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For the first time in ages, I’ve been feeling a bit of a stall in the way I write about my work. I have the work in my head, and in my sketchbook, but due to lack of space and the impending lack of studio, felt unable to start the new work in earnest, and also feel unable to write about it as to me the two things go together. I was feeling a little lost and a bit self-pitying. I was unable to see a way through my middle class/first world problem of not having a studio. I have got over myself a little now, and realise that I will at some point find a new studio, but putting work off because I don’t have one is a lazy cop-out and in the long run won’t do me any good at all.

 

Sonia Boué’s blog, as always has been thought provoking… this started as a comment on her blog in response to it, but actually turned out to be far more about me (me, ME, MEEE!) so thought it might be better placed here.

 

Sonia, thank you for these words, which, as often happens, they’ve got me going again. (Phew!)

Your blog prompts a reconsideration of my own childhood. We did not shuttle back and forth between either country. Prevented initially by finance, but also by worry about what would be awaiting upon their return. At least as a child I was blissfully unaware of both the lack of money, and the worry. As I get older, my perception of my parents’ relationship changes, no doubt coloured by the development of my own 34 year marriage. Their relationship becomes more real, more three dimensional, and I see motivations for behaviour and a re-colouring of events. This is of course an illusion, I have no way of checking. I also have enough insight to see that this creation of an uncheckable narrative is where so much of my work resides. Memory affects me, as much as I affect the memory.

 

In the middle of November I withdrew (for a short while) from Facebook. I was having difficulty processing what happened in Paris, and even more so, other people’s responses to it. I either found the no-response you spoke of, or an uncontrollable over-emotional response. I couldn’t manage either, so I withdrew.

I admire your courage and ability to risk the trauma of revisiting those things that your family endured. I can’t expose myself to those extremes, but support whole-heartedly those who can and understand the importance of doing so.

I keep my world small, as a self-preservation tactic. But when my small world expands – such as when my friend Bruford went to Calais, I am able to support him… secondary support, not primary engagement.

 

But the studio, oh yes… and the work, oh yes…

Finding solution and solace in the creation of the visual that did not previously exist, a thought previously unexpressed… for me also, an exploration of the song. There are times when I wish I knew more music theory, or at least had some of the vocabulary, but also, as I learn more with every song I write, or co-write, I also regret the passing of ignorance and intuition. I am sad to discover that what I have done has a name and is a well trod path, even if not by me!

One of my artist teacher students is looking at post WW1 films about shell-shock and the music in them is curious… The responses elicited by the music with the images is disturbing, but draws you to the end of the piece, where the visual alone would not. The music is soothing the passage of the visual… I have yet to decide what and why this is happening… it might be obvious if I had more knowledge, my voyage of discovery is slow here.

When I write lyrics, they usually have an emotional feel. I know where the protagonist sits in the field of human condition. I use a lot of arm waving, words, drawings even, to express this feeling to whoever is writing the music.

If I knew more about music I could explain more succinctly and accurately. But…. what I get from the arm waving etc is a re-interpretation of emotion through my collaborator; a reflection; a new understanding from another human. I have come to realise this as a power and not a weakness.

 

As for Art and Trauma, my friend Bruford, mentioned above, says that the Jungle in Calais has loads of art and music. In awful places, where human survival is tricky, real people are also striving to be their most human… art and music are the most human occupations. Anger, hope and love and complex combinations of all emotions are expressed through art and music. It is what we do best.

 

Our dreadful government is able to take the arts off the curriculum. They are able to withdraw the funding. They are able to ATTEMPT to de-value it by placing more value on profit and personal gain and commodity.

 

But they can’t take it out of our heads.

 

When Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robins) in The Shawshank Redemption locks himself in the office and broadcasts Mozart to the entire prison…. yeah…. THAT

 


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Despite having key and piece of paper, turns out fellow studio person and I are incompatible in a pretty hefty way. The plug has been pulled. Whilst blarting and swearing with frustration I also realise it’s probably a good thing to find out now rather than after I’d moved all my stuff in.

Such is life…. Back to square one…

 


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One thing clicks into place…
Which means I can now blog about it. At last! This one has been nibbling at me, and every time I’ve wanted to blog, or started to blog, I’ve bumped up against it somehow and ended up not blogging at all. It’s been very frustrating. I’m very glad to have been able to talk to other artists a little removed from the situation, to help me through it…

I’m moving my studio!

It’s tricky isn’t it? I have felt for quite a while, that my studio in Dudley was too small. Not just physically, but in the amount of growth in practice that was possible there, on my own. So I started to very carefully ask around, not really sure what I wanted… And not wanting people to know before I was sure. There was the possibility of a city centre space. The advantages of having a city centre artist-community type space are obvious. The disadvantages are too though… I live about 5 miles from Dudley. Even in heavy traffic I can be there in 15 minutes, and off peak, less than 10. I live about 7 miles from the city centre. Those extra two miles, in that direction are horrendous… On a really good day, or rather, in the middle of the night, I can get into the centre of town in 20 minutes. In peak traffic you can double or even triple that. If something untoward happens on the route, I’m stuck. I don’t want to spend that time in the car, don’t want to spend extra money on parking, don’t want to use public transport all the time either.

A friend has a studio in Stourbridge, which I have visited, and it seemed perfect…. And through a series of chats, cups of tea, exchanging life stories and principles of practice to see if we are compatible…. I now have a shared space there to move into. I shall move in throughout this month, and properly get working as soon as possible in the new year. Stourbridge is about three miles away (less than ten minutes off peak). It is a much more artistically inclined population in general… I won’t feel I’m bashing my head up against the wall, and I will be able to engage in the sort of conversations I have missed… In person at least.

So I end this year and begin next year much the same as I felt a year ago, (with the prospect of arts council funding for nine women looming ahead of me). I am full of ideas that have been kept on hold because of lack of space in my studio and in my head. I know these changes are coincidentally tying in with the changes of the year, but it does lend it more significance, makes it feel like a stepping out into a brave new world again!

So, farewell Dudley, it’s been great, but it’s time to move on now!


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Absence of chair.
Nowhere to sit.
Nowhere to lay your hat.

If I work with the chairs, eventually, then there also has to be a non-chair. Even if only I know it isn’t there.
A representation of those without a place to leave a mark upon. There are so many, and for so many reasons… And this week it seems those reasons for chairlessness are mostly man-made. The gendered word unfortunately appropriate. So while I work upon the chairs, I contemplate a lack of chair too.
Where does the mark of me end up if there’s nowhere to leave it?
No one to leave it upon?

What use is art?
It’s the only thing I can do.
The only thing I have to express my despair.


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