Taking My Face Off….

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For the last few months I have been saving the face wipes I use to remove make up at the end of each day. Some may consider this to be the epitomy of the artist who is physically unable to throw anything away; that there is a good chance I am also saving hair from my brush and skin cells lodged in the fluff that collects in the tumble dryer filter! In fact, there has been plenty of method and theory in my ‘collection’.

The piece may become a functional sheet (bedsheet, tablecloth, towel) symbolic of a struggle with identity. This is lodged somewhere between the pressures of achieving in all areas of life with some degree of perfection: as an employee, a mother, a domestic goddess, cook, hostess, friend, academically aspirational yet appropriately maternal. Women are surrounded by trillion dollar beauty and fitness industries who have sales tactics that are essentially designed to make us feel bad about ourselves. I am exploring this in numerous ways, and why, as educated women we allow ourselves to buy into it. Stitching and then painting used face wipes is just one direction. It explores a superficiality and a sense of waste (wasted time, wasted product, wasted ‘performance’, wasted anxiety). As I am stitching into these pieces of fabric I am aware of the smell of chemicals used to make me feel ‘clean’. Stitching these together feels bizarrely medical. I recognise how much I have been manipulated by a system in which I turned from a child into a woman and adopted beliefs about myself that were fiction.

The painting of this particular ‘canvas’ will link to my current paintings, though less abstract. Painting in a similar style to Marlene Dumas and Lorraine Bohonos loose watercolours (below) feels appropriate. Gestural and transient.

L – Lorraine Bohonos  R – Marlene Dumas  (both images – google)

 

Watch this space….

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Painting it Out

This is living.

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This is where I paint. This is where I run out of space. This is breathing it in. And it is where I am ….. where I AM.

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There and Here. Oil on canvas. 30 x 40cm

 

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My Love. My Tears.  Oil on canvas. 30 x 40 cm

 

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Lighten Up. Oil on canvas  30 x 40cm

 

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Our Dreams Are Not So Different.  Oil on canvas. 30 x 40cm

 

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Here and Now. Oil on canvas. 30 x 30cm

 

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The Marks You Left. Oil on canvas. 30 x 40cm

Test Your Boundaries – 2

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Due to work commitments, I missed Les Bicknell’s lecture about exhibiting, but was lucky enough to be able to see Alison’s great notes, and to read the slides from his lecture. The essence of which is that there is SO MUCH to think about; and clearly so much to decide in terms of where we position ourselves both as artists in general, and within this specific testing-your-boundaries task.

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This is not necessarily easy to follow. I initially started by drawing flow diagrams illustrating the concept of where I am in relationship to other elements of making art. It was easy to assume that I am the starting point (where the idea is initiated), the object is the product created and this is then presented to the audience. Then I began to think about my current plans which involve a more interactive, performance style of work and asked a lot of additional questions. There are many more things to consider than questions answered, although I am pleased to have made some decisions in regard to what I absolutely WANT and DO NOT WANT. For example, it feels less important to me at this stage to consider exposure or fame as a ‘perception of success‘, when the ideas I am working with involve collaboration with small groups creating live performance: focusing on the experience of being involved in Art, rather than creating a product to be owned. Ultimately other parts of my practice are deeply embedded in a culture of ownership and the privileged position of those who can afford luxury items such as original paintings. But this TYB unit is not. It is different: it has to be and it is important that I use it as an opportunity to see how far I can push myself out of my comfort zone.

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I watched this interview with Jessica Morgan and Jens Hoffman talking about Curating and it helped me to think about some of the issues surrounding the decision process in terms of how one presents their work – if they do so with any sense of control (e.g artist led/open studios etc). Notions of legacy, permanency, value judgement, identity, the ‘vocabulary of a collection’, and what needs are met by an exhibition: all of these are currently invading my thoughts and causing me to gaze pensively out of the window with a thousand different possibilities running through my mind.

In this moment I realize that if the opportunities are almost endless, and my perception of success is not rooted in fame, or associated with excessive value: I must be one of the luckiest artists ever to have lived. I mean, that is the reality. It’s a pretty epic one too.

Abstracts – Emotional Painting

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Over the last few months, and particularly the last few weeks, I have been thinking a great deal about Mindfulness and exploring this in my work – thinking about the therapeutic nature of art and reading about how this works. This, for me, is about exploring the nature of whether truth is inherently abstract in painting, and, if so, whether this is remotely relevant in relation to the benefit of painting to the artist. In order to do this I have had to allow myself (give myself permission?) to focus on instinctive movement of paint, selection of colour and to remove any necessity for visual clues or indications to suggest subject. The work in this post is all completed during the last month, on relatively small scale (approx 30 x 30cm to 30 x 50cm).

