Saturday, 15 December 2007

Tiny wings, big wishes

I’m signing off my blog for this year, crocheting hook and writing utensils have long sunk to the wayside while Xmas-stuff has taken over (I did try to resist). Thanks to all of you who visited, read, observed, commented, it was lovely to meet you - you inspired and supported and made me look and think afresh and I'm already impatient for further encounters in the new year.
So for now onwards and upwards and towards a world with more art, poetry, music, theatre, loving, friendship and exchanges of all kind and less war, fighting, division, hierarchiy and power over.


Thursday, 6 December 2007

A small gleaming eye

On Sunday a re-union with a friend who I hadn’t seen since spring, brilliant to catch up and chat. Over last few days so tired and feeling dim and trying to push through that, but it’s as if I’m locked in anaemic fleshy prison. No door, no window, no hands, no mouth, only diminished capacity eyes and ears. This mind of mine slowed too but not stopped. Internally I’m hurling myself against hard surface again and again, in rage, in exasperation, but actually too tired to lift arms. Body bruising anyway. Almost want to be puppet on strings, my ego the master to my resisting body. Or willing sun (when it’s out) to fashion yellow strings out of its rays and attach them to strategic points on my body and pull me up and out.
A small gleaming eye remains open towards larger picture. Imagine experimental artwork I’d like to make. Can almost see them take shape, feel the movements of arms and hands, the touch of the materials. Watch objects become or not, as I discard as many ideas as I hold on to. Meanwhile the hairy-girl-mountain remains a mole-hill sized shape, the giantess’s breasts still hang hang hang unsupported, only the Suppenkasper-dress growing incrementally in tiny even stitches. I jot down half-sentences which may or may not end up here, make notes for new text, wondering if any of this will take me somewhere solid. Thinking too of your posts that I long to keep up with, stay in touch.
Today slightly better, writing this in weary fits and starts. Sky grey, no sun, no yellow strings, without artificial light my room a grey-lined box. Back to bed.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Old but new: Handlebar dress

Dimensions: 73 cm x 61 cm
Material: Cotton
(The ends of the open sleeves are sewn into slits on both sides of the skirt’s hem)

I’ve been re-working the small red dress I crocheted ages ago (for previous incarnations see here, here and in a purely virtual fashion here) and that just never looked right. Tried filling it with all kinds of things, took something away, added something else, still not right, then was on the point of unravelling it completely (angrily, as it didn’t yield to me) and simply reduce it to a ball of wool, ha! Just about held back and in the end gave in again to my fascination with arms and what they might be made to imply and here it is.
Funny how in my visual art I am so often concerned with a girl’s world – this morning I finished a small text about a very old woman. It made me think about what I am trying to do in both my art and my writing. My work does have a narrative thread, I am trying to tell stories, but not with beginning middle and end. Anything resembling chronology, cause and effect, conflict and resolution is not my thing. I am more interested in producing a prolonged accumulative snapshot of being, of inner life, raising questions in the viewer’s/reader’s mind about how ‘it’ became what it is and what ‘it’ is going to become. I want to arrive at a concentration, an essence – think of a sauce that you’ve got on the stove for ages and let simmer until it is reduced to just the right consistency and taste.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

All about love

I want to starve myself down to the bare bones and see what emerges. A wild insect soul springing out. A screeching hissing furry thing. A sharp-toothed clawed hairy creature, all flailing limbs and high-pitched howls.
I want to feed her on wine and chocolates and watch her grow fat and inebriated, an old hag with fleshy folds hanging from her body, heavy fleshy folds and bushy mounds. Spittle dribbling from almost toothless mouth.
I want to feed her on chocolate and wine and watch her become the most beautiful of all and hear her sing a song about life filled to the brim with love and feel her body close, so close.
I want to feed her on bones ground dry and make her choke on them and spit everything out that she ever took in, spit, puke, cry it all out until she’s empty and just her own brittle self. I’ll cradle this new old being and hum on her with my warm breath and make her pulse and throb and then I’ll kiss her all over, that bare hollow lovely one and
I’ll feed her tender bits of spicy meat and nuts and marzipan and kiss her again and again, little butterfly kisses that make her skin spring to life and I’ll hear her little chuckle and my happy tears will wash her clean. And then I’ll guzzle her down and I’ll carry her safe in me, warm, content, tickled with love, and feel her tiny gulps of laughter ripple in my belly. I’ll love her and love her and let her grow into whatever she wants to be.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Ecstasy and memory

