Traces

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I ordered tattoo pens some time ago and have been looking forward to working with them. Developing the marks on skin and making them semi-permanent and then looking at them fading. As the owner of actual tattoos I am aware of the fading over time and felt that this would present a way of achieving this artificially, whilst simultaneously leaving traces. It is the traces that interest me. The lack of control over which elements last longer than others, or stay visually coherent. I am fascinated by working on my own body as I feel that this is somehow most relevant to me at this stage in my work. I also make a decent canvas with plenty-of-surface area! Others have volunteered to allow me to draw on them and I may take them up on this, but initially this voyage of discovery is about me, about traces, exploring subtle layers as I work on top of previous designs.

In Suzette Clough’s ‘Visual Medicine’ she writes about ‘palimpsest’:

Palimpsest is the term given to a medieval parchment or vellum that has been written on, then carefully washed so that it can be reused for the writing of another manuscript. The new text is written over the old text and, over time, the original underneath shows itself, sometimes centuries later, through what has been written over the top. Visually and physically, palimpsest describes the delicate interweaving of words, old and new and something beyond both that is created from this unconscious union.

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Initial layer of sketches on my legs. The imagery is now faded and only subtly visible. I will work over it and continue to record.

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I also drew some patterns on my hand, mindful of henna and Indian skin designs. My son commented that this was what his friends did when they were bored in class, and I realised that this is very true. My marks were very basic and simplistic and there was little thought in terms of the design. I was quite literally free drawing over the top of my hand. I decided to ‘sleep on it’ meaning this non literally but rather hoping that I could complete the design the next day. However, it appeared the next morning that I had LITERALLY slept on it, and that my face had found comfort balanced on my hand through the night, resulting in a delightfully decorative beard for me. It seems there is much more to explore with these pens! These ‘traces’ and unintentional markings and impressions are the areas that interest me the most. I will also give my pens to other people. I think it is right that I should be a canvas as it literally takes the control away from me. I can react but am not choreographing all elements of the process. As I work in collaboration with other artists I realise that it is in these connections that we as individuals find real growth, challenge and inspiration.

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