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Wherever You Dream

Another painting which I worked on during my time with Crisis. I felt a real connection to some of the guests as I chatted with them. The volunteering is ideally about giving hope, care and support to those receiving it. Yet I felt as ‘supported’ in my work as I have ever felt. The emotion of working in this voluntary role brought many emotions to the surface. Wherever You Dream specifically came back to the idea that we are all human and we all dream. My sadness about the inequalities in the world is brought through in this work which appears to have a ‘gated’ element. Again, this is something I noticed as an afterthought and was not intentional in the slightest. Although lighter, the purples and blues reminded me of Oscar Kokoschka’s The Bride of the Wind.

 

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Treading Water

More ‘bruised’ colours and some indication of movement, flow, spin, entrapment, perhaps even a struggle to breath. All assessed after the experience of painting this, whilst during the process I was attempting to be led organically and instinctively around the canvas.

 

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Keeping the Blue Fires Burning

This painting was directly as a result of feeling emotional about my work with Crisis. Although there are pinks and bright colours in it, I felt an overwhelming emotional ‘bruising’ combined with a sense of hope for the future. I did not intend there to be any suggestion of actual fire, but felt that when it was concluded this was an appropriate title.

 

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Our Dreams Are Not So Different

The title probably explains this painting and my thought process. I am really moved by the colours, and determined to photograph a painting by my father which this now reminds me of. Perhaps it was bringing memories to the surface as I moved paint around and thought about being ‘truthful’ and instinctive.

My palette has been very similar for these works but it is one which I have been enjoying working with and it has been appropriate for what I felt I needed to use. By exploring colour without subject matter or reference to shape/form I have been considering the likelihood of this being of more value to me in terms of the therapeutic nature of it. There is less concern over accuracy or formal qualities and this is therefore more liberating and allows for greater ‘flow’. Additionally, it may be more about speed and the idea that a work does not need to be returned to many times, as it represents fully what was experienced at that moment. Whether this translates in any way to other people is yet to be realised. The additional consideration is that if the main benefit of the work is in the therapeutic nature of creating it, does it even matter if other people like it? Much to think about….

 

Crisis Art

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The gallery in Crisis’ Winters Rough Sleepers Centre above illustrates the work of a specific community. Those taken into this accommodation over Christmas week were the rough sleepers who did not have any alternatives and would have spent the week on the streets were it not for the work of Crisis – the UKs leading charity for single, homeless adults. It was a great privilege to volunteer this year as an Art Activity Leader. The men and women who worked at the art table came from a wide range of backgrounds, and had completely different expectations from their time being creative. Some clearly wanted escapism and were drawn to the art table all day, every day – one in particular had art training and it was very familiar to him. Others came infrequently and enjoyed the companionship of those at the table. Lots were drawn in when I offered to cast their hands. This became a highlight of the week for me: largely because it is such a physical activity: it requires touch and is reliant on a degree of trust.  In addition to this it is about ‘becoming’ Art: there is the implication that the model is, in their existence alone, worthy of being regarded Art; worth capturing and admiring. Eight men agreed to let me cast their hand and they chatted whilst I made a mould of their hand. Some felt they could open up to me and talk about their frustrations. Others expressed that their week at Crisis was about ‘forgetting about everything else’ so they were more interested in asking questions and finding out about why I like Art. The casts were made within the day much to the delight of the models.

I recognised two conflicting emotions battling it out during this experience. One, that I felt ‘at home’ and that I could easily spend my free time working in such a capacity: facilitating (as I do in my everyday career). There is a peacefulness and shared experience in this which I find genuinely therapeutic: I am needed, I am helpful, I am giving. Then I remember the tutorial I had in which I agreed that I needed to lose the moral responsibility and I wonder whether I am still entrapped? I thrashed this out as I took the tube across London to my Crisis shifts, reading about Art and Mindfulness, and struggling over whether I was going backwards instead of forwards. Yet, without this experience I would not have come home to my canvasses, full of emotion, full of hope and sadness, brimming with tears and longing to do more, furious at a system which lets the most vulnerable down so much, tortured by the life they will return to and the experiences they have been through, in love with the pleasure of connecting with these homeless men and women, touched by their generosity. As I sat on the floor in my studio with music playing and canvas before me, I was probably never more able to bring those emotions to the surface through paint. I feel that the gentle, funny, talented, happy, brilliant homeless people I connected with during my shifts, as well as the generosity and humour of the volunteers, gave more to my practice than I ever gave them.