Went for a miniscule walk yesterday, drawn out by the rays of the autumn sun as if by golden reins. Stood under the silver birch (oh, isn’t the name already beautiful!) at the end of my block, sniffed its cracked white bark and looked up to the long trailing branches floating like strands of hair in the soft wind that was more like a gentle breath out. The rustling of the wind in the leaves sounds different now, it’s more of a crackling sound, you can hear the dryness of the leaves. Stepped away from my lovely tree when my time was up and walking towards home I kept turning back and saw that there was a lovely gradation of colours in the foliage: around the crown’s tip oranges and ochres prevailed, below yellowish tints spread and furthest down just-still-green hovered.
Today I haven’t got enough steps in me to take me out of the house, so it’s just as well that I can get some of yesterday’s ecstasy back by writing about it here. For a moment I lamented that I hadn’t taken my camera then but actually the process of writing engraves these images in my brain more clearly and more permanently. I have to work to conjure them up again and find just the right words - through that small and delicious effort I relive the experience whereas with a photo I’d lazily stay on its surface, I think. So with every word I write here I imprint myself with the look of that tree, the feel of that gentle breeze, the scent of that bark.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

About wanting

I have been thinking why I came to write a poem, and why this poem, now. How the feeling of abjection can change one’s perception of one’s body/physicality is something that I started exploring years back at college. It still informs a lot of my visual work and I guess that’s also what’s at the centre of that poem of mine. The images conceived of were not alien to me at all, but writing them down and trying to form something coherent in words, for its own sake, whether successfully or not, is new.
While I was lying on my bed this afternoon I came across a poem by Louise Glück who I hadn’t known about until I read a reference to her either on Mien’s or Erin’s blog and I realised I had been asking myself the wrong questions. There is a line in this poem (The Wild Iris) ‘…that which you fear, being a soul and unable to speak…’ which made it clearer to me. For several days after the Louise Bourgeois-exhibition I was physically too tired to make work, even something tiny, but, and that is relatively new and hooray hooray, part of my mind was working. You have to understand, deep fatigue does not only make the body tired, leaden, painful, but the mind is the same. You have times when all you can think is ‘I am soooo tired’ again and again and again, it’s all that exists, your whole being is overcome and consumed by this fatigue. Coherence is on holiday. You don’t want, you don’t wish, you don’t long for, you have nothing to say, you just are, and you are tired. And here is what is new, what is different: while my body didn’t function during these first days after the show parts of my brain did. I wanted. I wanted to express myself. I wanted to write. And I did, in small mouthfuls. Fatigue did not obliterate me completely. My health is improving. And that’s what I understood when I read Louise Glück’s poem today.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Up and down the hairy girl-mountain or: Focus!

various views of what started out as the tip of the hairy girl-mountain and may well lead to other things

