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The edge of my reach
The arc of my arm
Scale is important because of the physical scope of my movement
A recording of reach and not reach
Pain and not pain
Sleep and not sleep
Sex and not sex
Death and near death
And Love.

Visceral and evanescent…. both.

The child-like blow lines… breath beyond myself… influence beyond the edges of myself
Paint blown and captured cells drawn
The arc of arm and the stretch of body is a good enough reason to work large.

But my world is shrinking, my reach restricted, and diminished…. so I reach it while I can. Tomorrow it may be less.

I had an evening at our studios last night doing a workshop led by Sarah Goudie on Spatial Drawing (there will be more).

During this time, without need for critique, internal or external, and nothing but my body, the supplied materials and paper, I had no choices but my mark making choices.

During this comparatively short time I joined some dots between myself and my work.

During this time, with these people I saw the sweep of my life from my childhood to my future and was able to plot a few whys.

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced this sort of thing how being on your own with a piece of paper and a few sticks of charcoal for a couple of hours can achieve this, but it does.
If you let it.

I go back into my private space today and look at the piece I started yesterday and make the judgements I tried to avoid last night. But the marks I make will I think be affected.

There’s a nonsense floating about that abstraction in my drawing is instinctive but of course it is not… not really… I’ve got 57 years of drawing behind me… those things that might appear instinctive are honed by knowledge, experience, trust…
I’ve worked hard for decades so that it can look easy.


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Oh my it was a good gig.

I am currently obsessed with The Little Unsaid. They shouldn’t be too alarmed though. It’s just a thing I do when I find an artist that touches something and ties itself to what I’m doing. I binge-listen to try to find the essence of it.

Their album Imagined Hymns and Chaingang Mantras is played on repeat in the studio, as I draw. Recommended Listening. Five Stars.
As I draw, phrases both lyrical and musical, jump into my ears, get mixed in with my thoughts about pain/death/love/sleep/sex and end up at the end of my pencil and get mashed into my paper.

Watching live music from such is both elevating and depressing. My soul soars as I watch/listen and get right into it. Lost/found.

Depressing is the wrong word. I’ve been neglecting my own music while this current drawing work envelopes me….while I wrestle with what it is.
Neglect is also the wrong word, because last night among the aural rather than visual, I now understand.

It has in fact been waiting for me.
I have a handful of Elena-songs (as opposed to band-songs) that are sat on a park bench, feet in frosty fallen leaves, face up to the watery autumn sun.

“Ah! There you are!” They say…
“Are you ready yet?”

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qi3zrZv2WY


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The inaugural exhibition of the artists who inhabit General Office is going well, and there’s still another week to run of “Body of Work” if you want to add to our count!

The Private View was on Thursday night.

I seem to be quite successful at hiding from myself. Or hiding from my work. I think I was so chuffed to be in and working, with the prospect of exhibiting in what’s turning into a really great space, that I had forgotten that I was exhibiting new work that I hadn’t quite come to terms with.

In at the deep end then… other than studio conversations with fellow exhibiting artist Sarah Goudie, and my long time art-friend Bo Jones, I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about this work in a gallery context. A fact I hadn’t actually realised until the pv night. FFS Elena! There were times on the night when I felt clumsy and inarticulate, waving my arms around frantically and refreshing my bright red lipstick and fluffing up my hair in an attempt to distract and confuse the audience, for whom I hadn’t rehearsed, or learned my lines.

But… if you chuck yourself in the deep end, you sink or swim… and I think I’ve probably done a bit of each.

I was asked, in disappointed tones: “Where are your textiles?” “oh… no children’s clothes?” and “I told my friend there would be bras… why haven’t you done the bras?”

“I’m currently drawing… same themes, but the drawing has allowed me to dig deeper…”

I got the impression from some that this wasn’t a good enough response.

But… I did also have some amazing conversations about how great the drawing was… both strong and sensitive: there you go… getting there… this is along the way to why I’m not currently using textiles, why my break, originally considered a very temporary cul-de-sac has turned into a major arterial route.

