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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Drawing as Experience - All the Dirty Words


Untitled

Two years ago I was extremely lucky to receive funding from the Arts Council England for a research and development project to develop my practice. It was a fantastic opportunity, and now as the project ends I have been reflecting on what happened. You can see a gallery of highlights from the project and read all about it in my Drawing as Experience posts

When talking about what happened in a project some things can get omitted. There was something else going on throughout this two year project, a parallel journey I think it's important to share....

The Mothers We Are

How do you justify going to your studio to draw and develop your practice, when you have to pay £40 a day in childcare every time you are there? There are rarely any known immediate results at the time of making, will it be exhibited, or sold, will someone select us to perform? On a practical level as a parent it makes little sense, as a self employed person running their own business it is at best risky.

I do it, in part, because I do not know how not too, I realised as soon as I returned to my studio when my son Jackson started nursery that this is my 'comfort zone', it is what I know. And with my new job of being a mother being made up of a series of shifting unknowns, that was a lovely thing to return to. My work is also a vital part of my identity, prior to being a parent it felt like it was all of me, and took most of my time. being an artist is something I have been working at for as long as I can remember, it is who I am, how I see and interact with the world around me.

Becoming a mother has an enormous impact on your identity and is a big adjustment; how do you see yourself now? how do others from your family to wider society see you? and most of all how does the little person that depends on you for all see you, what impact are you having on him? And where is what you know as 'you' in this mix?

Untitled

How do you continue to develop your practice when members of your family die, but you still have to find the wheatabix, do the jigsaw and stay steady for your child, who is far to little to understand? And what happens when a few months later you suddenly find you can't sleep anymore, no matter how hard you try? You see that your mental health is waning, but to stop working in the way you always have feels like losing an important part of who you are. And you are giving your all to your new job too, of trying to be the mother from fairy tales, because you are used to trying to do things the best you can.

Nobody can give their all twice.

At this point I stopped, and thought many, many times that I would not start again, It was like a crisis of faith. I took a break from the project, from my studio, from trying so bloody hard.

Untitled

Eventually I started talking. And in doing so I discovered that almost all of the mothers I knew had (silently) crashed at some point too, I listened to artists past and present who talked about the conflict between their identity as a mother and as an artist, I talked to a fantastic counselor and GP. Finally I started to talk through my work too, through each drawing...

Blanketed

Medicine Day 5

Medicine Week Two

For a long time I had hesitated. Though I saw each drawing as a psychological space inhabited, where emotions, sensations and memories emerge and make their way out in the drawing, I was showing them behind a layer of frosted glass. With drawing music in particular it was more a form of escapism, than direct communication. I found increasingly that I wanted to say more.

Recognising there was no space in my life to grieve for those in my family I had lost, I went to my studio and I did it in the drawings. I went there too to talk about motherhood, both the joys and the difficulty and to try and articulate my internal landscape when my mental health is fractured. In the drawings I have the space to think, feel and gradually, proudly, begin to say 'all the dirty words' that are; motherhood, grief, feminism and mental health, are this.

Stroke (1)

Stroke (2)

I'm looking forward to making more work, to putting it out in the world, not as some cathartic process or therapy, but as a new way of drawing. And I want people to find something in that work that hits them, that makes them talk back.

I am enormously grateful for this funding for the crucial help with finances and therefore time, but most of all for the belief in me that it symbolised at a time when I needed it the most. It made me keep going, grow, and pulled my work to exactly where it should be.




I would like to thank everyone involved in the project for their support; Andrew Brooks, Mark Devereux, Devin Terhune, Alison Kershaw, Rae Story, Louise Thompson, David Birchall, Dan Bridgwood Hill, Gemma Lacey, Simon Woolham, Epiphany, the Vonnegut Collective, the participants from TLC St Lukes and the Manchester Art Gallery's wellbeing program as well as everyone who came to our performances.



Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Exhibition News


I am pleased to say that my work has been selected to be shown in the 'Small World' exhibition at PS Mirabel as part of the Manifest Arts Festival, the preview is on the 7th of July 6-9pm.

'The feel of your ear' (top) and 'Morning time'


Drawing under Hypnosis and HOME Talk


For my fourth session drawing under hypnosis at Goldsmiths, University of london in collaboration with Devin Terhune I attempted to 'draw happy'. The emotional states I explore and capture in my drawings tend to be more about difficulty than joy (though happiness has appeared in work made about my son Jackson). Perhaps it is harder to articulate happiness, for fear of descending into visual cliches, or perhaps I don't feel the need to explore and communicate it as much? As a psychologist Devin has always been keen throughout our collaboration to keep an eye on where I am going in the hypnosis, to steer clear of any real darkness. So I thought it would be good, here in the context of working with Devin and hypnosis to give 'joyful drawing' a try.

