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It is good to be reminded that one’s own voice is worth hearing.

I am easily seduced by the toys in someone else box. I am good at presuming that someone else knows better. Just because they know different. Thank you Sarah* for reminding me that I have a sensitivity and a sensibility that is my own.

Part of the endeavour in this project is to move myself along/up/around what I am doing now. To shake off comfort and complacency and be challenged by my work and to really dig into it.

The things Sarah and I talked about this afternoon were the connections between the lines… lines of music, drawn ink, written and sung words… I am used to knowing what the drawing is for. But working with music at the same time, I have become unsure.

So as we spoke I made notes of the words that held all elements together:

The ongoing narrative of a connective tissue between drawing/sound/music/words

A tension in the drawings – where it is, and where it isn’t…

Where is the tension in the music…?

A squeeze and a bulge and a pulling and pressure…

Discomfort, unease, a disturbance… uncomfortable… a mystery… a secret…

A sadness and melancholy… the moment of “oh…”

There is repetition, a reprise, a point of familiarity then distorted…

These works are not illustrative, they are lived… the making is engaging… the existence of them…

These things aren’t only in the making, but in the showing… how they are presented… An installation rather than an exhibition… paper hanging mounted, not loose, taken as a piece from elsewhere, from somewhere more

So how do songs work in this narrative?

How do the sounds sit among the drawings?

I have many questions to ask of this work.

I’d better keep going then… and keep listening while I draw, and draw while I listen… then stand back a little and think a bit.

*Sarah Goudie is my friend, erstwhile studio-mate, mentor and co-curator for Drawing Songs


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It’s really difficult at the moment for artists/singer-songwriters who perform live.

There’s nowhere to play. No audience. I’m not talking about The Albert Hall etc, I’m talking small scale. As a band, The Sitting Room, and the constituent members that also play solo, have nowhere to do their thing. We play small venues, clubs, rooms above pubs, venues all under 100 seats… to be honest most under 50… But we have regular places we go, where we are known and get a good reception for our set. These places are not presently open. And even if they were, singing in public at the moment is a no-no. These places are at risk, and don’t seem to be getting any of the government support offered to the arts.

I miss it so much!

Many people in our position, but mostly solo performers, have been live streaming. I desperately understand their need to do this, to have some interaction, even though it really isn’t anywhere near the same as having a live audience right in front of you. Apart from a few, I haven’t been able to actually watch. It makes me too sad.

My band mate Andy Jenkins has done a couple of performances for a facebook group he is a member of. But we feel a bit weird singing out at no one. I am missing it so much because I cannot do it on my own. I don’t play an instrument. I need my band! I miss them too. The camaraderie of the rehearsal room and the interaction of five people singing and playing live. Can’t beat it. This country will be in a sorry sorry state if we lose these small but beautifully formed live music venues.

We have managed to adapt the way we write though, up to a point, and then we have halted. I’ve been writing lyrics, quite a few lockdown related songs, and have sent them out to my co-writers to play with. I reckon we have about 5 or 6 new songs ready to be worked up so that we could perform them live, or maybe record. But we can’t. 3/5 of the band are in Birmingham which is currently deemed tier 2, which is high risk. Dudley where I am, and one other player, is currently tier 1, medium. This means that Ian and I have actually been able to get together to work on a couple of songs, either in the garden, or in the large gallery space with all the doors and windows open, and sat far apart, facing our singing in different directions. It has been a lifeline, but I don’t know how long it will go on, as we are surrounded by tier 2 areas…

To work up the songs requires all of us to be together. I attach a link to Soundcloud below, of the song I’ve most recently written with Ian ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’… it’s a guitar and two voices. It is in its most basic, fresh out of the notebook state. We decided to post it up, unpolished, just to get some reaction and feedback, and just to prove to ourselves we are still working.

When the small local bands do get back to these gigs, please please support them… there are some amazing talents out there in the real world far from the likes of Britain’s Got Talent… so much better, but they need support, they need ears and eyes, a round of applause and the occasional purchase or donation!

Be Careful What You Wish For

 


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Validation…

Why do we need it?

I’m always happy working in the studio, either on my own in the building at whatever time of day or night, or if my fellow artists are bustling about. I’m not always happy with the results but I am happy with the endeavour… and happy that I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to be there, even though some months have been a squeeze.

But all that endeavour, I feel, needs to go somewhere. Otherwise its just fancy paper consumption and recycling…is it? (I’m not sure if I believe this, so I am being provocative in writing it) (does “going somewhere” count, even if it’s only in my own head?) (yes)

But anyway… at some point I want to ask of somebody “what do you think of this?” Sometimes asking Louise or Sarah or Simon or Pete or John in passing is enough… sometimes I think I need to get it all out and up in a big space and step back and ask that in a louder voice.

I (we?) need the validation of other people.

