Two books and a spiral slide

The summer has been about nurturing….. and potentiality (I like that word!).

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Painting at the kitchen table

This involved only a small amount of ‘making’, but a very decent amount of collaborative sketching, reading, laughing, tea-making and exposing myself to the increasingly absorbing world of social media. I am not only blogging, but tweeting, sharing on Instagram and I have reinvented my website: essentially cutting out of my family art website everyone but myself. There is little honour in this, but I have been reliably informed that each other interested party would ideally like to design their own web spaces in any case.

So, highlights of the summer included time spent with my incredibly brave – and currently ill – friend Sarah, being jolted out of my bubble of comfort by Carsten Holler installions at the Hayward (dark tunnels to get into the gallery and a long spiral slide to get out again), writing to hospitals to find out about their arts policies and whether I can get involved, and reading some excellent books such as Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work and Ossian Ward‘s Ways of Looking.

Entertained, as ever, by the idea that somewhere in this ridiculously busy life I am living, I should even manage to find the time to MAKE work, nevermind SHOW it, Kleon’s simple (ten) strategies  include: Share something small every day, open up your cabinet of curiosities and …stick around. So I am working on this, sharing frequently, moving into this digital shop front and making it my own. Yet to be reduced to purchasing ‘likes’ or promoting myself on goggle, I assume that accumulating interest daily is significant enough.

Holler’s spiral slide is described wonderfully by Ossian Ward:

“[..] it’s hard not to feel like a test subject myself, doing the artist’s behavioural bidding, like a caged rat in some sinister sociological laboratory […] despite my initial fears and misgivings about his cod-scientific motives, and with the added benefit of hindsight, there’s no doubt that Test Site was hugely entertaining, in a physical, visceral and nerve-jangling way that had little to do with the usual museum-going experience, which is so often confined to merely visual and cerebral enjoyment.”

My take on it was similarly sceptical. I did not think that this was much more than a publicity stunt, and the queue of people wanting to get into the exhibition did suggest that the slide was a serious ‘attraction’. But as I whizzed down the polished metal tube, staring up at a whirling view of Southbank sky, I felt exhilarated, weightless, flying; it was almost like being invited to experience being a child again, and it was worth every second of grown up angst. My son came down after me, laughing the entire way. We both left the experience with enormous smiles on our faces and my boy said “That’s the best exhibition I’ve ever been to!”. Having collected some placebo pills, stared at the world upside down, walked along dark winding corridors and descended to the exit at high speed, I can understand why he felt this way. We were engaged, moved, scared, left anticipating what would be next. We were part of the experiment, a living part of the art works. We discussed them all the way home: which had been our favourite, what we could create which would have been suitable in the same exhibition, how we could ever describe the feeling of Holler’s slide…

Moved and motivated by these experiences I have been reading more and engaging with artists such as Celia Pym. Pym’s art work is often focused on the theme of mending. In contrasting wool or thread she will ‘mend’ pieces of fabric; exploring the relationship between the item and the significance of fixing it. The ‘mend’ is plainly visible; a feature, beautiful and raw. Pym followed the natural path in terms of her interest in mending, by training to become a nurse. The philosophical resonances in terms of her art work were realised in a profound and moving way; and the theory of ‘mending’ put centre stage. If the artist can do this in their practice, perhaps the practice ought to be redirected and the benefits be more actual and physical? There is so much to consider in Pym’s work.

Celia Pym

Norwegian Sweater – Celia Pym

And there I come full circle. From the lino cutting and sketching with my dear friend Sarah, to my admiration for the work of Celia Pym. I am fascinated by the role art plays in meditative and philosophical healing. The notion of being able to ‘mend’ a thing, or a person, is at the heart of much of what I do – primarily because the act of making is healing…… for me. It is often what I describe as my therapy, and as is the case with most of the artists I know, a place of profound comfort, enjoyment and fulfilment (even if this is tinged with frustrations). In Year 2 of my Masters I am hoping to explore the research to suggest that this is quantifiable, and to work in places of ‘healing’.

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