The Last Swim

I always come to the sessions with a scribbled list of things I would like to do, places, emotions, or words I would like to focus on under hypnosis and therefore within the drawings. Devin and I then talk through them to see which could work well under hypnosis. This time I came armed with a list of happiness; making Jackson laugh hysterically by tickling him, my last swim in the sea....

Colour has become more present in my work as a whole, helping me to better represent emotional states, memories and sensations. I used Bright neon pink pastel to draw tickling Jackson and hearing him laugh. While doing this drawing I remember grinning, on the verge of laughter myself as the tickling and laughing felt so real for me, I even began to tickle the paper, as you can see in the fingerprint marks that make up the bottom of the drawing.

Tickles

As my Arts Council England Research and Development Project 'Drawing as Experience' comes to a close, of which this collaboration forms a part, Devin and I have got into a really good rhythm of working together. Devin has a good understanding of what I want from the drawings, and makes suggestions along those lines or even to get me out of my comfort zone. My knowledge of hypnosis and other aspects of psychology is coming along too. It has been a great collaboration which we hope to continue.

Left hand hard, right hand soft

Earlier this year I was invited to give a talk about my drawings made while under hypnosis at HOME for their quarterly show and tell event.

Talk at HOME

You can see more about my drawings made under hypnosis here 




Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Capturing Drawing in Response to Music




Part of my drawing practice involves drawing in response to live improvised music, this is a method I use to capture different emotional states and physical sensations through drawing. As part of my Research and Development project 'Drawing as Experience' (funded by Arts Council England) I wanted to ask; How is this work best shown? Is it through the finished drawing, the performance or the documentation of the performance or some combination of all of these elements? In recent years I have focused very much on the public performance as the act is where this particular aspect of my work exists for me, the finished drawing can not 'tell it' alone. But does this moment of making the drawing, of hearing the sounds that propel it into being, have to be physically witnessed by an audience each time, or are there other possibilities?



Exploring this, I commissioned Andrew Brooks to create a film of me drawing in response to improvised sounds by my long term collaborators David Birchall and Dan Bridgwood Hill. I wanted to push what the audience could access of this moment by using a go pro camera (attached to my head), giving both the impression of the performance as they might witness as part of an audience, but also a more intimate view, close to my own, inside the drawing.

Here is the resulting film. https://vimeo.com/202174121 



Monday, 28 November 2016

Drawing under Hypnosis - Session Three



My third session of drawing while under hypnosis in collaboration with Psychology Lecturer Devin Terhune, took place at Goldsmiths University of London where Devin is based. Our previous sessions can be seen here.

How should this work be shown? How do I communicate what happened? And how much really needs to be said?

There are so many different elements involved in each of the drawings I have made while under hypnosis. There is the drawing itself and the space I occupy in my mind while making it, these are two halves of a whole and are of equal importance to me. Surrounding this are; the discussions Devin and I have about the work and psychology and drawing more widely, the space we are working in and of course Devin verbally inducting me into a state of hypnosis each time. All of these things contribute, they shape the drawing.

Afterwards I am left with the drawings as well as sound recordings of the whole process, photos, notes, bits of films. Using a potential combination of words and images to describe work that needs both (Devin's spoken induction, my drawings) feels right. The next step will be to start playing with these elements, to work out exactly what I want to say, and how.





CONTAINED



                                        
Drawing her hair, feels like bringing a part of her back.



More photos of the drawings and documentation from these sessions can be seen here

This work is part of my research and development project, 'Drawing as Experience' funded by Arts Council England.

Please note is important to only try hypnosis with a trained hypnosis professional.


 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Drawing Space Workshops


Drawing and Sound

 Workshops and other participatory projects are an integral part of my practice, as part of my Arts Council England funded research and development project 'Drawing as Experience' I wanted to develop a new series of workshops. Taking place over three consecutive Saturdays as part of the Health and Wellbeing program at Manchester Art Gallery, these workshops were open to the general public and participants I had met from St Lukes Art Project in Longsight (a project run by Alison Kershaw that enables people including those with mental health needs to develop their art practice). I also invited Rae Story, one of a team of artists who help to run St Lukes Art Project to develop and deliver one of the workshops.

Each workshop focused on a different aspect of drawing, the first was looking at drawing as a tool for noticing (both the subject and ourselves), the second, led by Rae Story was an exploration of drawing, light and movement which grew out of Rae's own art practice and role as a Qigong teacher. The final workshop focused on drawing in response to sound, including live music by Dan Bridgwood Hill playing violin and guitar.

