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It’s been ages… it seems… since I was here last!

 

It has been a busy couple of weeks, building up to The Sitting Room’s first ever gig at the Artists’ Workhouse PV on Friday night.

 

We had a couple of rehearsals, and I had a bit of a worry as my throat decided to shut down… I didn’t actually lose my voice but at one stage it was extremely painful and unreliable in terms of the pitch and volume! I wait 54 years to be in a band and at the first gig I get a sore throat!

 

We managed though. Much was learned that can only be learned by getting out there and actually doing it. Such is life eh?

 

 

I’ve also managed to get myself into one of those slumps again. As I write this, the contents of my studio are heaped up in boxes behind me. I HAVE to find another space soon. It is doing my head in.

 

Emotionally I feel Fragile.

Intellectually I feel Stupid.

Physically I feel Broken.

Socially I feel Inept.

 

The benefit of having a blog is the knowledge that this has happened before and will undoubtedly happen again. While I have the joy of the boys in the band to buoy my spirits, my visual work lies mouldering, unable to find physical or brain space in which to flourish. I know in my heart that it will…. really… all the evidence of the past points to this. But I’m not feeling it. I am forcing myself to do tasks that should have been done weeks ago. My very small but very important tax bill was paid at the very last minute, fingers crossed that the website would be up and running and would allow me to do so (yes, phew).

 

Next week I have vowed to undertake more studio hunting. I have new contacts and new ideas. I keep telling myself that crossing possibilities off the list is still progress, but it doesn’t feel like it today.

 

 

I also know there is a taboo in place about such things, but fuck it… Being a pre-menstrual, pre-menopausal woman with joints that don’t work properly feels like shit. I feel like an old bag.

I KNOW that next week I will feel better. But today? Nope.

 

(Apologies to those who follow my Audioblog, I’ll catch up soon, when my voice is behaving itself)


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This morning  has been a bit rubbish to tell you the truth, and it has all been of my own making.

I went to a really great gig last night, a couple of friends were playing the support spot, so that’s always fun…

Anyway… you don’t need to know the ins and outs, and frankly I would be embarrassed to list all the reasons here, but afterwards I was feeling full of self pity, self doubt, I felt stupid, inadequate, pathetic. I had full knowledge in the rational part of my brain that this was ridiculous, and yet the emotional part of my brain continued the tantrum. Toys were thrown out of a pram and I should have been placed on the naughty step until I had had time to think about what I had done. Wasn’t there a Supernanny formula that you should spend a minute on the step for every year of your life? Well, it took me more than 54 minutes to get myself out of it.

In the end I took to stitching. Yes! You remember stitching? The activity that keeps everything right with the world? Well it seems I had forgotten.

So having thrown my breakfast in the bin, and spilled my tea down my jumper. I decided to stitch. As soon as I had made the decision I knew it was right. I have absolutely no idea what I am stitching. Except that I decided I had to take something pretty and then proceed to make it not pretty. I expect there are all sorts of metaphors in there, but they don’t matter at the moment. Just keep stitching. I have not stitched like this since the bras were finished. I have been stomping about, feeling unsettled and unfocussed.

 

So I start the stitching. I already know, three hours in, that all will be well. This may well end up as “a piece of work”. Or it might not. It doesn’t matter, really, it doesn’t. Process over product.

I posted a bit of video about drawing a while back. Now I post a little video of me stitching at the beginning of this piece. There is something about the sound the needle makes as it punctures the silk, and the sound the cotton thread makes as it is drawn through. I may transfer these sounds to a song at some point.

Obsession and compulsion.

I remind myself that I have in the past stitched myself into a state where medical intervention is necessary. So there has to be something in it right? My stitching is akin to a fix. As I sit here doing it, I really and truly can feel stuff being released into my brain and sloshing about my blood stream. My blood pressure is reduced, and I reach a trance like state induced by the rhythm and the textures and the sounds…

 

I’ll be back….


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A bit of a recap…

29th January is a first for me… So I’m looking back over the events that led to it with more than a little wonderment and disbelief really, that it should have come about at all….

About half way through my MA (2010/11?) at BCU’s wonderful School of Art in Margaret St Birmingham, I decided for some reason lost in the mists of time, that my installation needed some sort of sound element… A backing track… A soundscape… Music…maybe a lullaby… Yes… A lullaby… In retrospect, actually, I showed too much work… I threw everything at it in the manner of an art student not at all confident in their work. I trawled the Internet for a lullaby, YouTube, soundcloud… Whatever… But could find nothing. I spoke to my friend Dan, who I had only really known then for about a year, and he said “you should write your own!”…. And so I did, and with his generous help, honed it, recorded it, and played it with the work. It was uncharted territory for me, but definitely added something…. Not quite sure what, but definitely added to the narrative of this family of work I displayed.

LULLABY

By the time the finals came around, I had written other things and decided to record another one with Dan, to accompany the work done with children’s clothes. The recording, again in retrospect, was a little overblown, as often happens when you have new toys to play with… But I loved it. The whole process of writing and recording songs, and I loved what it added to the work…. Even though I’m still not sure what that is!

KEEP CALM

In a conversation with my tutors, particularly Henry Rogers (who I think should get some sort of Art Higher Education medal), I was persuaded, if not bullied, into doing a live performance for my assessment. Now… We are talking cold sweat, brown trousers, stiff drink scenario… But I did it. I sat on my own, watched by three assessors, in the dark stairwell at Margaret St. I sat on the third step, accompanied myself with a stout pair of dressmaking shears, and sang my song. I then stood up, still snipping, and walked up the stairs and gradually out of hearing. I ran to the loo and shook for about two hours.