From a conversation this afternoon I realise that the stitching process is regular, whether by hand or machine… up~down~in~out… governed by the pressure of pedal, or speed of needle. Pencil/graphite has a brain to paper connection that can be so much more intimate and emotional. If I see a way of doing that with the textile I may well return. But my pencil marks are enriched beyond the capability of stitch, by having the capacity to be angry and aggressive and dark… to slight… almost invisible, delicate…

I have often referred to stitching as mantra…

This drawing is more like music… on some days as mad as high falutin’ opera. It can be fast and slow, deep and surface sliding… on other days a gentle hum… a chorus snatched by the wind…

Bo asked me about the themes, and I proceeded to continue talking about technique… I was temporarily wrong-footed (yep, he still does it), but I do have an innate understanding that actually, it is the same. My work is always about relationships, touch, effect and influence. What is happening with these drawings on watercolour base is exactly that Bo… it might take me three days to articulate it, but this is what it is:

When I talk about my materials and my marks, I am talking about people.

The paper is 300g Bockingford watercolour paper (expensive, donations gratefully received, haha!)

I’m using professional quality, pigment rich watercolour paint (as above, thank you…)

I’m getting through the big fat soft Faber Castell pencils as if I was eating them… (ditto)

So, when I describe my process, and talk about technique, I’m talking about how people have an effect on each other.

The watercolour paper is thick and soft, but is strong and holds its shape even if I pour water/paint on it. It can puddle nicely, and hold the puddle safely. The puddle sinks in. It is an organic process. When the paint runs in tracks along the paper it lifts it in ridges, so the surface undulates. This sculptural feeling would be lost if it was framed, so they are not framed. It is allowed to do what it does, the paper isn’t stretched. It’s left to move and adjust freely. In it’s own time. Just like people.

Sometimes though, I do use a drier to speed things up, move the paint and have an effect of it. I interfere. And sometimes I don’t. Just like people.

When the paint is dry I spend ages trying to decide which areas need to be left to their own devices, and which bits need more interference, and at this point is is possibly an experience thing… a composition thing perhaps. But once I get going with the pencils… which range from a big fat 9B graphite stick, all the way through the Bs to 6H… I am reacting, provoking, responding to the paper, the paint, texture… and this feels like a very sensual, emotional act. I could go on, but it would be freakishly, fetishistically, like art-porn. Just like people.

This is where I am then. I was stuck, I couldn’t stitch the story, I had to draw it. It’s closer to my skin, and closer to my thoughts this way.

 

 


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“I wouldn’t have written this poem if it wasn’t for…..”

These are the words of my poet friend Heather Wastie in her new book “Don’t Oil the Hinges”
It’s a great way to introduce a poem as it provides the context and microclimate that allows the seed of the idea to germinate.
I am showing off here because I’m mentioned in the book as one of the causes of poetry! What an honour!
The whole book is wonderful, not just the piece that mentions my exhibition… I love Heather’s work, on the page and in reading and performance. She also provided the greenhouse called Mouth and Music that nurtured my songwriting seedlings when some of them were poems, and sketchy ideas and bundles of words, alongside the Songwriting Circle with Dan Whitehouse. To have an audience to hear your developing ideas is amazing… if you don’t have one, seek for one… hopefully one with humour and generosity of spirit!

Serendipity is the thing I’m talking about… A happened because of B and C…

I’m on the cusp of the first exhibition in our new studios. The venue now has a name: “General Office”, and Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/GOGalleryStudios/
And in the exhibition I have drawings.
I wouldn’t be drawing if it wasn’t for Mike and Sarah and a certain set of mental conditions coming together:

I had to move out of my studio and pack all my textile work up into boxes, hidden away…

I was no longer involved in a thing I had invested a lot of time and energy in, and had lost my way in my work a little because of that…

My husband became ill and I could not work on large objects like the furniture I had been working on, so I regressed and returned to the closeness and intimacy (and portability) of my sketchbook…

The critical art-friendship I have with Sarah Goudie… and her work… We had shared a studio and the presence of all that graphite seeps in… becomes a new possibility…

These things – and others no doubt – were the conditions that allowed the seedling to grow. All those years I spent drawing plants and people, all those years telling other people of the importance of drawing, all those years telling people how important it is to look, and show children how they can do it, and can make it better, and make it their own way, and use it… all those things came home to roost and I started drawing… and drawing…. and drawing…..

And here I am now, with two huge new drawings in a new exhibition space I share with five other artists! We will open the doors on Monday.

Nothing is wasted. The last 12-18 months have been spent with fear, anger, disappointment, pain, insomnia, feelings of inadequacy and despair on occasions…. but also love, friendship, support and validation and more love.

I’m a lucky woman.
I’m still here, so are the others.

And these are the drawings that brought me here.

 

 


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