The Body I am in

I have just been awarded a bursary to attend the Drawing Correspondence Course, ‘The Body I am in’. With Drawing Projects UK, Anita Taylor, Tania Kovats and Chloe Briggs.

Letter of Motivation 2021

My first statement read like a eulogy to drawing as I tried to locate drawing in a practice that began in earnest 40 years ago. Drawing has become so embedded in my system I barely differentiate it and this makes me realise the breadth of the concept of drawing. The acts of looking, experiencing, remembering and transcribing with media or action have become unconscious, like driving, getting from A to B without realising how I arrived. To isolate drawing is to bring my conscious curiosity to it and consider what more it can do for my practice other than being a carrier of information.

In 1984 I was influenced by the concept of ‘the hard won image’ and the labour and intensity of looking and looking until the artist or paper fell apart and was reduced to a subject’s essence. I have challenged this view of drawing process and consider whether drawing might be light, temporary, and whimsical even.

At 17 I sat to my first life drawing class, I waited with sketchbook to hand in the spacious circle. Three naked young women walked out and took up their poses. I flushed red so naïve about the arts it hadn’t occurred to me that the women would be naked. They were light-hearted and mischievous, one was pregnant I was thrown into confusion and shame, so acutely aware of the erotic nature of my looking. This was such an important moment, it felt the most intimate privilege to take up my pencil, to look and to begin to translate my experience of them to paper.

It was completely appropriate to be in awe of the naked body and to feel the discord, the uncomfortable polemic of nude and artist. I picked over this at Bath Academy 1985-88, where I attempted to find a place for my ferocity of feeling for intimacy and sensual aliveness and making art. My dissertation was concerned with trying to assert a right to my gaze and my desires. I sought out role models following women artists in particular and bounced between a sense of my drawing skills being locked in an out of date tradition and a freeing focus in photographic self-portraiture.

This sense of ‘not knowing where to look’ hasn’t abated, but what has come forward, with continuous study and maturity is some authority, is the right to speak my truth through art.

I have recently completed a film about reclaiming my sense of aliveness through self-directed rituals. My body and trauma are at the heart of it, but what drives it is the belief that one has to trust process and be both courageous and inventive to break new ground. I don’t think I have done this in drawing yet. I assume I have touched every curve and corner and experience, but suspect I have researched within a narrow band and want to reappraise my drawing practice in the light of the study to return to being innocent to drawing, perhaps in my eagerness I missed something that could have been more fully felt, embodied.

Since 2003 I have led a project ‘Pandora’s Other Box’ for women creatives which expands their sense of what might be possible through art, recently starting a programme on the body and having studied trauma and embodiment I realise there is a chasm between the lived experience of the body and the expression of it.

A six-week course is a very brief time period to focus on this odyssey, but I think it’s timely and could bring my physical body in closer proximity to my drawing and thinking. I want both intimacy in my work and discourse around it. I want to be present to the body and for this to be evident in my work.

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