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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

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