Taking up Space

One of my ambitions this year was to consider how my artwork might take up space. I look to the women artists in particular that I admire to see how this might be achieved. It seemed to me to require some confidence, audacity even to manifest an idea on a larger scale. I am curious how larger objects might feasibly be constructed but also how they might impact on the viewer.

The feelings associated with trauma have taken up space in my psyche and themes of attachment, shame and abandonment have been evident in my work. Even in how I make work, show it or stay with work. Overwhelm is a familiar reality. Making gives me a way to self-regulate as I can create a distance between a feeling of constriction to a more ventral state where I can view the pieces more objectively and consider how they might connect with their audience. The work holds the effect for me. In ordinary language, I can be more present in my environment (without the drama), make work about intense experiences, appraise it and stay mentally well. Ongoing study of trauma and therapeutic support has been a key part of being able to develop my artwork, provision was made for this by the award given to me by the Art Council.

I committed myself to following what began as a feeling of disparity between an outward versus an inner experience of my body. On the outside: a cascading avalanche of curves, potentially nourishing and abundant, a thick fatty cover up and on the inside: a  sense of raw toxic shame and desolation, akin to being consigned to a cell where my desperate thoughts might be carved into the wall.

I felt the need to physically put myself bodily in an overwhelming environment that might speak to some of these large themes and withstand me somehow.  I worked with a photographer in the Scottish Highlands to do this. I took bold steps to fully engage and enter into the place, jumping into the sea, loch and rivers and allowed myself to forage and play in the wildness of the landscapes, running through archways and crouching in follies. I wanted to kick off the depression of recent years and see what I was made of.

I made a maquette which I took to the studio of Abigail Simpson in Margate to up scale my piece and receive mentoring.  A large ceramic sculpture is physically demanding, indomitably present, unwieldy…it required a steady build over time. I had to commit to my original idea,  to plan.

As I worked on the piece I could physically shelter in the cave-like shell I created and the difference between the rolling façade and inner skin of the body was impactful.

During its construction, I went to the milk of dreams at the Venice Biennale to see the work of many Artists, predominantly devoted to women Artists who were exhibiting. This was incredibly validating. I stood before the mammoth constructions, (eg. Simone Leigh) far larger than my largest piece. I saw work in ceramic (eg Gabriel Chaile), textile and glass (Kerstan Bratsc) and I saw emotional subjective work the likes of which I hadn’t seen on show since the women’s artwork of the 1980s with work that paid homage it seemed to fabric and stitch and craft skills.  My work would not have looked out of place at the Venice Biennale which was really amazing to realise. The emphasis on the process of making was often evident and the inventive use of media. It gave me a sense of liberation, I too can make anything.

These experiences have been enriching and validating. Not just the viewing of art but visiting and moving around unknown cities, making choices, reflecting on my internal experiences and the external appearance of myself in unfamiliar environments.

At the same time, I have been receiving mentoring with Dr Sarah Lightman following the Digital Narrative Course at the Royal Drawing School. Organising a lifetime’s work into themes and setting up a private insta page to reflect on with Sarah I have found a single container for my writing, drawings, making, photography and film. The running narrative which initially felt random and uncontained begins to mirror and further affirm my areas of enquiry as an Artist and my creative process. I am looking to publish these pages having been inspired by the booklets of Ida Applebroog shown at Hauser and Wirth in Somerset earlier this year.

Ida self-published her art booklets in the 1970s and distributed them widely in New York. Making large sculpture is one way of taking up space for sure but being able to reach a broad audience in an everyday media is another way that has an immediacy and intimacy to it that I like. Ida left her family to go to New York because she needed to be with other Artists and I can concur that developing a peer group of other Artists has run in parallel to my making , travelling and study.

I have been holding back from writing this post as if waiting for some kind of moment of arrival but I realise that moving with great enthusiasm in the process is the moment I have been seeking. It is a continuation enriched by many experiences and people.

There have been and are further developments in my making with glass also which I will save for another post.

The last 6 months has been made possible because of a DYCP Grant from the Arts Council. There are further developments on the horizon which I will write of next time.

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