Part 5 – Artist Research

As I consider the impact of my feedback for part 4, I continue to spiral round again to Imran Qureshi. In my feedback the bloody pieces of part 4 have created a dilemma that I’m not sure I yet comprehend, but will come clear to me as I discuss matters with my tutor in due course.

I am still taken with giving voice to these silenced utterances. So I looked again at Qureshi. And Bourgeois. And Emin. And my feedback. And ponder. Qureshi concerns himself with life and death, violence and beauty. He enjoys these dualities. Yet he consistently claims that his art concerns what is going on around him – within him, in his local environment, in the World. I am concerned at giving sound or shape to those invisible wounds that people won’t tolerate to be seen or heard.

I’m typing this and I don’t know how to write clearly. I’ve reflected on my feedback but respect my tutor’s request not to put the report online. It has been suggested that I need to develop more subtlety and sensitivity. Qureshi ‘wanted an element of attraction and repulsions at the same time…Something that invites you in and then repels you. Or repels you at first, then invites you in later – working in both ways.’ There needs to be surprise and questions. Thus my current exploration as to what pain looks like and how it would take on form in a particular space. But there’s a concern as to what my pieces say without story to support them. Then I found this on Qureshi (from The Guardian):

‘But the meaning is not immediately apparent without the installation’s title – And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood, a quotation from the Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, writing about those whose suspicious deaths have never been solved.’

Qureshi works at these extremes of scale: the Roof Garden installation at the Metropolitan Musuem of Art in New York., his miniatures drawing on the Mughal tradition he is trained in – e.g. the works for the Barbican ‘Where the Shadows are so Deep, the 3d works, the giant canvases such as ‘Give and Take’…

…why is ‘scale’ so contemporary a concern or proof of artistic intention? I think the Egyptians had this one covered  from pyramids to hieroglyphs to mummified crocodiles. Why is it still seen as demonstration of skill/talent/prowess? What is it about scale that has us so enthralled?

I think there’s also a certain arrogance – look how much space I can fill with my work, look how much room I need, look how many resources I can devour…hmm…think there’s more to consider here.


‘Imran Qureshi: The Roof Garden Comission’ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY 2013


What I’ve been up to…

Experiments and samples:

Trying out the ‘blood’ brusho mix on different surfaces for the homely designs that are growing in my brain. Some mini canvas – very simple but very realistic bleeding colour and stain; two acetate layers – 3 days on they still haven’t dried. I love the still fluid look but wonder what will happen as it dries. Bleeding onto dry khadi paper (not effective) onto wet khadi paper – something altogether wonderful.

Is this part 5 or am I kidding myself and actually does it sound as if I care?!!

Images from the garden:

And Estuary 16 which is calling for me again this weekend.

It doesn’t matter how far away I go, I could not live without my Estuary. It is the underbeat of my heart.

Colliding Connections

Jennifer sent me a perfect connection today that would otherwise have remained unknown to me: Imran Qureshi. Seeing his work was like hearing my name called from far and recognising it over all the noise of a train station. His leper footprints lingered in my mind reinvigorating my bloody wounds thread. I immediately ordered the Barbican’s text that supported his exhibition there earlier this year and I hunted as much online with regards to his process and thinking as possible.

It is not possible to verbalise the impact effectively. It’s like I thought I was the only person left seeing a forgotten language that I hadn’t heard uttered, then stumbling upon the sound of it clear and true.

Yes there is the obvious bloody splattered similarity, but it is the layering of it – as an overlay to life’s surface, the violent afterimage that changes everything, yet too the life-energy that is bleeding. Loss and growth, violence and healing, fragmentation and wholeness.

Many many neurones started firing.

However, they had to do so in the background as I took my girls on an adventure to the Estuary Festival. It was superb and I may detail works seen later.

But right in the middle of one of the abandoned offices that were used as galleries I spotted something on the floor. It was part of the fabric of the building not the show. My heart raced because instantly everything connected together.

This looks like it may have housed a fire, at sometime have been a fireplace, a hearth with all that denotes…yet a wet chalky stain remained. What if this stain was a bloodied one? What else around the home shouldn’t be denatured with violence yet is when there’s a history of abuse. My brain went into overdrive: setting the table, table cloth, towels where you can never wash away Lady Macbeth style; sinks where the tap water runs red staining the porcelain; windows where the view is besmirched with wounds. Domestic violence doesn’t just alter the past it alters the present with a translucent ghost of the trauma. Having exorcised the wounds from within perhaps they need freeing from the shadows, the walls, the furniture, the very environment. How exciting might this be to investigate? Re-energised and re-focused.