That was the start. I was commended for my efforts, and was quite proud of myself! The recording of this event is crap, but it marks the departure point.

The next leap was to join Dan’s Songwriting Circle at Mac Birmingham. I’ve been there every term ever since. I played recordings I had made, but rarely sang, only for the end of term concert which was basically each other, a few family and friends. Each performance I did at the beginning was an exercise in barely controlled terror, but there was something about it that made me carry on. Not least the instant, positive reactions… You just don’t get that with visual arts…clapping! Who knew?!

REPUTATION

So I carried on writing and recording, and while the earth moved around me, and life carried on unregarding, I got better at it, less nervous, more confident in my voice and my songs. So much so, that, when I got my studio and finished work, an idea had come to me… The Big Idea… To do a series of songs to accompany these bras I was planning to make. I applied for funding to do the songs, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it on my own, and I had already called in all the favours. My application to ACE was successful and Nine Women came into being.

Right up to very nearly the end, I was definitely NOT going to perform live. And again, I think Dan said, “If not now, when?”
So I did it. With Dan playing with me of course, it was brilliant! I loved it! I still thought that the performance wasn’t part of the work exactly, but it was great to do it. My songs, my art, my gallery, my studio, my audience. Once in a lifetime. Had to be done! I received many compliments from unexpected people, and began to believe I could do it properly maybe….

NINE WOMEN VIDEO

Back in the songwriting circle, at least once a term, collaboration sessions happen. I was put into a small rehearsal room with three other writers: Dave Sutherland, Ian Sutherland and Andy Jenkins. All of them have been writing, playing and performing for many years… I felt privileged and slightly overwhelmed… What could I possibly offer these three? I threw some lyrics into the mix, and less than an hour later we had a song. Sometimes, the chemistry and the mix is just right. It was a good song. So, after a while, we decided, with a big push from Dan Whitehouse again, that we should pursue this combination of personalities and skills, see if it was a fluke, or whether we could do it again. We had a few sessions together, and now, a few months later, we have about eight songs worth performing and recording. We have a band name: “The Sitting Room” and would you believe it we have out first gig booked to play these songs in public. It is in an art gallery, which is perhaps my comfort zone, if not the guys’!

A gig. Me. And these three lovely men who shore me up and make me feel not just competent, but pretty good, like I can really do it. I have confidence in them, if not myself… If I go wrong they’ve got me… Which makes me pretty determined to not go wrong.

So… If you find yourself in the midlands, near Redditch on January 29th, consider coming to the inaugural exhibition at the lovely new Artists Workhouse, Studley, look at the art, talk to the artists, and have a listen to the inaugural public appearance of The Sitting Room.

 

 

 


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Sometimes I have to get away…

I looked at the chatter about the event on facebook and thought “oh I wish I lived closer then I’d go!” But then it occurred to me that I could get on a train and actually go. So I very cheekily added a comment to the chatter and basically got myself invited. I found a cheap ticket into London and out the other side and currently find myself in Kent!
The Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum is presided over by Franny Swann, Rosalind Barker and Sue Evans since its creation in 2009… I am told it began as a studio based crit group and has now grown to over fifty members. The event I attended was a group open exhibition, the evening given over to a selection of the artists talking briefly about the work presented. About a dozen artists speaking for about five minutes each. It was fast paced, up close and personal. Five minutes meant there was no bullshit: This is what it is, I made it like this, this is how it sits within the body of my work, two minutes for questions then onto the next. Great format. Very exciting.
I have come away enthused and having made connections with other people’s work, and insights into the ways I express my own ideas. It’s great how one sentence from one artist pushes into your own consciousness. David Minton (actually another a-n blogger) presented his work… Two large framed pieces about the same height as himself. Monolithic tablets of graphite, painstakingly applied, beautifully textured representations of mother and child-now-adult… Balanced proportions providing a real tension between the blocks of grey that looked like skin. The narrow line between the panels narrow enough to hold them together as if magnetised, yet strong enough to be as wide as an ocean. The marks made into this stunning surface were violent but sparing.
David spoke of the eyes touching and the hands seeing. I can’t tell you what a profound effect this work and his words has had on me, and how I am thinking about the chairs I want to work on. I need to pull back. My thoughts of what I might do to these chairs at the moment are clumsy and immature… Not yet cooked.
If I talk of the touch that doesn’t touch, then my touch needs to be very light….

The other artists spoke with eloquence, humour and honesty. I loved it all, but David was my star, because he made me think of my own touches… And how one small well considered mark might say everything I need it to say.

Sevenoaks is fortunate to have this group. It lives now, having outgrown its humble beginnings, in a gallery space housed in a modern building between library and museum. The group itself is a fantastic resource- a bank of professional artists under one  title. I sensed no clique, I sensed mutual admiration, support and a real sense of how important the arts are in this area and of the value placed upon them. The variety of style, media, and philosophy represented wide and deep. Many other areas could benefit from following this model. It works really well. I don’t know to what extent this is because of the hard work and commitment of its founder member (actually I do, their contribution is huge, and basically free…) but it should be nurtured and appreciated by everyone who benefits from it. Franny Ros and Sue set the culture of this group. It works really well.

I might invite myself to the next exhibition too….


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