teaching for the year and can really focus on these things. I have decided, other than today when I have decided to draw bras all afternoon, I shall have to spend the six weeks ahead working with Bo, and the work for our event. A priority. I don’t usually like deadlines and setting priorities, but it has to be done.

Except… I have booked a day of songwriting next week. My friend Dan Whitehouse is leading a day for songwriters using the Immersion technique… I will do nothing but write songs all day… bang them out is apparently the thing to be done. Not worry about how they sound, quality, whether they are “right”, just get down as much as you can in the time available. Then look at it all at the end. This will do me good, as I spend a lot of time worrying about the words, and then worrying about whether it is a poem or a song, or whether it has a chorus, or if I can write a chorus or if it just looks stupid on paper. I worry that I can’t play an instrument. I shall do hideously self-aware noises into GarageBand and hope for the best. I shall suspend self-consciousness for the day hopefully, and by the end of it, even if I don’t end up with anything useful, I hope to have broken the bad habits and feel freer about the whole process.

I would quite like to have a sound element to my show with Bo, but I’m trying not to force the issue, just hoping that something appropriate lands on the page, and that I can make something of it.

I have shied away from doing anything musical since my MA final show… but feel if I’m going to keep myself challenged, this has to be done. I’ve gone back to listen again at what I did. Dan had so much input to both of the songs I wrote. I would quite like to get something further along the process on my own before I plead with him for help this time. It is far to easy to rely on someone that you know will do a great job, but I’d like to learn to rely on myself, to find out what I can do by myself first. To become more confident and comfortable with my own processes….

Time will tell.

I post here links to soundcloud as a reminder of what went before… so that if I manage to post up some new sounds, the comparison is easier to make.

https://soundcloud.com/elena-thomas/elena-lullabymp-05-10-11

https://soundcloud.com/elena-thomas/keep-calm-loop-elena-thomas


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I’ve been ignoring the flashback I talked about in the previous post – or at least I have been trying to. Some things are best left to the depths of my brain to sort out, while the rest of it gets on with life. Occasionally it forces its way forwards and I find myself pondering on it. Sometimes it comes forward in that weird time between sleep and wakefulness. I am aware of it now, and am not afraid to nod at it in acknowledgement. I can see threads of it in my work, and even in my life.

I got told off for saying I was turning into my Mum… obviously I’m not, she had such different influences on her life than I do on mine. But she is with me at every turn and in the mirror more and more as I age. I know that other women will recognise this as both a comfort and a curse. My Mum was great. I hold so much of her in me. But I rebel against her too. And it really annoys me that it is in this very rebellion that I probably resemble her most. No escape.

So this work, and the memories that have surfaced should be acknowledged and respected. But I need them to calm down a bit, so that I feel able to rip them up and throw them into the air. Not think of them as sacrosanct, but able to make use of them in my own way.

A while back, I was making a group of pieces that had the working title “Respectable”. These held echoes of the generation above; my Mum and my Mother-in-Law too. It was as if I was creating a balance, having worked with ideas of childhood, it was the follow-through. I’ve probably abandoned this work, half way through one of the pieces, at some point I may go back in and finish it. I don’t feel the need though now. The thing I was looking for has been answered, so it doesn’t hold my interest any more.

Which also brings me back to the discussion on art work as autobiography…

I am hoping that this current state of affairs hasn’t made me too self-aware about the work I make. I don’t want to consciously be autobiographical… I think I would alter the path if I felt that… maybe… but… I am fascinated by the function in my brain that keeps me in the dark throughout the making, but then suddenly reveals itself to me.

It makes me feel as if I have some sort of multiple personality disorder.


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