Part 5: Stage 2: Research ii

I posted one of the khadi images that I made whilst listening to music on Instagram. It entitled itself ‘Spinning  the fragment’. The more I looked at the image and considered it, the more I saw. I saw the fragments of sound, the samples that are mixed in, I saw the rhythms and the wordless dialogue, but then I considered the energy, the sparks in it. Is it being wound or unwound. Spinning out and releasing or spinning in like a vortex (which reminded me again of the work of Shelly Goldsmith who’d I’d considered in my work for ATV (see links to this work by clicking here). Since my piece was born from considering my inner movement I thought about the notion of spinning in connection with winding action of wrapping. Spinning in my world is a creative act: it forms yarn from fibres, you ‘spin a tale’, whereas wrapping still has the negative connotations of binding and all the other doubts I had about it before. I then thought about all these fragments. One of the impacts of trauma is a sense of fragmentation. These sketches are far more positive in tone than the ‘Not All Wounds are Visible’ series. There is something growing here. What if dance, spinning, is a healing movement. I did go off in my brain as I looked again at the work of Sally Simpson this morning a recalled watching my Grandpa winding feathers and line to create  a fly-fishing lure: a thing of beauty created to entrap! A beautiful lure hiding a barbed hook. As too, spiders spin their webs to catch their prey.

May come back to this.

Then, I went off visiting old haunts, poets that entranced me in my teens. Rumi was a Sufi mystic; he was the founder of the Whirling Dervishes – wherein the sema , the whirling, is a spiritual dance. Of course then there’s Shamanism and the journeying that comes from drumming (I am very much simplifying here). Rumi then took me to another favourite poet Khalil Gibran and a common thread started appearing. Then I found some of my old editions of their work illustrated with, in Rumi’s case, Persian Calligraphy. Not unlike the asemic writing that I believed had emerged from see Michaux’ work re-presented by Joachim Koester at the Turner. Perhaps instead I had rather recognised a pattern that had spoken to me in my early teens but had remained hidden and tucked away safe inside. Perhaps this spinning dance is in fact re-wrapping the fragments of me: binding me back together. There is some underlying force dancing the pieces of me. Not winding, not wrapping which feels caught: being bound, instead whirling and spinning.


‘In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,

where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,

and that sight becomes this art.’



‘Lion of the Heart’ by Rumi; translated by Coleman Barks, Penguin Arkana, London 1995 (pg 16)

‘Whispers of the Beloved’, Rumi; translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima MelitaKolin, Thorsons, London 1999

‘A Treasury of Khalil Gibran: Author of the Prophet’, ed Martin L. Wolf, Mandarin, London 1996

Part 5: Stage 2: Research

I left it a little late to get photos of today’s experimental gestural ‘electric’ drawings.

I now have a process that consists of many layers but all lie flat on one surface: I have paid close attention to this today as I consider taking each of these layers as a surface and wrapping them. I consider this to be the process I wish to develop further: particularly in the light of my initial disgust at this process and in the light of my research on Sally Simpson.

First comes the asemic writing in biro. I hold the pen and write, as if I were scribing a letter, or rant, or secret message – there is a consistent form of the ‘lettering’ that is now emerging and it feels so delicious to be writing and feeling yet disguising the readability. I am just focused on the feel of writing rather than the content. The movement, the sound of my pen on this khadi paper (I do love this paper) and how I can write what I want to say that has not yet found its way into words.

Then comes a pink fibretip layer of asemic (suprasemic) text. This layer is like the voice in your head that reads the words you are writing. The paper behind is the silent reader within each of us.

After that I get a big household paintbrush and black brusho in suspension, close my eyes and paint the main movement of the music I’m listening too (usually trance – I may be too old for the clubs but I still feel alive to the music and oh how I miss dancing).

Then onto brilliant red blood splatters: dipped from a height to splodge and then sweeps of this colour with a fairly beaten up brush.

Today I added a change and took some carmine ink and splattered that too, then not pleased with this I found a straw and blew the paint splots. (Necessary word invention). This became rather addictive as can be seen by my kitchen table: just adding to its history and story.

