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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sara's Forest


Detail of 'Sara's Forest' click here for the full drawing.

The Drawing 'Sara's Forest' happened by accident.

This is not unusual, I never know at the start of a drawing what will emerge. As I draw I attempt to harness different emotional states and sensations - these are the things that drive each mark. First I create an environment that provokes these states, either by filling the room with live music, or drawing alone in my studio, in silence. In both instances there is an intense internal battle and an odd set of rules I have given myself in order to stay focused, listen, and allow the drawing to unfold.

Each is a conversation between mind and mark, as I balance letting go and watching the line make it's way, with pulling forms, or a certain atmosphere into being. Created in this unpredictable way, the resulting drawings vary from an explosion of marks hovering on the surface of an enormous piece of paper, defiantly abstract, to smaller almost landscapes, that hint at the real, like half remembered dreams.

Thoughts inevitably invade as I am drawing, when it is just the 'noise' such as worries, TV I have watched, plans for tomorrow, I try to bat these away. This is all surface and I want to excavate further. Things come out in the drawings and it is only afterwards I realise their importance. 'Sara's Forest' grew out of a thought, a sensation really that I can only describe as an imagined sound, combined with a sharp fleeting ache for something.

Sara Davis is an artist and my neighbour; gradually we have got to know each other through snatches of conversation, while our sons play around us. Sara's work explores the Scandinavian migrant experience in the North West of England using photography, installation, performance, writing and time based imagery. Through an evocative piece of writing on Sara's blog I learned of 'Kulning' a way of making sounds 'situated somewhere between singing, calling and crying'. These sounds were made by herds women as far back as the middle ages, deep in the forests of Sweden as a way of calling their herd, warning off predators and communicating with other herds women in the forest.

Detail of 'Sara's Forest' click here for the full drawing

After reading Sara's blog I had a reoccurring desire to know what that sound was like, I tried to imagine it for weeks.

I am still unsure as to exactly why the imagining of that sound stayed with me so much. Perhaps it is to do with the thoughts Sara's work has raised in me generally, which include my idea of home, of distance, of longing for something that may not exist anymore, or have ever done. It is difficult to ignore that my parents home of 35 years is being demolished as I write this. I have also become a mother recently (something Sara has witnessed me growing accustomed to over the past year) which seems to have solidified my position here, living in Manchester, as opposed to where my family are, in Portsmouth. It feels strange to plant such deep roots, even after being here for most of my adult life.

Could it be about valuing Sara's friendship? Do I imagine it is us, and other women, calling to one another from our insular posts across the forest? Or simply the tantalising idea of one sound that can be 'singing, calling and crying' words that can mean so many different things, distress, joy, function, something primal.

And so with these thoughts seemingly beneath the surface, I drew one day. And the drawing that emerged surprised me by being quite representational. It looked like the beginning of a story.

'Kulning' doesn't happen anymore, not in it's original context anyway, it is a part of history revived on CD or by people keeping traditions alive at festivals. To me it will remain magical; never to be known in it's original form. And yet from the forest Sara drove through, to Manchester and her work, to me and out into my drawing, it emerges.

Sara came and saw the drawing 'Sara's Forest' and asked me to write this post, as she was interested in the journey her work had taken through to my own. She also bought a CD of 'Kulning' for me to hear for the first time. It was a poignant moment, the sound of 'Kulning' is powerful, from the deep, from the past, it is animal and it is us. Thinking of it still makes me ache for something I have never known, but will continue to draw.

Next, inevitably, I will fill my studio with the sound of 'Kulning', draw and see what comes. To be continued...

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