My head has been buzzing with ideas and I’ve got several pieces in work, the said hairy-girl mountain, which may well turn into another piece that needs a year’s work (and why should a mountain be done quickly, I ask you), a small hair-house, the crocheting of which is done and now needs putting together and filling, a very light not-red Suppenkasper-dress, crocheted with thin hook, so will also take a while, another cotton-wool-dress in rose-pumpkin-orange colours, stronger yarn and thicker hook and much loved as growing steadily, and - I kid you not - a brassiere for a giantess whose breasts hang hang hang, crocheted from cotton-covered wire. That’s all I can think of now, at least as far as describable pieces are concerned; over the summer (oh, I miss summer) there have also accumulated several as yet unnamable beginnings, their forms still oblique, never mind their final, if ever, Gestalt. Also more ideas for tieing/wrapping but arms currently lacking in strength.
My creative urges seem to be getting stronger and stronger and aren’t impressed at all by my slowed-down body and mind and I feel I’m losing focus and getting a bit muddled and now I’ve added writing (beyond the blog) to the list of the things that I want to explore. The days after my haloed visit to the Louise Bourgeois-exhibition I could hardly lift a limb as I was so exhausted, even the crocheting hook was too heavy and too difficult to operate. I lay on my bed and so much wanted to express something of this or that and in the end I made notes, starting from an image, just fragments of sentences and over the next few days they formed themselves into what could maybe called a poem, away from the context I started with (lying on my back, tired). Writing a poem was not on my list of things to do, so on one hand it seems alien to me and on the other hand felt entirely right (I like writing). Not sure what to do with that now, but I’ll introduce it here, a bit aquiver:

Tomorrow will come
(Taken out for editing.)

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up my day-job (visual artist, currently no exhibitions), but the process of writing this was as interesting as the process of making art. It started out as something concrete, and then I let myself be led into different directions by the words, by the tone, by the imagery, and each time the meaning of the whole changed and in the end I was surprised by what I wrote (and then read). It’s a long while since I’ve been able to walk through the park (oh, but I would like to!) and all the other stuff in its precision, if not in the feeling, is imaginary too, but the stranded insect and four-legged bodies are pretty close to ideas/images that have cropped up in my artwork, so maybe it does all make some kind of sense.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Louise Bourgeois rocks!

… and I am slowly getting back on my feet. Was tired, firmly in the horizontal and absent even from blogging world for best of reasons last week: a visit to Tate Modern for a glorious encounter with my artist-heroine Louise Bourgeois (not in person, obviously). I like/feel drawn to/smile about/am touched by/marvel at a lot of her work. It’s delicious, meaty, sensual, emotional, obsessive, incestuous, perspicacious (I would not have said this, but can write this!), quite mad and entirely sane, it makes me think and feel, as art should - I could go on… That was last Monday and I’m still swooning. Physically and mentally dislodged, actually physically put out of commission for most of the week, but mentally inspired, so there.
It was so good to see so much of her work ‘life’, I knew a few of the pieces from other exhibitions over the years, but most only in reproduction. Went on my own because I wanted that first encounter to be a private one. I can’t walk great distances or stand for long, soon feel gravity pulling at me and pressing me to lie down, so strolling through this huge show and staying upright while gazing rapturously (and of course critically) at artwork would have been beyond me. Tate Modern is brilliant because it’s one of the rare museums where you can borrow an electro-scooter, so there I went and loved every minute of it.
One of the main things that I took home with me, apart from marveling at the breadth/scope/abundance of her work over the decades and up to and including today, is that LB always seemed to do absolutely her own thing, didn’t try to fit in anywhere, worked and works from within herself. This is not to say that she wasn’t aware of and inspired by other artists and what was going on around her, but still her vision was entirely her own. Want to take courage from that for myself, my own work, she shows it’s elemental and truth-in-flux-kind-of-integral to being an artist. Or at least the kind of artist I want to be. Remind me when I'm next in one of my regular doubting periods.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Between a whisper and a hiss

Today is a very tired day, feel sick, body heavy, legs and arms only half functioning, my balance is shot and I’m hugging the walls as I walk through the corridor which seems miles long. Brain doing only slightly better. I so want to be lying down (mumbles my body) and I so want to be up and about (hisses my mind). Everything is slowed down, and even the crocheting hook seems difficult to operate. Piecemeal-work, minutes at the computer, lie down, more minutes at the computer, lie down, on so for the rest of the day and wondering if I ever will get this post done.
Over the last few days looked (back) through my sketchbook-cum-diary and found that I ordered the first batch of wool for my long-sleeved dress at the beginning of October 2006. It’s really taken a whole year to finish, almost to the day. Worked on the dress with lots of breaks pauses interruptions. While its body grew slowly, stitch by stitch, towards its imagined shape, shrunk dramatically when I wretchedly unraveled the mass of stitches that made up the not-quite-right-looking skirt and then steadily grew again, it took on various spectral forms in my head, some of which I sketched down, each time changing its meaning slightly.
It is my biggest work to date (since I fell ill that is) and finishing it exhilarated me and made me panic too. While working away at something - and I’m sure that’s true for any medium - you invest the object with potency, energy and almost magic powers, after all it is to be sent out into the world to move, challenge, please, and of course to represent the artist and her faculties. Once declared complete it’s time to assess whether the work can indeed stand up for itself and the artist steps out into the limelight, feeling not quite fully dressed.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

