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I think my brain has a special filter that keeps things from me sometimes. It squirrels away on something, keeping it guarded behind materials and stitches until a piece is completed. Then when it’s been dealt with I stand back and say to myself

“…..oh shit…. I didn’t know it was about THAT!”

The same has happened with song lyrics that I park in my note book, to visit a year later when someone else comes up with a musical motif that fits…. And I see myself, sometimes my deepest thoughts revealed to me. Thankfully they are usually obfuscated in metaphor so others don’t guess…. But I have been known to have to sit with my head out of the window hyperventilating….

And then, sometimes, the path is clear, I know what I’m thinking and why and how. At the moment I’m
spending every possible hour at the studio. I’m making and listening, and reading. I can feel the path beneath my feet, and on the ends of my fingers.

Sarah has given to me an essay that her aunt Amanda Hale wrote, called “Imagining a Geometry of the Soul” and I am fixed in my seat reading and re-reading…
I will attempt to attach a photo of the abstract for you to read, and also track down if you are interested.

The idea of “soul-making and soul-guidance as a collaboration between the temporal self and AN ENDURING PART OF THE SELF” (my capitalisation) is a striking concept.
Also, talk of a “dynamic between fiction and non fiction, biography and autobiography” has me reeling…

I tell these tales of people that weave between my life, my mother’s, and conversations I hear in the street. I make work that deals with the effect these people (mostly women) have on each other, the enduring part of self…

Amanda talks also of being placed so that dots can be connected. As I read this essay, I am convinced that Sarah invited me to share her space so that I could read this essay and connect a few more dots………… Thank you…….

 


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The materials and objects before me: keys, aprons, doll’s vests, tissue paper drawing, chairs, garments, stitches…

The reasons I choose things are not always obvious to me. Why these two chairs? There was something about the colour of the wood finish, the pattern of wear and tear and dust. They are related. Family.

The doll’s vest, knitted wool, warm but scratchy. A garment with no wearer. Found in a box with some keys. With a skein of unbleached linen thread.

The keys, unidentified and unidentifiable, rusted, mark the surfaces they are placed upon.

I’ve been in this studio for three weeks, and I’m slowly unpacking my head. New things/old things. I rearrange them with each other. I sew. I draw: with ink and stitches.

I choose these things because they speak to part of me. But sometimes I don’t know what they say. Sometimes it takes someone else to point these things out. The relationships then become obvious. My hands have chosen blindly, but my hind-brain knows better than my fore-brain. My fore-brain does the faking until the hind-brain takes over with the good stuff. The disregarded thoughts band together in my psyche until they reach critical mass and suddenly I am able to see.
I am not troubled by having had a terrible childhood. In fact in many ways it was ordinary, in some ways idyllic. But I think my work is a way of still decoding elements of it. I was the youngest child by 8 years (two older brothers). By the time I was conscious and remembering, all those around me were adults.
I think my life has been spent trying to understand what the hell has happened. I remember key people vaguely, my brother remembers them clearly and even with fondness. I still have moments when snatches of overheard adult conversation from 1969 (age 8) come back to haunt me. I don’t even know if they are real. I imagine around them. I invent, re-invent, and confabulate, from the small specks that floated into my small world.

I spent my early childhood half-way up the stairs on a half-landing in the turn of the stairs, out of sight (and mind?) from those downstairs. I was drawing, writing, reading to lined up toys. I was, I think, a fairly solitary child, I entertained myself.

Things weren’t explained to me because I was a child. Many things only made sense to me when I had my own children. A couple of things have been revealed to me in my conversations recently, which prompt (true/false) memories of other, overheard conversations from decades ago.

My art work is, I think, a continued effort to make sense of the outside world in relation to my inner world. I make work about children, then women, mothers, daughters growing into mothers… Then I circle around. I look at the same things from ever-changing perspectives.

I have, in the last couple of days, reached an epiphany about this decoding. My hands search for the clues. They find the objects. I work with the objects, trying to discover why I chose them. In them lie secrets and lies, truths falsely remembered.

My childhood was lived in the wonderful fort half way up the stairs, built of books, paper, pens and pencils, nature, and the weather rolling in over the hills. I lived with Enid Blyton, A.A.Milne, Edward Lear and Irish folk tales, read, and told straight from the horse’s mouth. I escaped while the real world went on around me, the real world wasn’t FOR me.

