Too Busy To Work…

I know I am not the only one, having read the words of my fellow bloggers, to feel that sometimes life as an artist can sometimes mean one is too busy to do the work.

April and May have been madly busy, with art-related things, but not actually in the studio making. 

I had a trip up to Liverpool to see Wendy Williams and her latest exhibition; I’ve attended the presentation evening for my certificate of full membership of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (more about this later I’m sure); I was invited to become a director of a Community Interest Company run by Helen Garbett and Bill Laybourne, who I have written much about in previous posts… to which I said yes; and I’ve had all sorts of family and domestic events. 

For the next couple of weeks though, I have more time to be in the studio, and more time trying to figure out what to do next. I think I need to have some idea before my trip to Sweden for the residency with Stuart Mayes.

I am also learning a little bit of Swedish in preparation for this.

For someone who loves language, I’ve done surprisingly little learning of other languages, other than my native English and I have a little bit of left over school French. I have to say, I am really enjoying learning Swedish. I can still only speak in the present tense, I have trouble with pronouns and in Swedish the definite article is trickily attached to the noun in different ways, rather than being a separate word. Word order in questions gets muddled, but I am starting to be able to say a few things and understand a few things, beyond “Two beers please!” 

It has made me realise even more sharply how important words are in my practice. I think this will form part of the work I do while on the residency in Uppsala. Trying to describe my work in a different language when I have enormous limitations is a challenge!

But what it does make me do is pare down all the unnecessary frippery I hide behind in English. Not exactly arty bollocks, just all those extra words that don’t add much to the debate.

So I am pondering this while I look across the table in the studio. I’ve not really been able to get my teeth into anything since finishing and installing the work for the Candidates’ Exhibition, but what I am doing is rearranging some things in front of me. Some old stuff, some new, and a return to textiles, just to see what connections I can find… correspondences… communications… comparisons… are all these works talking to each other? Or do they speak a different language? I suppose it’s my job to act as interpreter. 

Hej, jag heter Elena, jag är en konstnar som tolkar ord och föremål.

(I hope that makes sense Stuart, I had to look up “objects” but is it the correct objects? You did say something very wise to me the other day about understanding the language rather than learning the words. Very interesting.)


I’m at the point now where everything is metaphorically on the table. Anything is possible. I’ve got to the point where I don’t want to draw any more sticks and stones. I don’t want to do any more large drawings for a while, due in no small measure to lack of storage space. (Starting to think Barbara Walker’s got it right… draw on the walls, get a really good photographer and then wash it all off and paint over it.)

I’m doing a bit of stitching again. This feels right, comfortable, efficient, fluent even.

I’m writing, ideas in essays rather than lyrics.

I’m clearing the decks, tidying the studio, moving things round.

This reshuffle is where the next ideas will spring from. I’ve put away the drawing equipment. I’ve scrubbed the table and vacuumed the floor.

I’ve ironed a large piece of black cloth to cover most of the table. But conversely I’m thinking I will take the black off the wall and paint it white! (At the moment it’s a sort of Office Magnolia)

These changes to the working environment throw up different possibilities.

On the black tablecloth I have arranged a series of the vessels I’ve been making… and then I’ve been filling the vessels with the sticks and stones and other things from around the studio. This playful shape-sorting makes connections. I will continue shifting things around until something sticks. Part of this might well include inviting other artists in to play, and to talk about how this correspondence between things works.

If you’d like to take part in this, please get in touch.


And moving on..

I’m still basking in a bit of glory, it is wise to do so I think, when the occasion calls for it, and will be doing so at least until the presentation of my new full membership certificate later this month. In the meantime, work continues…

I had a lovely couple of days with Wendy Williams in Liverpool at the beginning of the week. I’ve been wanting to revisit the city for ages, and Wendy’s Exhibition Reshaping the Past with Catherine Harrison and Sufea Mohamad Noor at Elevator Studios was the perfect excuse to just get on with it. Really enjoyed the exhibition… I’m used to Wendy’s paper installations, and I’m very keen on them, but had not seen any of her paintings… abstracted landscapes and brightly coloured blank buildings… I always love a shed! Catherine’s careful and precise drawings using rust and old tools and keys really grabbed me, worth getting up close to. Sufea’s textiles were ethereal… they grabbed the light in a sparsely lit space and moved as the people did through the space. A good combination of styles and materials here. I managed to do a Mersey ferry tour, have a trip to a pared down Tate at the RIBA building, and a bit of time in the Walker, seeing Johnny Vegas’ and Emma Rodgers’ ceramics and other 3D pieces. Loved Johnny’s nods to angels and Icarus and wings. I’d have like more time with them (and the Walker in general really) but time and the state of my knees prevented too much walking. I have to select my targets and head straight for them these days. I wonder if they are touring these pieces?

After a few days of anniversary celebration, meetings, ceramics class and a couple of gigs, I am really exhausted and needed some down time, as well as feeling the need to get back into the studio. So yesterday and today that’s what I have done. Yesterday really I was just reacquainting myself with the space, tidying up as I’d left it in a bit of a pickle after getting the work organised for the RBSA Candidates exhibition, and there were paper trimmings and bits of fabric all over the place. Once tidy and with a cleaned table I started thinking about what I was going to work on next. I’ve not yet finished with the sticks and stones. There are many aspects of that left to explore. I’ve also just recently written three essays about my thinking and the work… too long and detailed for blog posts… which are already probably too long.

The wrapped twigs are calling out for another re-setting and so I got a few out to play with – maybe 200 ish – and have started to think about attaching them to a selection of garments.

This is definitely the mad in-between period, where I am trying out loads of things. I’m also working with Helen Garbett on a collaborative project concerning collecting things in a series of pouches or pods… this stems from my work with lichens, and pockets, and Helen’s work with Limpets and gathering. We have both just read and re-read The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction and find ourselves drawn to the collecting of the real and the metaphorical… watch this space…

The band have been doing more gigs lately, which has been really good to get new songs out there into the world.

I feel I have some more lyrics bubbling under, but Andy and Ian have said to keep them to myself, or find someone else to write the music with, so I think I will have to book a day or so with Mike Clarke again!

At some point, while doing all of these things, happily immersing myself in the stress reduced period of exploration, a little nugget of loveliness will arrive, and I will dive deep again!

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