In response….

Fibresofbeing left a thought-provoking comment on my last post and I wanted to consider this further.

I have been reading (well I’ve read the  first two pages and leapt straight into practical application) Connie Smith Siegel’s book, ‘Spirit of Drawing: A sensory meditation guide to creative expression’. In the first paragraph she quotes the painter Milton Avery, ‘Why talk when you can paint?’ – for me I read this as ‘Why think in words when you could think with your body’ – this was enough to get me started. Mix this reading in with the research I’ve been doing on Louise Bourgeois and the bond between her art and psychoanalysis and my own work on ‘project me’ and the result is, ‘What happens if I draw what I feel rather than what I see?’

Initial results from yesterday’s portfolio prove quite striking. With internet problems I’ve been limited to words I can write, having to grab moments in car parks and queues to upload photos in any locality that I stumble upon that has 4G. At home my speeds are down to about one picture an hour!! This has been frustrating, but after Judy’s comment, actually quite helpful because I can’t say everything – my work has to speak for itself! In response I’ve had to type in word then copy and paste then trust to the ether-gods for publication! Quite a long-winded process. Nevertheless…

I am not a meditative person by nature. I think on everything, ponder everything, overthink everything, but I cannot sit still and quieten my thoughts. For me this is only possible once I have walked 5+ miles and the general wittering in my brain quietens down – so ‘a sensory meditation guide to creative expression’ might seem an anathema. However, part of my own work, restoring ‘me’, whoever that might be, has been to stop retreating into my head. Cerebral work had been my refuge. My brain has monopolised the show for many many years. I have dragged my poor body through all sorts of atrocities expecting it to look to itself and just get on with it. My body and I have lived separate lives. Apparently I show hurt somatically, for whatever that might mean, but I have become able to ignore that. Here with drawing is my chance to experiment with by-passing the world of words, sneaking behind the all-seeing-eye of my brain and get to the heart of what I am feeling without over-analysing it.

Hmm.

I figured, if I gave my brain the idea that it was witness to an experiment and had to notice and record what was going on but not interfere I might trick it into taking a back seat. All I asked it to do was, ‘Think…what does wrapping feel like?’ After that I wanted just to let my hand and whole body (due to the size of the sketches – and for one I lay down and sketched around my prone body) move. I had not even considered the notion of energy as I knew that my brain would then wrestle with this concept. I put on very very loud dance music to try and drown out any pervasive thoughts and set to.

I am stunned by what Judy has read into the drawings. Is that because she is intuitive? Is it because, as an artist, she can read marks? Is it because she has a sense of me having been a loyal reader and supporter since I started with OCA this time last year? I don’t know. Do I need to answer these questions? Does it matter? What matters, on contemplation, is that what I have offered in sketch has spoken.

This is a defining moment for me.

I wanted to give Judy’s comment some considerable thought because my first reaction was excitement – oh my what I wrote in painting has been read! How I felt spoke through line! Initially I wanted to say: ‘yes’ you’ve got it right. You’re spot on. Clever you! (Which I still think Judy). But then I thought, what if someone read it differently would that make them ‘wrong’? Would it make my lines ‘wrong’? Would my marks have been failed signs? Would it matter?

Yes, I felt indignation and anger at first at wrapping – it brought up real fight against the constraining, imprisoning, restrictive understanding of the term. I wanted to escape and wrestled against the binds that hold. Then I lay down and scribbled that irritation around my form.

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Standing up and looking back at this I realised that this anger had made my shape. This anger was defining me.

 What an awful thing!

 I didn’t think I was angry. I didn’t think I was angry at what had happened to me because we had escaped. I have felt, in darker moments, that I had failed to provide for my children – provide them with a normal home and a normal start in life, gutted that I had failed to choose a kind and loving first-dad for them. I didn’t think I was angry. I thought I was free.

Gulp.

Looking at all that black anger and frustration in the black sketch I saw there was a blank space where my heart should be.

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So I painted it in – the red circle. Painted with sweeps so it felt like it pierced and projected.

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Aside – why are things circular/spherical in space? Why are planets this shape? What does space do to round off rocks and gas?

Then, I looked at it and saw what looked like Japanese kanji. So I enlarged this section – what were the lines saying? What did that ‘kanji’ stand for?

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I know it stood for wrapping, but now it had transformed into something else, heavy with meaning. What would people read of this sign? Did I need to entitle it ‘wrapping’?

