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Is it a “me” thing?

or an “artist” thing?

or a “woman” thing?

There’s not really any balance about any of it, there’s no “everything in moderation” about any of it either.

I am a binge person.

I have spent days and days in the studio, making, writing, recording. Head down, blinkers on, focussed, productive. Then, I pull up my head and look around at the world and I realised I haven’t eaten a proper meal for a while, there’s no real food in the house, and my son is due home from university. So the pendulum swings the other way… No more studio for me for a while (maybe)… and today I have spent all day in the kitchen, having a wonderful time making meals to put in the freezer, so that when the pendulum swings back, at least we can eat properly.

I have been given a new job too, or at least part of one, that will entail me being in BCU for about 60 hours in total over the next year. I know this is hardly anything in the scheme of things, but I can feel myself twitching. In order to get a handle on this, I need to immerse myself in it for a while, in order to understand what I am expected to do, and to do it in a professional, organised manner. So tomorrow, I shall wade through all the paperwork and get organised. I have coloured felt pens, paper, notebooks… I shan’t come out until I get it!

I seem unable to achieve a balanced home/work life. Things have to reach some sort of crisis before I react. My house is an absolute bombsight, and Franny is coming to stay for a couple of days next month, AND I’m going to Stockholm to take part in an exhibition. So, I expect, over the easter weekend, instead of doing the usual easter things, I shall be whirling about the house with a vacuum cleaner and a can of polish and a duster. I shall do it all in a day (small house) and be knackered after.

Also, I need to finish another bra before I go to Stockholm… I need to take it with me. So, I shall get my head down in the knowledge I have a clean house, and food in the freezer, and won’t come up for air until it is done.

In the midst of working for the exhibition with Bo Jones, after we had finished our Masters, I stitched myself beyond the point at which I needed medical attention, to the point where I couldn’t hold a pen, let alone a needle. Being unable to stitch almost resulted in the need for psychological intervention. But I have friends, so was distracted, given alternative tasks and managed to come out the other side in time to finish work for the exhibition. Stupidity.

(But I did manage to do some work with photographs and photoshop, and letter stamps instead, that worked through some of the frustrations)

 

April is a pretty much recording free month – just one session – good job too. I can binge on the housework, do the stitching, get myself to Sweden and back, ready for May. In May, I will be just writing songs, recording, producing, getting it all together, reviewing the songs and deciding which to use. In May I have 9 sessions booked in. It will be amazing, but by the end of it, the house will be a tip again, we will be eating fish fingers, toast and take-aways.

June, no doubt, will be filled with curatorial experimentation and decisions. This will be my focus. The show opens on July 3/4th, for a month.

I think I may be able to hit a slump come August.I think it’s quite addictive behaviour. I can’t stop once I get engrossed. It takes me over, exhausts me at the same time as making me feel alive, exhilarated, definitely high. I don’t think it’s too much of a problem. But don’t tell me I should give it up.

 

I do need to organise another event before the end of 2015. But I must remember my eldest son is getting married in October… I don’t think it would go down too well if I forgot that because I was hunched over my studio desk with dilated pupils…

 


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After my last post about not being bothered about the theory of others being applied to any work I might do, it not being my problem, I started to think about my own philosophy… what do I think about with the bit of brain that isn’t thinking about French philosophers?

 

 

THREAD

Multiple meanings are useful to an artist and writer.

I make no apologies for romanticism in what follows..

Fibres twisted to make them stronger.

Woven, or stitched through, or laid down to reinforce, connect.

A train of thought can be twisted to make it stronger.

A conversation… collaboration

A link to something past… A light connection… Or some object, perceptible?

My personal blog is called “Threads” for a reason. It’s not just the textile but the text. The threads between words and music and object are held together by the noun and the verb. The thought and the action.

The blog threads itself through my artist life. I see the thread as something that holds the thoughts together. It twists itself around… Sometimes ethereal… Fog-like… Other times as thin/strong as spider web, sometimes like rope, bound around… So dense like the trunk of a tree…. Branching off….yet still connected…

When I encounter the thread~wisp of fog of an idea I don’t know how strong it is. But when it wraps itself around others, it gets stronger. It is supported by previous thoughts and knits together with new thought.

The thread is my personal, internal, tangible philosophy.

A more home-spun and idiosyncratic version of Deleuze’s rhizome?

The thread governs my thoughts. Knots, snipped scraps of excess thread on my desk are simultaneously real and metaphorical. The textile metaphors that weave through our speech reminders of our industrial and creative heritage. They are everywhere. I see them as signs.

Coincidences connect us to each other… Invisible threads between people and places.

How I live my life these days is, when I look closely, all about these threads, connecting and binding friendships and loves, thoughts, ideas and the language used to express them.

Words hold power.

THREAD is a powerful word/deed/concept

It haunts me…


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I have on top of the cupboard in my studio an old grubby padded bra. I have stuck glass-headed pins into it in a floral pattern on the outside, as if beaded. The points of the pins sticking in towards the invisible breasts of the invisible woman. I bloody hate it. Yet it sits there anyway, reminding me of that which I hate.


