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I am a great writer of lists.

In this period of uncertainty, disappointment, and yes, lets be frank, horror at the behaviour of certain human beings who would, if asked, consider themselves cultured and civilised…. in this period, my natural optimism has been tested.

When things go wrong I have a tendency to spend an amount of time brooding, swearing, arguing and so on. The amount of time spent doing this depends on the enormity of the event that has to be dealt with. I have explosive tendencies too. I can be nastily sarcastic and mean. I stomp about. I slam doors. And then I am mortified, apologetic… (but I don’t hold grudges…often)… I express myself verbally, to those closest to me usually, and rather more politely on social media. And then, when I’ve left people reeling, I’m ready to move on, and quite often unfortunately, having felt assaulted by my instant volatile reaction, they are not. I’m sorry. I’m always very sorry. While I was at work in a proper job, I learned to curb this a little. Now I don’t have a proper job I think my social skills have reverted to those of a recalcitrant teenager.

It’s probably a good thing that I no longer work in an environment where there was a closet Farage supporter (I learned this on my last day and was rendered speechless). This week, I would probably have been instantly sacked.

Anyway… while this is all going on, I don’t feel able to work on anything.

But afterwards, when my own personal dust cloud has settled, I have discovered I am at my most creative, and possibly my most emotionally vulnerable.

There is a decisive “RIGHT THEN!” and I dive back in. The events have an effect on the way I work, and what I work on. I work through it all. The hatred and venom are filtered through the fabric. The hot air balloon of indignation is punctured by my needle. The words of spite and cruelty and injustice are scribbled onto a page. (I have been asked by people who don’t know me, how someone as jolly and positive and fun-loving as me can produce work that holds such bitterness and misery… well that’s how.) (The people that really know me, also know that the jolly, positive, social me costs my energy stockpile dearly)

 

(A side note: actually, at first glance the work can also look and sound jolly… it is those people who dig deeper and look closer and listen more keenly who are rewarded with the bitterness and misery)

The “RIGHT THEN!” generally precedes the list-writing.

The list has everything… the things currently being done, and currently in exhibition status… to remind me that I’m not just sat here. It contains the things that are in the pipeline, that have been submitted and hold possibilities. It holds the future projects and proposals. It holds the things I might actually earn some money from (expenses are a dark and different list).

The list then gets pinned up, and I kick back the chair, put my feet on the desk (currently the dining table! scutter!). I drink tea and I ponder the possibilities.

 

The next bit of activity might be either a big bit of paper, coloured felt pens and words… or there might be a tipping out of work and materials to be sorted… This time, I think I’m going for the materials. I’m sorting out my apron collection (currently stands at 11) some have been worked on already, some are just there. The apron seems appropriate. A garment to protect, keep clean, be busy in.

 

Right then….

 


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When I first started this blog… unbelievably just over five years ago… among all sorts of pronouncements of intent I promised music. At the time, I wasn’t aware that quite a lot of the music would end up being of my own invention. But, I forget sometimes to mention in passing what I’m listening to, and how it holds an important place in my work, as a background, but also as a thing of focus. Lyrics worm their way into my brain… my own lyrics sometimes answer them, agree with them, or say the same thing, but in my words, from my own unique angle. The rhythms aid stitching, also a rhythmic thing. Depending on the speed of my stitching, I change the music. Like a jogger. (yeah right!).

I am sometimes aware that either the path of my stitched lines is defined by the topline / melody… or that my choice of songs is defined by the path of my stitches. Some people are astonished by this, but it is a meditative thing almost… my body sways in my chair and my fingers push the needle in time… my brain meanders around the lyric, explores the pictures in my head. In the Songwriting Circle, we often talk about what we hear first. Other than the secondary choices of rhythm/sewing… if I’m just listening, it is always the words… always. But beyond that I can become obsessed by small snatches of a recording. There is a section of piano in Villagers’ track, “Dawning on Me” about one minute in if you are that interested… which makes me groan in a rather disturbing way… it connects with something in that gap between the physical and the emotional… I just love it.

 

So while the world goes to Hell in a Handcart, I have made a (metaphorical) den out of deckchairs and blankets on the back lawn. I have hit Amazon big time… Radiohead… Ray LaMontagne… Kings of Convenience… and a book on Frida Kahlo… and I’m staying in here with my sewing until either it all goes away, or I gather the mettle to cope…

 

…the good news is I will probably emerge with some new lyrics, and a sketch book with new tangents to explore…

 

Villagers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4EOvMQoW4k

 

and there’s a wonderful live acoustic version with harp instead….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLJYp7ICFRI

 

Radiohead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAU7lLDZYU&list=PLPy9EgpSI-411GhcaTb1-WXxojxAuRY5D

 

Ray LaMontagne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IqCD7oNcQ4

 


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I’m an emotional human being. I react strongly to events, people, music, art.

This week has been tough. I am overwhelmed by my own responses. In order to cope without lashing out verbally in a way that’s impossible to pull back from, I withdraw from company. A few people have had emails or texts. But that’s about it.

I am, thankfully, also optimistic generally. Sometimes it takes me a while, but I get there.