This circular form recalled the wrapped bottle, layered with tulip leaves. Changing the direction of the line changed my direction of thought and feeling. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be outlined by hurt and fear. I want to be filled from the inside out, not the other way. There has to be something precious left in the core of me. Some little wisp that can be fanned back into life.

Sketching on, this time the wrapping took on a more life-giving than life-taking resemblance. I suppose the first place you are wrapped is in the womb isn’t it? When I was expecting my youngest I knew she was safe inside me, no matter what. The fear was what happened to us after- when we became two and separate. How do you keep safe 3 babies when you have 2 arms? By enfolding them, wrapping them, giving them everything you can to nurture their souls and spirits. Helping them tap into the fact that no matter what happens no-one can take away that beautiful sunset you’ve seen, no-one can damage that tree that reached up into the sky that is now safe in your head, no-one can destroy the butterfly that is now wrapped in your memory. Wrapping can keep safe.

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From there it was natural to start sketching the process of crumpling where surfaces wrap over each other whilst still being one.

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Does it matter if my audience knows all this? Do I have to explain it if my marks spoke? Does it matter if it says something different to someone else?

No, I don’t think it does.

Like poetry, images start personal and then become universal in message. Once the poem has gone off out into the world it will find its own home in the hearts of strangers who do not need the poet’s explanation. If my feeling drawing can serve this aim and someone somewhere finds meaning that transforms that moment of looking from seeing to sensing, well… then I am…

-speechless-

not voiceless!

Unspoken yet heard.

This is all I ever wanted.

T1 : MMT; Pt2; Pj2 : drawing folio

I have been reading about expressive drawing and so wanted to use my drawings of the samples to show how they felt to make, how wrapping makes my body feel, the energy that is put into and comes out of chosen samples.

I elected to start large using up the last of my lining paper roll and work towards smaller, rather than starting small and work larger. After the life size scale of the first drawings every other size felt restrictive and limited. Curious since most of the samples themselves are hand sized! I chose to work with inks and watercolour for the pigment saturation. I used a large household painting brush and a fine nylon flat brush.

This exercise was far more powerful than drawing what I see. Drawing what I felt was far more intuitive and free yet I feel retains features of the original sample.

I worked in series taking interesting elements from one work into the next then magnifying and exploring these further. The colours chosen were intuitive except for the yellow and pink sketch where I tried to pick out features from the original sample.

Sketches in chronological order with starting point sample.

Chosen sketches to take forward:

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T1:MMT; Pt2; Pj2 : Ex 3 iv

Last sample for ex 3,  and project 2 and thus part 2.

Developed and concentrated in symbolism and meaning.

Updated with words 10.4.16

So, here we are, one year old on wordpress which indicates one year old with OCA!

I started writing the most wounding of insults that won’t leave me on a scrap of paper in pencil, winding their way out from a centre point. This words still hurt no matter how much I try and dismiss them. This made me think of grit and pearls. Without the grit the oyster would have no need to make pearls. the pearl is not the oyster, neither is the grit. It is in trying to smooth the hurt from the grit, the irritation, layer after layer, that the pearl is formed. Here the oyster is wrapping the irritation and thus transforming it into something of value and wonder. What if I were to do this to the insults?

I scrunched them up into a ball, found two oyster shells (not a pair – don’t know whether this makes any difference, but I’m sure given a moment I could read something into this). The first layer of smoothing was some alpaca fleece. This was left over from a project that I devised shortly after I became a single parent. It represents the first night I spent away from my children, the first night we were safe enough for us to be separate. I can tell you I didn’t sleep well, but it was a step that had to be taken – also alpaca fleece contains no known allergens and is lofty and warm and just feels divine. I think this was suri alpaca if my memory serves me correctly.

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The next layer was tulle to veil the irritation, the insults then a bandage to start the healing process. This whole nugget was wrapped in some gorgeous thread Sheena had sent me – wrapped in the kindness of others. I am learning this.

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I then started to tear up some small tiles of paper and glued them in strings intending to wrap the whole in covering recalling how houses are topped with tiles to keep the weather out and the warmth in. (In the picture below you can see another sample drying – the orange grassed egg!)

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Next steps were to enclose the Joan Didion quote and shell package in a layer of stretch lace trimming. I liked the contrast of the lace filled edge with the frilled edge of the oyster shell layers. I let the ends of the thread stick out – somewhat like antenna or antlers – calling to mind earlier research and the work of Margarita Sampson, and to whom I must thank and praise Inger for finding and sharing with me. I was particularly referencing her work ‘The Grove’ with its tiling, sanctuary and Steiner-esque psychic antlers.

