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.
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.
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.
Looking at all that black anger and frustration in the black sketch I saw there was a blank space where my heart should be.
So I painted it in – the red circle. Painted with sweeps so it felt like it pierced and projected.
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?
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.
From there it was natural to start sketching the process of crumpling where surfaces wrap over each other whilst still being one.
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…
Unspoken yet heard.
This is all I ever wanted.