Art is the route through. Work. Repetition. Simple haptic reward. The state of flow. A piece of work that takes time, concentration, but no decision making.

A linen apron. Linen threads I bought in Stockholm. Lazy daisy chain stitches and French knots. Mindless, and mindful. This is my chosen language. I am fluent in stitch. It absorbs, rewards, soothes the fevered brow.

This old apron, thin in fibre, but heavily starched is my metaphor. Delicate, fragile, but shored up by artifice. I stitch onto it to fill it. I cover it. I will keep going to the point of exhaustion and possibly pain… Although I do try not to go that far these days. The flowers and motifs I stitch will be cheerful and bright… Another layer to throw you off the scent.

I am a loud and brightly coloured human being.
Don’t be fooled.


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I have my own little in/out struggle going on. How to make another leap of faith, when the obstacles are mainly within myself?

I’m kind of stuck.

Because I presently have no studio my work seems to have halted in some aspects. The idea I was working on no longer seems valid. No other idea has taken its place. (Worth saying though, songwriting is thriving)
I currently have no income… End of year sessional visiting lecturer anguish. If the students don’t sign up there isn’t a course. If there isn’t a course I don’t get paid. Simple. But I cannot financially commit to a new, lovely big studio without the income to pay for it.
Thing is, in the scheme of things I know that it is a small amount of money, this is a good deal… If the money was sat in an account somewhere I’d have already said yes and I’d be in by now.
I’ve been told off by the usual special friend who tells me off. I’m a spoilt brat who is whining and moaning and I should just say yes! Say in! And get on with it. I think he has more faith in me than I do. (In many other respects too I suspect)
So, having been told off, I come home and brood a bit. I would rather swear at him and have a bit of a strop. But I have learned that even if it makes me angry, even if I ultimately decide he is wrong, he usually has a point. And sometimes he is playing devil’s advocate just to make me see it. Anyway I digress….

In a different part of my world, I did say yes to something that now, I see I perhaps should have said no to. But I don’t think I would have seen that had I not said yes. Seeing it has been useful.

I’m in some sort of mid art career crisis. Is this a thing? The sort of things I am able to do easily are no longer the things I want to do. I moved out of my old studio because it was no longer the place for me. I had done everything they could conceive of me doing… The things I wanted to do next I think worried them. I have ambition (scarily, I think that is what it is I feel). I didn’t need more square feet, just more space. But in my stroppy tantrum spoilt brat way, I walked out without another space to go to. This is a bit of a habit. I don’t intend it, but that’s what happens.
So far, it has worked out. But one day, maybe this day, it might not. I might have shot myself in the foot one last time…although I have thought that sometimes someone else has handed me the gun and ammunition.

So what I’d like to ask, if anyone is still reading this, is how do I do the next bit? How do I move from the parochial, the hire space, the local….(I’m not counting the very occasional group project that does marvellous things and gets me to foreign climes….)

How do I get further? I’m stuck.

Looking back, which I have been able to do from quite a good vantage point this week, I’ve come a long way in the last six years or so… But it’s not enough. I have more to do and more to say. And I want to do so in places which broaden and deepen the audience… Which would challenge my internal and external discourse and would make the work stronger.

Am I stuck?

 


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It was Sonia’s idea, and as I write that, it sounds accusatory “She did it, not me!”

I wish it had been my idea. But if it had, it would be a different thing… I am talking about the Museum for Object Research. I think, had it been me, it would not be quite as broad, or as thought provoking, or as deep. I think, if it had been me, I wouldn’t now be thinking about how to make it real. If it had been my idea it would have been “Ooh look at all these things!” Rather than “Why do we do this?”
Since the Museum started, it has poked at me, made me think properly. Some episodes have lived on, casting a light on my own work choices. The Policeman’s Bicycle is going to stay with me forever, as it weaves itself in and out of my thoughts. Touch. Affect. Memory. Forgiveness. Love. Resentment. Bitterness. Hope. Influence.

I am aware as I think about the Museum, that it has an influence on how I look at the objects I work with. I feel them, examine, disentangle the real evidence from the invented narrative. I am aware, as I sit with Sonia in real rooms, rather than virtual spaces, that this slow-grow friendship and also the burgeoning professional collaboration, has influenced my work hugely, and added value to it. It is for these reasons that I think the Museum is important enough to warrant bringing into the real world. We need research, work, discussion, creativity, laughter, and mutual support between artists that look upon the object as more than materiality. We talked of a pause to refuel. We work on these things, repeat patterns, but sometimes I make little progress in terms of the concept. I am hoping that we get the whole thing flying, because I have this feeling that it has the potential to stir things up, move it all up a notch, open up debate, leave a legacy for other artists and researchers to build upon.

So we have started, and in the absence of my studio, I have a focus for my thoughts. I have a spreadsheet, notes, lists, and large bits of paper with bright felt pen exclamations.

There will be twelve of us in the end… Making, Exhibiting, Writing, Thinking, Discussing.
I’m excited about the prospect of really getting dirty in all of it. Scratching about in my own practice, digging up the past, and infecting the future with the germs we discover.


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