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The last layer was crocheted. A little net bag out of pure silk. Net wraps and catches us – but sometimes we need to be caught before we fall. Silk is antibacterial, anti-fungal and healing. It is also stronger than steel. furthermore, silk would have originally cocooned a silkworm so that is could undergo metamorphosis. Imagine if the  silk net could do this to the hurtful words at the heart of this. The letters would grow wings and fly away, or the whole would be transformed into something beautiful.

Imagine hard enough and I believe it to be true.

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T1:MMT; Pt2; Pj2 : Ex 3 iii

Another sample for ex 3.

Not a keeper. I wrapped the mudroc sample from project 1 using several green yarns held together and a double crochet binding stitch. Whilst crochet is a go to for calm for me, this sample seems lifeless and contrived. It just shows how dc can wrap a form that’s it. Nothing more. And thereby ceases to interest me.

Ex 3 Sample 5

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T1: MMT: Pt2; Pj2: Ex 3 ii

Photo gallery for next sample. Many many words to come. Updated 10.4.16

First steps:

I was wondering what the core of me would be. All I could think of was a grain of rice. So, I found a grain of rice. Not yet cooked – I wrapped it in clay. It felt right. There are many obvious symbols of clay. You can take from it what you will.

Julie has been working inspirationally with vessels in her work. They are powerful symbols and stunning pieces of art. I’ve been admiring from the sidelines and wondered… what vessel would I would need for this grain. I was thinking of how rice is used, as well as my sense of invisibility and translucence. I thought of Chinese rice grain porcelain as a decorative method that produces translucence. It is still very difficult to mechanically produce this tableware and trained artisans are still valued. I liked these images. Some more clay to wrap protectively around the glassware. This ten felt like a flower, so I had some tulips fading after Easter, their petals shedding. These formed the next layer.

It all looked a bit cheesy at this point and I was about to abandon the piece and start on something less considered. Since I felt it was finished with as a sample I stopped being precious with it and threw caution to the wind.

Next steps:

I took some green embroidery thread as I felt it made the colours in the petals sing and held springtime. I used this to wrap the petals around the bottle. It was only as I looked at the base of the piece did I finally find something that pleased me. I liked the layering and criss-crossing of the thread. I loved how the colours overlapped and everything that had gone before was hidden and secret. My tutor and I had talked about how not everything has to be revealed. Discussing her own work Lizzy said that things just revealed, or hinted at can be as powerful. All the layers below can be known to you the artist but do not have to be shared with the audience. It is enough to know they are there. For the purpose of the course it is necessary to document the steps taken, but not for the purpose of the piece. Looking at the base of this sample I understood what she was saying. No-one needs to know there is a grain of rice hidden inside a pea of clay, or a glass bottle. One only needs to know something precious is hidden inside. In the same way that a seed germinates, if yous tripped the layers to see the inside of it, then it would be killed and unable to grow into a plant. Some things have to be left alone and trusted to reside inside. That potential for new life and growth can only be nurtured by the right conditions, it cannot be cut apart and examined – to do so would be to kill it. Do we always put ourselves in the right conditions for our potential to grow?

 

This sample then seemed so precious I wanted to keep it safe from harm and bandaged it in some tubular finger bandage. I liked the idea of wrapping from a tube rather than enfolding – it had a different quality – a bit like the way you dress a newborn child, you wrinkle the clothes into a tiny fold so it can be slipped speedily and with as little fuss over the head atop the scrawniest neck that seems inadequate to support such precious life. This image in my mind made the sample even more fragile – the glass bottle inside seemed strong in comparison to what I felt I was actually holding – there is a strange blur between the tangible object and the mental image.

After this:

I felt I needed to cushion and protect the sample and wrapped cotton wool and gauze. I had no idea at what point I’d stop, I just trusted to feeling when it was right. With all the medical wrapping it seemed logical to layer a sticky Elastoplast layer to hold it all together and keep the water from getting in and stopping the healing from happening. This layer was a wrap keeping harm out.

Finally, I’d been directed by Inger to look at the work of Margarita Sampson which I’ve detailed in my sketch book and here.

Psychic antenna to help the grain of potential connect with life out there, and also to act as a filter so not everything gets in and under the skin and as an early warning system.

