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Work is being done, but  of the loose ends variety… I’m not tying up loose ends, I’m making them. Working among boxes in my dining room is not conducive to joined up thinking. Not that joined up thinking is always my forte, but I can at least feel as if I’m closer to joining things up if my studio is arranged around me as a sort of physical sphere of influence, a bubble of physically expressed thought. Even when not inside it, the thought of it being somewhere helps keeps track of my thoughts. So I work on these loose ends that will hopefully one day soon be drawn together: some lyrics, some sounds, some stitches, some drawings…

I have a group of artist teacher students that I am supposed to be guiding through the beginnings of their engagement/re-engagement with their art practice. This week I barely feel I’m ahead of them in this process. But maybe I’m not… Maybe I’m just less scared now?

We looked at the work of Laura Lancaster in The New Art Gallery Walsall yesterday. I am always reassured by artists who have more than one approach to the work, more than one type of outcome. It makes me feel better about my multi-discipline approach (I can’t really call it multi-media because that now implies something different don’t you think?) Laura’s work was arranged in two camps: paintings, large gestural brush strokes, expressive, somewhat sinister in places, but assured and knowing. Loved them. Then a series of drawings on paper and card taken from old books: inside covers and endpapers (with £2.99 written on etc). Small, detailed and multi-media(see?) from charcoal to biro to watercolour. Beautiful. Each a snapshot from an anonymous found photo album. A frozen moment (the large paintings too). Each image a potential song. Each photo a representation of our own albums. Each group recognisable in composition and format if not familiar in face. Family likenesses are seen… But they’re not ours. But they hold the place for us to substitute our own important moments. We talked of the relationships between paint and photo that have changed over time…
An interesting time spent in the gallery.
The space next to Laura’s work was inhabited by that of Jan Vanriet. I’m not going to go into too much detail about his work, but I recommend the show, and I will be returning without the students to see both.
The close examination of one photo of his parents fascinated me: they met and survived the holocaust, vowing to meet and marry if they did. The pose is awkward, together but faces turned away, close bodies, shoulders together, but hips apart, her hand on his chest, maintaining a barrier, him treading on her toe…. Jan’s reworking over and over; close ups of these details; a change in colour or composition; one photo sucked dry; over examined; deconstructed in an attempt to understand two lives just from one frozen frame. This over examining in an attempt to unearth something not seen or to find evidence of emotion or intent reminded me of Marion Michell’s work with photos of her father. The period of the photo similar, World War Two…
These two artists at Walsall are both working with photos, but the motivations are very different, and so is the process and the product. The link on examination is tenuous, superficial, but the differences highlights each other somehow.

From this day in the gallery I take reassurance: I too work at the same “problem” from various angles, and I too bang on about the same things. I too mull things over again and again. Rework the same thought over and over…

I think perhaps where I am in relation to my students is that I have found the thing. You know, “The Thing”… I know what obsesses me. I am at it all the time:

How do these relationships we have endure? How do they change? How do they exist beyond death? How does the memory of that relationship work? I bang on about it. I poke at it with a stick. My mother, my marriage, my children, my siblings…. I try to make sense of it all by looking at others’. But basically it is egocentric. I’m trying to work myself out.

Even these loose ends…. They will meet up once I can get back into the bubble…. They will find their place.