Finally, I loaded the battered paintbrush and hit it over my forearm leaving a cascade of paint splatter. It now looks like some hideous crime happened on this very table. Are these too busy, too fussy – nope because I am not looking at them as a composition I am looking at them as a feeling and me inner feelings are certainly not neat and tidy and uncomplicated. As I looked at these further it was as if they were spinning. I cannot yet determine whether they are spinning the fragmented splits of gesture together or unwinding and scattering them to the world.

I’ve been analysing all I can on Sally Simpson and this research is in the back of my mind as I draw. How will these sketches take on a 3d form through the process of wrapping and what will they become? Now, I’m excited and think I’ve found my line of enquiry. Inner movement, inner language, inner landscape: embodying the inner gesture.

Design ideas for Part 5

I made a couple of energy paintings today and was going to have a go at free-machine embroidering the suprasemic text. However, once they’ve dried I’m really disappointed with the colours. They’ve gone flat and lost all real pigmentation. I don’t know why this is. It’s different paper and has more tooth, but there must be something else in, or not in, the paper that the brusho has reacted with in order to make a flat rather than jewel-like appearance.

I have been pondering these energy paintings: what are they? What do they want to be? If I experienced them in a different form what would they be? They recall the yarn-wraps of ATV and the wrapping of early in the MMT course. Could I be being pulled back to re-investigate the area that I struggled with at the time?

I’ve understood that I’m now sorting through to pick up some design features that I wish to explore further and in greater depth : this course is very heavy on process and sampling. Therefore, I’ve tried to consider what process to revisit.

I had great fun last night going through all the links my tutor has provided for me on all previous coursework in much greater depth. The Japanese artists of Part 2 are striking a chord at the moment but so is the work of artivists across the world. I was moved in reading about Judith Mason’s piece ‘The Blue Dress 1’ and its place as memorial and witness (see ‘Art and Upheaval’ by William Cleveland pp 127, 129). This made me wonder whether I need to consider the printed clothing I’ve been working on with the wounds – but then I feel I’ve explored that and any further would be repetition at this time: useful in itself but not necessarily the aim of this part.

I looked again at these energy prints. What do they want of me?

Last night I lay in bed listening to the torrential rain that I hoped would have, but hasn’t, brought an end to these 30 degree C + days that I am feeble with. The rain pelted and I wondered how you could freeze that in plaster – the moment the rain lands. What if it were on sand and left those rain hollows and ripples on the adjacent surface. Could you take a plaster cast of that? Would it make an interesting surface? I kept thinking of the piece ‘Animala Vagula’ by Cy Twombly where the “calligraphy” is like the asemic writing I’ve been considering but wherein he’s also cut the canvas – could the rain be writing cascading?

Then in the dark I became obsessed with Antoni Tapies ‘White and Orange’ a piece I had looked at briefly before but which was retained whole in my head. How did he get the sand on the plaster on the plywood? Could I make use of that technique? Could I explore this process – could this process be used to save the rain on the sand?

I even wondered whether I ought to give the collagraphs another go after the encouraging advice of Jennifer. I know that often the things I kick and scream against the most are the places where I get the greatest breakthroughs.

Like wrapping. It was as a result of feeling angered by wrapping that I painted how it felt. Which I then picked up with the 3d pen.

(See previous blog post:Sketching with the 3d pen; T1 : MMT; Pt2; Pj2 : drawing folio; and In response….) My current energy drawings are the offspring of this moment and the discovery of Henri Michaux’ asemic writing of the brain brought up within the lines of my sound pictures. Perhaps I need to work with these but look at them differently. Rather than experiments, perhaps they are preparatory drawings. but for what ? Which process? The wrapped Barbie doll – she would have felt like some of these. (T1: MMT: Pt2; Pj2: Ex 3).

There’s something here. The doll. That carrier of story. But I still want to make holes in things – to show spaces between. Then as research does, leaping about in zig-zags like a hare, I discovered and Australian artist: Sally Simpson and her latest pieces for Stanley Street Gallery, ‘Objects for an Unknown Future Museum’.  The ritual art, wrapped figurines with holes in their bellies and heads and tagged as reliquary, taxidermy art, tribal art.

I don’t know my tribe, but that doesn’t stop me establishing one and devising some wrapped forms that would be sacred to it!



‘Art and Upheaval’, William Cleveland, New Village Press,  CA. pp 127, 129