And orange grass to cover it all because – I wanted to know what it would look and feel like!

And I am still moved by an allegorical poem I read as a teenager written in Middle English called ‘The Pearl’ – which can be read on various levels (religious, secular etc) including the mourning of a child:

Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere;
Þur3 gresse to ground hit fro me yot,
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of þat pryvy perle wythouten spot.

(I lost her in the garden where

grass she fell to an earthen plot

Wounded by love, beyond repair

I mourn that pearl with a spot.)

 

There is much written in Middle English that concerns grass mounds and what might lie within: think the Green Chapel in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, studied and written on in detail by J.R. Tolkein; the mound at Sutton Hoo and the treasures it hid for centuries, Silbury Hill built layer by layer as part of a ‘continuous story-telling ritual’ .. and here’s the next tangent growing…

In the end I settled with sequined tiles to make a home and final wrap of tiles that gives nothing away of inner contents but reflects the light back so an onlooker is dazzled by the surface decoration and may not choose to look beneath. Those circular Anglo -Saxon shields gently nodded at, those lines of shields decorating the edges of ancient boats…

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T1: MMT: Pt2; Pj2: Ex 3

Sample gallery.

Away from home visiting relatives in the depths of the countryside with better WiFi speeds than home – so photos in record time for me. Words update 8.4.16.

Sample 1:
Wrapped flint napped tool found near Walpole Bay.

I wanted to wrap something precious. I chose the flint for a number of reasons. It is symbolic of man’s ability to create out of his environment. When almost everything was taken from me, my voice, almost my sanity, my hopes and dreams and trust, I looked to nature and it sustained me. I believe that all the answers to every question, asked or not yet imagined, exist out there in Nature. We have to open our sense to these answers. The flint reminds me that there is a way out there. It symbolises hope and trust. This is wrapped in words from the sacrificial dictionary – words allow us to communicate what we hope and feel and trust. This is the next layer I wish to keep safe.

I wrapped this all up in the twine like a gift, for what else is trust and voice?!

Sample 2:
Step 1- broken barbie – this doll has always reminded me of the story ‘the Girl who was made of Glass’

Once the symbolism started emerging in the making, many many metaphors started to well up. My children have decided for themselves that it is time to pass on the doll toys. They haven’t played with them for about a year and these were precious, they served their purpose (I don’t think they were played with in a stereotypical manner – by any stretch of the imagination) but don’t hold any emotional depth in the same way that their playmobil and sylvanians do. Most are going off to other homes except for this one. I don’t know what Barbie this was but she used to light up and has translucent sparkly blue legs. One foot has sheered off and disappeared. I can’t remember how she was wounded. She needed a new purpose.

First I wrapped her in orange tissue to express what wrapping means to me – a silencing, blinding, disfiguring shroud. I wanted to show that even when the head is cut off from the rest of the world the heart still wins through. The yellow fabric was a snippet from the parcel of prayer-flag goodies from Sheena. A gift that is very precious and significant to me. I had taken this swatch to a workshop with Cas Holmes and being unable to work out what it was made of she showed me how to discover whether it was natural or man-made by burning it. This story seemed symbolic to me in the light of life challenges. Sometimes it feels that we are put to the flame to find out what we are made of. I left her arms wide as an open gesture and an effort still to embrace life even when the wrapping has started to take over. The next layer of tulle was chosen to signify how once trapped it is difficult to unwrap oneself from the net and the more you struggle the tighter the binds hold and cut into your very being. I bound her foot. I used again the last threads donated by Sheena as I loved their shine and gloss. They were slippery and kept threatening to unravel – but had they done so the threads would have tripped her up being only able to stand on one foot. It also made me think of the cliché ball and chain, the leg irons that shackled prisoners on the hulks that were moored near here.

Step 2- hiding wounds beneath bandage

The next stage was prompted by the posture the doll had now taken, arms pinned to side, she looked like a mummy. The Egyptians wrapped their mummies after various processes to preserve them for their after life of immortality. Perhaps if she were bandaged she could be kept safe until such a time as she could be healed, brought back to life. The twine was wrapped in the same manner as one would wrap a bandage – a kind of diagonal lapping.

Step 3 – hiding it all under a neat wrapping with a pretty lace face for the world.

The obvious next step was to start adding the false decoration that made a nod at the last layer before the sarcophagus. This return of colour and beauty that the original body had held. I wrapped as in the first exercise and she took on a mermaid type form. A creature that can survive underwater and above the surface. All that remained was to return a false face – the intricate feminine patterned lace, her face bloomed again.