To all intents and purposes it might sit among the other bras. Showing some sort of metaphorical link to the work I do… The topics I think about. But to me, it is lazy and false, it has none of the aesthetics of the other pieces. I also think it enables the viewer to be lazy: “oh yeah, pretty on the outside, prickly on the inside, I get it!” There’s no room for them to get in amongst it…one dimensional.
Has aesthetics become a dirty word?
Also, having done an MA I could now, if I so desired, spout bollocks and theory until it fitted. I could crow bar it into the installation with uncomfortable long words… (Like juxtaposition and over-arching arghhhhhhh!!!)

 

One of my friends recently said to me he just wanted to be left alone to make the work….

A couple of events have been circling around this comment in my head:

Last summer I went to an open studios event along the canal side in South London. There were lots of very “cool” people there… Mingling, drinking expensive red wine, and eating olives…. I digress….. An artist was sat in his studio, having a beer, still painting. He hadn’t “tidied up” or put prices on his paintings. A young woman with roving mic and radio station badges asked him about the “meaning” of his work. He gave her a very old fashioned look, smiled at her and said “that’s up to you, I just make it, what do you think it means?” She was clearly rattled by this and said “it’s very colourful!” He threw his head back and laughed, took another swig from the bottle and carried on painting.

At the Art Party Conference in Scarborough, 2013, I attended a symposium/discussion, whatever… given by artists including Jeremy Deller and Cornelia Parker… Samuel West too I think…
But just one exchange has stayed with me, because it slapped me round the face….
Pavel Bulcher, when asked about art and theory etc said it wasn’t up to him to think about theory, he just made the work, the theory was someone else’s problem.

So this is it then. Having waded through the delights of Deleuze whilst doing my masters, (early blog posts are a testament to my struggles) I have discarded that discourse. That can be someone else’s problem. I have conversations about my work all the time – it’s why I blog… But it’s never about art theory, it is always about dealing with life.

Some might think I’m being lazy here. I’m not. I have done all that thinking, decided what sort of artist I would like to be. This fits with my principles. I shall stick with this until something better challenges it.

I like things I make to look crafted.
I like my work to look as if I have thought carefully, and spent time making it.
I like the skills I have to show.
I like my work to have beauty (how you define that thorny issue is your problem too)
I like my work to be ambiguous enough for the viewer to find a place for themselves.

I just want to make the work too, my friend.


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I like to think I’m a nice person.
I like to think I’m generous with my time and my work.
I like to think I am not pompous, or “up myself” or mean.

but…

Sometimes I have to say no.

I’m not going to be specific here, I don’t want to embarrass anyone. I’m not here to score points. The specifics aren’t the issue. There have been two or three instances lately, where, for a variety of reasons I have decided to say no.

But because I like to think I am a nice person, I still feel the need to explain and justify my decisions.

When I started out on this new adventure, about eight or ten years ago, I would hang my work anywhere, just to get it seen, just to gauge some sort of reaction, build on that, move on. That’s the way I had to do it. I put everything on my CV because previous to that, there was nothing on my CV, not my artist CV anyway. As I went on, and got more on there, I selectively discarded the pop-up pub type exhibitions, in favour of the art festivals… sifting out the open opens, in favour of selective shows. Over the last five years, I have become increasingly more selective about where my work is shown. Because of this, my CV looks better. When I send it to people, it looks pretty good now. The idea is to build on what has gone before, so that there is an upward spiral of better venues, more highly regarded events.

 

I feel I am in a precarious spot at the moment, from which I can launch myself up another notch. Whether we like it or not, Arts Council funding confers status. While this is in place I have to capitalise on it… it might not happen again. The venues I am searching out, the places I and my work are seen while I work on “Nine Women” is important to me, and I also feel I owe it to the Arts Council, and all of the people whose taxes have paid for it, to grow this profile. I also feel that I can use that profile to raise awareness of the work done in my arts deprived community by ArtSpace Dudley, the charity that I rent my studio from. In this place, if I can help anyone who is trying to do the same, I will!

I do not apologise for my ambition.

I have spent the previous thirty (ish) years of my adult life bumbling about aimlessly, drifting from job to job, accidentally, and opportunistically. I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Suddenly I do.

Suddenly I am hungry for something.

Suddenly I know what I want to do.

Suddenly, I have something to say, and a voice to say it with.

 

This has come as a great shock. It gives me a high I can’t explain. I am attention seeking. I am opinionated.

I am a woman in a hurry.

Because I am a woman in a hurry, I am not able to say yes to everything. I can only say yes to the things that get me where I want to be. I am already four years too old for the Turner Prize. Everything I say yes to matters. Everything I say no to matters too.

So if I have said no to you, I’m really sorry if I have upset you, but I’m not sorry I’ve said no.

As I read this back, I am wavering about whether or not to post it. Because it does sound mean, and pompous. But I think I will post it, because I think some of you will recognise the dilemmas, the internal wrangling that goes alongside trying to get somewhere.


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