Birds have felt important recently. Given that my blog is ‘art in a birdcage’, largely in reference to feeling exposed and simultaneously responsible, and therefore this impacting on the work I want to create. The title also seemed relevant in terms of my gender and being termed a ‘bird’ informally. The cage symbolic of everything that this entails: gender labels, inequality, notions of what represents the male and female ‘roles’ attributed by society and affecting my identity as a single parent, and in general. Recently I went to a dance filming course with Simeon Qsyea and his dance group were called ‘Bird Gang’. I therefore did a large number of drawings of the Bird Gang dancers (see below). This, for me, enabled me to get back in touch with very immediate drawings. I was drawing in public yet unapologetically allowing myself to feel my way around the sketches, following the movement of the dancers, refusing to be interrupted by any thoughts of ‘exposure’. Working mindfully I have been replacing old anxieties about value judgement and how I should appear as an art educator, with newer feelings of needing to grow as an artist and learn by ‘unlearning’ parts of my practice. I am finally recognising the illogical boundaries I placed on my work. I am acknowledging that whilst I have benefited from the action of making and creating, I have limited myself in terms of my openness to drawing and painting in a much more instinctive way: losing the literal, being less self conscious of mark, feeling the energy and pleasure of simply holding a pen in a different way, or closing my eyes and feeling my way around the drawing: giving value to the outcome not merely as an interesting exploration, but in terms of the beauty of the unrefined, the challenging, the less contrived. I am working hard to avoid relinquishing control to a set of rules that never needed to be part of the work.
In March my sister gave me this silver charm. It features a bird, in a cage. The door opens. I am well aware of the symbolism, and am emotional about the significance of this. Change sometimes happens when we do not expect it. I remember a conversation with Caroline Wright before starting the MA in which she told me about the method of working through the Masters course in which we might feel the first year being more about taking our practice apart, picking up the pieces and reviewing them. She went on to say that the second year should feature more of a building up of practice again, with reflection of what has been understood in Year 1. I remember nodding and feeling a little apprehensive about the ‘breaking down’ parts of this. But when something happens organically, through exploration and opening oneself up to an experience, it is overwhelming. I have been moved literally to tears whilst painting over the last few months. I have acknowledged emotions and thoughts that I usually suppress, have accepted them and allowed myself to go through grief in having lost a partner some years ago. I did not expect this to be part of my MA course, but in exploring healing and art I have been mindful of my own emotional heritage and psychological well being; as well as dealing with my own metaphorical bird cage – that which I create daily and have built around me. Aware that this is not a diary, I will end thus: that there is freedom and birdsong and opportunity, and I am smiling.
Birdcage charm above. Bird Gang Dance drawings below.