A conversation with fellow blogger Stuart Mayes prompted the question whether it matters who does the validating, and whether the rubber stamp of a body of people, a respected organisation, is worth more than a studio mate saying it’s good.

Maybe it is my age/generation, or the fact that I returned to this art-life later on, but I think that the endorsement of an established, reputable group really helps. It helps self-esteem, confidence, and it helps place me among my peers. To be situated… in a place you feel good in.

These last few weeks have been bloody amazing for that. I have got ACE funding for this work that will last about a year. I was selected to be in the RBSA Friends exhibition first, then also in their prize exhibition, and then yesterday I was told I’d be getting a Highly Commended certificate. I am really chuffed, and as my energies for working in the current circumstances was starting to flag it’s been an incredible boost.

Those things are the external manifestations, and they are great. But what has also been happening is the “going somewhere” bit inside my head…

The collaboration with Michael Clarke is so exciting! The backwards and forwards of files is spurring me on. I am loving what he has done, is doing, with the things I send him. It is hard to describe really, but I feel an affinity with this man somehow… I send him words and sounds and describe the feelings that go with them… and he absorbs all of that.. respects the direction and the idea… and adds music to it, in a way that makes me gasp, because he has so NAILED it! My dark lyrics, unedited, understood, reflected back to me with haunting music, disturbing rhythms and sweet soft vocals… it’s like me in sharp relief, focussed. It is extremely emotional. I sent him these lyrics… what he did with them and the sounds I had made, gave me goose pimples and made me cry.

Then all of that gets fed back in to more writing, and more drawing… an ascending spiral.

I feel at the moment, my art-life is certainly “going somewhere”.

That’s why I need other people in it…


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And so to the drawings…

I’ve finished reading ‘Lines’ by Tim Ingold, and still occasionally dipping in here and there. It’s been a useful text. The lines that connect people, seen and unseen, are interesting. The lines inside people too. Written, sung, waved and drawn… As I stretch across my drawing table with my pen, metaphors abound. Especially since rekindling my love for the scritchy scratchy dippy ink pens. The dipping in, recharging, and running out of fuel… the occasional drip or blot or catch in the paper that causes a spatter.

I have a piece on the go at the moment that I am regarding as a sort of exercise in line-making. I’m trying all sorts of nibs, different inks, a range of dilutions. A small amount of colour. A brown smudge that I really don’t like, but that I may come to love, as it takes the niceness away. God forbid I should end up with something too pretty!

It is my intention to try out all the nibs I have, so this is almost like a sampler of lines. A full table full of try-outs and successes and failures. I may need some different paper for using the nibs rather than the brushes and modern ink pens that are smooth and deliver the ink evenly…

While I’m drawing I’m recording the sounds of the paper and nibs. Or I’m listening to what I’ve recorded, or to the elements of songs that are starting to come together… feeding back in…

I don’t know what the work will look like this time next year… but I have plenty of time to play and develop and produce…

The trick is not to worry about it, or even think about it at the moment. When I get there I will definitely have some work. So I will show/perform/play whatever there is!


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Considering I have been thinking about this work for about a year, It is ridiculous that I hadn’t considered what it would actually do to my thinking once I got started.
Having the money in the bank, the ACE logo on the blog and website, and a title, changes things. I have a renewed sense of purpose. The work ethic has returned. I am driven. I am steaming ahead and letting the ideas form.
Michael and I have already exchanged files with recorded ideas. We have a dedicated dropbox, with notes! I have wired up the drawings with the mic I borrowed from Bill and I really like the results, so I think I shall buy one for myself. I can see me using it loads, recording sound from anything that moves, or doesn’t…
Laura has taken some initial photos and a bit of video I will be able to use soon. It will feel like a sort of launch.

My friend, fellow artist Sarah Goudie asked questions the other day about performance art. She will be helping me curate this thing towards the end, and will act as a sort of mentor/brain prodder along the way. She is able in many ways to see my work more clearly than I do. I am slow in some respects, and reluctant in others, and a bit fearful too. But… I like to think… I hope…that once I recognise the reluctance and fear, I acknowledge it. Having acknowledged, I then try to come to terms.

Over the last ten to fifteen years I have gradually come to know and call myself An Artist, A Songwriter, A Singer… each has been a leap in self confidence, in recognising myself. I feel the next leap will be the thing about performance art. In my head there’s a big old gap between “I sing with a band” then: “I perform with a band” then: “I’m a performer” and god forbid the ultimate in my fear and hatred of pretentiousness “I am a Performance Artist”. I can’t make the mental leap to the last statement. I’m ok with “I write songs and sing with a band”… but …at the moment, no further.
It’s a title loaded with art-bollocks for most people, including me. I am not comfortable with these things. How I see myself has always been a bit tricky.

Maybe the work I’m doing over the next year will change things again?


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