So now, as an adult, as an artist, I pick it apart.
My life choices, in retrospect all seem like a quest, a historical attempt to decode. It’s all added to the pile of evidence. All of those jobs part of the quest to learn how people work and think and behave and interact. Everything a quest to decode that which I have presumed everyone else already knows. Everyone else has revised for the exam. I never did.

In order to be a parent, I read. I played, I listened, and I read some more. I learned to the point I could teach it to others. Some of it made sense, some of it didn’t.

All of this is in my work, this messy soup of confusion, love, guilt, ignorance and misunderstanding. I still know nothing of myself. Sometimes in the working, I see a whisp of smoke I can’t grasp… A hint of something… The work is clearly all about me. I’m trying to make sense of what life is, what art is. I have no idea if anything I discover will be of any use to anyone else.

In those rare moments when an element comes into focus through a phrase, a melodic or lyrical hook, a remembered chorus, a repeated stitch, a repeated stroke of a pencil, the feel or smell of a garment…. In those rare moments of clarity, it is of use to me.

I think…….. As the world wasn’t meant for me as a child, it isn’t meant for me as an adult either. I often feel estranged, isolated, still that on-looking, bewildered, half-ignoring child.

Being an artist is the only way. One step closer to decoding is also one step closer to death.
But I feel a settling, a contentment.

The work is supposed to be like this.
I am supposed to be like this.

 

 


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Early days…

Today is 15th August. I’ve had two weeks in my new space and I’m still fannying about. I’m still thinking that it would be better if the bookcase was six inches to the left, and the coffee would be better on the top shelf. All crucial as you know, to the efficient running of the art-brain.

As far as the work is going, there’s a fair amount of fannying about there too. I write, I draw, I sew. I put things together to see if any new relationships are suggested. So far not really, it all feels forced and pretentious. Probably because I’m forcing it and pretending. Fake it to make it and all that?

But there are a couple of things that I quite like. The readdressing of lyrics, put in a different place, presented differently, take on other meanings. They absorb secrets, conceal themselves, they are embarrassed and shy. It doesn’t at the moment suggest anything new, but it serves to underline the way my brain works. It also nods at the themes I return to over and over. Some of the work is autobiographical and confessional. Some of it is eavesdropped and confabulated, but I’m not telling you which is which. More concealment occurs. In my head, relationships are wrecked, reformed, grow slowly until they are undeniable. I take on the identities of other women and try them on for size. This can sometimes leave me feeling a sense of unease with what is left when I cast them off…. At which point I lock up the studio and go home to remind myself of reality. Among this performing of myself and to myself, among this shuffling of paper, cloth, words and sounds, I have faith that at some point the shuffling will throw up something worth pursuing.
Early days….

PS please forgive the higgledy piggledy nature of the photos… It’s not me, honest! I keep trying, but it keeps randomly tipping them round!


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I’m in then.
New studio at last.

(I won’t go into the details of how here, that’s in the bursary blog )

Sarah handed me the keys and in that small, mundane gesture lay the truth.
I had been hanging on by my fingernails.
A tear plopped unbidden down my cheek and a lump formed in my throat. Speech impossible.

Apart from a bit of doodle type knitting and stitching, I haven’t made anything for about six months.
I’ve been writing songs, with other people, and singing, and to tell the truth, that has probably been the saviour of my sanity.

Thank goodness then for Sarah Goudie, who is generously allowing me to share this beautiful space.
It is right at the top of an old Victorian Library, and like the School of Art in Birmingham, has those ingredients that have become so familiar, and immediately put my head in that place… I walk up the stairs (some days, not all) and hold onto the mahogany and wrought iron banisters, staring at art nouveau stained glass, and glazed depictions of Shakespeare, Mozart, Rubens, Kelvin… my shoes squeak on the marble and stone floors and when I get to the top, the light pools along the corridor through the skylights.

The door is heavy, and is much more capable of keeping the world out than the door of my previous studio, which in the end, could not keep anything out, which is why I had to move.
The ceiling is high, the windows tall and elegant, the pigeons in the roof coo at me. They like Agnes Obel, but not Radiohead it seems, unless I interpret the noise as joining in?
The air is still and calm. The light sublime. I sit in my new chair and lean back and breathe. It’s like new breath.

I have forgotten where I was. I have read back over my blog entries, but it’s a blue remembered hill… the features are familiar, but hazy… I can’t pick out their essence.

My plan is to surround myself with the work I know and remember clearly, that point in the path where I remember the trees and can find my way again.

This is a good place to find it I think.

 


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