Marion and I met yesterday.
We ritualised this occasion. We hugged. We both sat, in turn, with tissue wrappings on our laps. Our fingertips smoothed, found the creases, lifted the flaps, searched and exposed the contents slowly. We gazed upon the items. I had lovingly folded mine to bring to Marion, knowing that the unwrapping would be important somehow.
I sat with the box of layered tissue. I have seen photos of this work, and loved it. Nothing had really prepared me for the feel of it at my fingertips. We spoke of how paintings often leave us cold, they frequently have nothing to offer. But this?… Oh my…
These foundlings, these complete garments that speak of the child not quite there, not born, not quite formed, or not quite forgotten. Incomplete. The shapes and colours we see in the photos, the texture implied by a trick of the light, are nothing compared to FEELING.
The sense of touch. The first sense to develop and the last to leave us. The importance of the touch of others, humanity inherent in the tender touch. The making of these things… I found myself thinking that they had to exist… Their making was inevitable somehow. How is that possible? Memorials for those that never existed?
One of these items I still feel now. A body, a ghost encased in it. A blend of delicate colours suggesting skin, but like those surgical garments and appliances, not quite the right colour to match anyone’s flesh. The softness of this tiny item slipped through my fingertips… One hand outside, one inside, an intrusion? My premature son was brought tomind, his strength to survive such fragility. I swallowed hard.
Marion has great strength too. Her art is powerful, overloaded with meanings layer upon layer… The longer I held this piece, the harder it was to rewrap it to look at the rest. I wondered about the fragility of Marion and the relationship of that to the strength of her work.
I have come away with a head full of ideas, full of the remembered touch, full of admiration. I don’t think my work comes close to this. I wish.
Last year, I started producing a body of work that concerned touch, mainly digital, because Iwas temporarily unable to stitch… (I’ll look up the dates of the posts, I definitely wrote about that!) (edit: it’s about here, May 2013: https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/threads/date/2013/05 )
Some thoughts are left over from that that I think I may have to return to. They are unresolved. This meeting with Marion and her work has brought it close again. A great deal of careful thought will be needed…. Or maybe I should just let things sink in… let the feeling… emotional and physical… leech slowly through… until it becomes inevitable, and the join doesn’t show?
It is a tragedy this work of Marion’s is not seen by thousands. That it lies wrapped in boxes, unseen and untouched, more to the point, seems like neglect. If anyone out there reading this has the space and wherewithal to provide a showcase for these pieces, please consider doing so. They deserve a really good gallery…..
I think I will return to this in another post. I’ve not touched upon Marion’s work using the photographs of her father. I’ve not talked about the children’s shoes, the sailor suit, the hair dresses hanging on the walls. We talked of so much more, too. It will take a while to process it all, but I wanted to write of this meeting as soon as possible. It seemed important that I report it, record the emotion of the occasion. Occasion. We laughed about all sorts and talked of very serious matters, which we have no control over, feel helpless in the face of dreadful humanity- have we learned nothing? We laughed about the curly pubes and the joy of shiny colourful shoes, in which every step is precious.
Our time together flew by… The alarm was set on my phone, as I knew it would be hard to pull myself away, and so easy to miss my train home.
Thank you Marion, for a few hours that will stay with me forever. The feel of your work will affect the feel of mine (if I’m really lucky). My fingertips hold something different now.