In Saving Grace, 2013, Found book page with hand embroidery
My recent descent into deep collage work was precipitated by a meeting. I love diving headlong into a quarry of ideas. A mire of magical art-making and what better way to glean ideas than from conversations, adventures, books. The sheer questioning of 'things'; the world around us; ourselves and our own emotions and experiences. There are many tales to be told and forages into the unknown to be had. This juncture I find extremely interesting. Maybe in another life I may have been a scientist, but I know that my art fundamentally takes me into the science of being human - what that means for me personally at least. An understanding of how I got here and what makes me continue on forwards and how I can shape and bend that very existence - if at all.
As a result I went deep inside and began to pinpoint why I made some of the things I do. I talk about narratives and questioning, exploiting icons and well-known imagery to my own ends, and a desire to cut and reassemble in a bid to re-create a new narrative, and this is true, however, there is more. It's a sense of erasure I have felt in my life. A sense of not fitting in with the images I see of what supposedly represents me and my sex, or experience as a female, as a woman, maybe even as a girl - but when I was a girl I was learning from the world around me with the messages it had.
And so in a recent email I wrote to a friend about a new possible project, it's a sense of not being there, of my life and my experiences not really being represented anywhere in a healthy or forward-thinking way possibly. The images I see do not correspond with my own life experiences. Models in magazines have to erase their own identity in order to be an object that advertises something. At art school the majority of images of women in the canons of western art are objectified nude and naked muses - I am not that either, and so I searched for the female artists who shared their own stories from their own perspectives and I became enthralled. And somehow, in my own domestic life when I became a mother, I felt a sense of invisibility and identity erasure. I was obliged to be at home, as without childcare I was limited by time and places I could visit. I had to give to another in order for their own survival, with that sense of self-sacrifice feeling all-consuming at times. Where is the place where 'I' exist? Does it matter? Who am I? And what is the purpose of my existence? Maybe that's a little deep. But many times things stirred in me that simply did not 'feel' right and that was the only compass I had (my feelings), that and the desire to make. Make art. There something was found, and things felt more right. Maybe personal to me. Art is a way of describing, and making sense and order of things too. And maybe I've quoted it before, but here it is again from artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres:
“Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that's why I made works of art. ”
And so with ideas in arm, passion in heart, and many new sources of inspiration I have ventured forth exploring a sense of erasure. I found this excellent essay by Richard Galpin: Erasure in Art (see his website here). I am also taken by the idea of forming a relationship with my materials at the moment; of diving in to the elements of physical intelligence which has been highlighted by some other nuggets I have found:
"The hand has its dreams, too, and it's own hypotheses. It helps us to come to know matter in its secret, inward parts." Gaston Bachelard
"In creative exploration the actions of the hand, eye and mind fuse into a singular process." - Juhani Pallasmaa
"The hand - source of action and instrument of creativity - is the vehicle that transforms the ineffable, invisible abstractions of thought into objects of tangible, material reality to be held, admired, contemplated, narrated and performed." Mary Nooter Roberts
Each taken from The Paradoxical Object (of which I will write more about soon).
I have had the greatest of fortunes to undertake a visit to this man's studio: Frank Bowling. Such a privilege to speak with him, to hear his stories and a mind inflected with gold sharing years of experience. Of elder wisdom. Of hearing him tell me that "no good art is made with bad intentions". I like this. I love this. I love anything that makes me think a little more deeply than the surface. Each day I am finding a little more strength to burn the flame that is me, not hide under a bushel of others expectations of how I should be, or what I should do and say (read: my own self-imposed thoughts no doubt!)
And so it is onward that I proceed. I am a little fearful of the 'me' - who wants to know or hear? And yet I know that the personal can be the universal or even political ;) I wish I had made it to this event. I wish I'd heard more stories from female elders that at times would have helped me on my own journey.
For some reason (which I can't always explain) there is a desire to explore and process, and through that I might discover something new, or at least have more questions to mull over whilst I am alive and here on planet earth; recording my existence and making sense of the world.
PS. I continue to be enthralled by the writings and sharings of this man too.