Sample 3:
Wrapped in an armour of words

Here’s my awkward shaped object to wrap. Tissue paper, embroidery yarns, a return to my favoured palette. It looked like a mummified read squirrel – it still retained an animal form. I wondered what it would look like if I threaded strips of dictionary under and through the network of threads. The result was something like a spiny anteater, or porcupine, a kind of dinosaur hedgehog. I could think of a story to explain this sample but I think it would be contrived. This sample simply evolved from wondering what to do next.

T1:MMT: Pt2; Pj2: Wrapping – extra

Additional samples for Ex2

A timely phonecall with my tutor has helped me find a way forward with the wrapping.

Acknowledging and identifying for me that the work needs to mean something to me, rather than be simply a process, she helped complicate the concept for me so that I could find a better foothold within which to climb up and express myself.

We discussed considering wrapping as hiding something precious, concealing and revealing (ideas that had started to germinate in ATV). As we talked about encouraging the intricacies that are perceived in the joining exercises into this wrapping task by way of viewing the notions as: veiling, concealing, hiding secrets, disclosure, transition, change, revelation- where cracks appear to reveal layers of secret and intrigue – during this talk pictures started to emerge in my head: fossil wrapped in clay and revealed section by section – or the trace fossils that are mere shadows of the fossilised creature, then we talked of cocoons and my mind sprang to new emerging from old, fresh life emerging from the hard carapace of a previous form. That notion of ‘having a thick skin’ being ‘hard-shelled’ or ‘soft on the inside’- these started flying around in my brain – things held in suspension, their secret revealed by time or chipping away.

I picked up one of the marbles that seem every to be appearing in this house (I think they sneak out of the wainscott at night and breed in corners waiting to catch the bare-footed unawares). How could I suspend and wrap this form – this glass orb? Ice. We had discussed transparency. Water wraps in and over the form, turning it to ice fixes that moment. I love the novel ‘The Ice Palace’ by Tarjei Vesaas even though the plot is rather sad and dark, because a frozen waterfall plays a really important role. So I planted the marble in a margarine tub with a thin layer of water. Into the freezer. Then out a bit later to rotate on its side and more layers of water, freeze, then a third time. It is in the last freeze – I am not sure whether to smash the ice and reform or leave these slabs? I’ll sleep on it.

Wrapping as halting the flow; containing the moment; leaving something suspended, wrapping away from harm’s reach.

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We had been talking about the idea of wrapping something precious to hide it/keep it safe. I know this. I had to hide my voice. I had to hide my words. I had to hide.

Since every word I spoke was used against me I had the ultimate refuge of silence. As did we all. It became safer not to speak. I recall the Bible at the Huguenot Museum – the Protestant Huguenot refugees hid their prohibited Bible in a baking loaf of bread to hide it from the soldiers. The printed word, sustenance of their faith, would have provoked their arrest and death. The irony of the loaf of bread as a hiding place stuck with me. All the symbolism of brad in Christian faiths, the symbolism of bread through humanity’s history. My voice and freedom to use it is very precious to me. The power of words is not lost on me. My sacrificical dictionary became a wrapping experiment.

1)Start dough in breadmaker.

2) Go for a walk.

3) put in torn pages of words once kneading had finished.

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4) Hope that paper really does have that burning temperature made famous by Ray Bradbury’s novel (hope that this is significantly less than the breadmaker’s top temperature) and that dough will continue to rise.

5) Step away and busy myself.

6) Tip out the bread. Cut and tear and reveal the words.

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7) Keep tearing and watching what unfolds as the bread cools.

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8) Notice the words that have been revealed. (see particularly ‘hoard’ and the US Slang term beneath: ‘a prison/jail’

Wrapping as protection, as hiding. But at what point does hiding and being silent become its own prison?

There is a piece of music that resonates with this delivery tonight. It reaches right in. It is light and ice, glass and paper, I can hear the line of the music walk across the page of the moment leaving behind and audible fold and spiral. If these pieces need a musical accompaniment to wrap them in an extra layer of hiding and revealing it would be this piece:

Penguin Cafe Orchestra, ‘Sketch’ 2001 remix

Ah… I see now…wrapping is about layers: layers of material, layers of time, layers of sound, layers of meaning… by considering what is being wrapped rather than the wrapping my tutor has helped the wrapping experiment emerge far more organically.