Each workshop is a carefully built space, as much psychological as physical; from each drawing method developed, to the lighting, choice of words, materials, timings, seating, coffee and length of breaks, every layer is put in place to help provide an environment in which people can feel comfortable and ready to embrace wherever their drawing may take them, to be fully in the moment.

Though the specific drawing techniques explored in Drawing Space are, on the surface, most obviously related to my drawing practice, it is this idea of a constructed environment where I notice perhaps an even stronger link - I see the act of drawing itself as a springboard, allowing me a psychological space to explore and describe, and I enhance this by creating specific environments to draw within, such as immersed in live music or while placed under hypnosis, these are my catalysts. The Drawing space workshops were an attempt to create the right kind of catalyst for others.

We all increasingly need a space that makes us stop, create and dream.

Noticing


Drawing and Movement


Drawing and Movement


Drawing and Sound



Thank you to the participants and everyone else involved in Drawing Space.

Some Participant Feedback:

'This was a magical and peaceful workshop'

'Loved it! First time Ive drawn since I was at school, this approach really helped me lose my inhibitions'

'Peaceful, introspective session, broadened my perception and allowed me to trust what was unfolding'

'Getting out of the house, performing and drawing, felt worth something'

'I feel relaxed'

I feel excited and energised.

For more photos of these workshops visit Manchester Art Gallery's Flickr album




Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Making the Invisible, Visible


One of the things I am enjoying most about 'Drawing as Experience' (my Arts Council England funded Research and Development project) is the time it affords me to become immersed in the work of others. I have met with local artists Daksha Patel, Lesley HalliwellSimon Woolham and Gemma Lacey who all share a passion for drawing, spent hours in Tate Modern lost in Georgia O keefe's life's work, read up on the Victorian Spiritualist world of Georgiana Houghton, watched Len Lye's and William Kentridge's films of drawings in motion and much more.

The Eye of The Lord Georgiana Houghton 1870

 Making the invisible, visible.

In Peter Lanyon's painting 'Thermal', 1960 he paints air rising and transforming as he cuts through it, flying in a glider. Georgia O Keefe's emotions are embodied in the abstracted bones, desert and mountains she painted. Maria Lassnig's experience of existing inside the human body is laid bare in her paintings, particularly those made towards the end of her life. Spiritualist and artist Georgiana Houghton is perhaps the most extreme example of bringing the invisible to our attention (and visually the closest to drawings I have made in response to music that I have ever encountered) Her drawings are a direct result of her communications with the dead, who she believed directed her drawings. Her work (made in the 1860's and 70's) has been compared to the later developments of abstraction, automatic writing, outsider art and surrealism.

Spiritualism, solitude, illness, adrenaline, music... Though their routes may differ for me these artists share the same destination - they each attempt to capture in their work something we can not see, or touch but that is still familiar and known to us all, the physical sensations, emotions, memories, dreams and sense of 'other' (be it spirituality or the power of nature) that make up our existence. Though difficult things to make visible, for many of these artists, including myself, there is a real urgency to try.

Phyllida Barlow from the exhibition RIG 2011

Drawing methods.

I think of sculpture when I am drawing, Anselm Kiefer and Phyllida Barlow are two recent influences; weight, scale, space, density, tactility, movement, things bound or released, balanced and dropped. The sensations and emotions I am trying to describe in my drawings often feel sculptural to me, what keeps me 'on the page', for now at least, is a strong desire for the immediacy of the mark.
 
Recent shows by Jenny Saville and Frank Auerbach have inspired me. Canvas or paper, paint or charcoal and rubber their surfaces are like skins that become lived in. London streets for Auerbach and shifting collections of reclining bodies for Saville, are (on the same surface) drawn, re drawn, rubbed or scraped away, choices are made about what is important enough to stay, risks are constantly taken, it could all be destroyed. Exposing, we have seen what went on before, we see what was finally left behind. Wether in front of an audience or behind closed doors, this is performative work, the action is integral to the story.

Artist Mothers.

Mary kelly and Lenka Clayton. I wonder does it become easier to 'do both' if motherhood becomes your subject as it did for them, do you feel any less divided? Is my own work an affirmation of who I am beyond being a mother, a selfish act (in a positive sense), a form of escapism even? I know that although being a mother permeates almost all of my experiences, it remains stood at the edges of my work. What I don't know is why, or whether it should take a step forward.

Eagle Claw and Black Bean Necklace, Georgia O keefe, 1934