She's done!

releasing, letting go
pouring down, pouring out, emptying out, depleting
reaching, reaching out, reaching beyond
heavy passivity, stasis
flow, flowing
trailing, curling, coiling, looping, uncurling
drawing in, drawing out
knotting, tieing, untieing
dissolving, dispersing
hanging loose, hanging in there

That’s just for the arms. The colour red speaks something different: blood, rage, energy, power, fire, passion, flesh, heat, heart, love, wound, confidence. The arms maybe about the fear of all that, all that teeming life within without, the beauty of it, the terror of it, its constant flux, and at the same time the desire for just that.
Crocheting speaks neatness, industriousness, woman’s work, as does the shape of the dress. The long coiling arms underline and unspeak and speak anew adifferent alive.

crocheted from red cotton
dress 87 cm long, 50 cm wide
arms >350 cm long

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Outdoor pleasures

At the beginning of the year I moved from my 2nd floor flat to one on the ground-floor with a garden. Apart from the obvious and vital advantages of life without stairs to a person with limited mobility the greatest change and indeed joy has been the outdoor-space gained. In the old flat I had a pretty special view from my bedroom, of a green hill where foxes played and hundreds of gawking crows regularly gathered and swept up into the air as if at one command. I called it my Switzerland, and it felt almost as remote. Now I can get outside whenever I want.
Most of the garden-area has been laid out in pink and grey slabs of stone, which is just as well as I can’t manage a lot of gardening (yet), but along the fences grow bushes – forsythia, hazelnut, roses, ivy. For weeks I went through my small garden every day, stopping at every bush, and breathed with nose buried in the foliage, trying to sniff out each distinct scent.
I’ve got a chair right outside my kitchen-door, to which I can drag myself for a couple of minutes even on a bad day. The sun hits it in the morning and I often have breakfast out there, greeting the day with my bowl of fruit and yoghurt on my lap. I delight in the tiny white hairs on the stems of my one tomato-plant which grows in a pot right next to the chair. That same tomato-plant is host to several small spiders weaving magnificent webs between the stalks and a couple of days ago gave me its first ripe fruit – pure delicious tomatoness in every bite!
Most of my flowers grow in pots. The very first plant I bought was a small magnolia tree. I wanted that short burst of extravagant flowering right here in front of me. I’ve feasted on the spectacle of orange and red tulips whose pointed petals were like darting tongues of flames. There’s a steady lavish parade of bright-red velvety petunias, and the petals of the more short-lived delphiniums looked their most beautiful when fallen to the ground where they seemed like scattered drops of Klein-blue ink.
I tend to grab my pleasures in short bursts – but short-lived they are not, they have a kind of after-life in my mind. Some months ago, remember, when we had an almost summery time which August couldn’t replicate, I was extremely tired and still in my pyjamas late in the day, and when warm summer rain was falling down in heavy drops I got it into my head to dance in the rain and went outside and stood there getting drenched, not physically dancing but dancing inside, for about a minute or one-and-a-half, as long as I could stand, and then went back to bed happy.
I could mention further marvels: the rustling of winds in the huge old trees beyond my garden which I can hear even from within my bedroom, the passion flower climbing over the fence from next-door which has been blossoming for months, and on my side a morning glory (thanks, Helen B.!) which had one gorgeous gigantic sky-blue flower open for just one day this week.
For me it’s not so much about the joys of gardening but the joys of being outside, of experiencing the seasons directly after years of wistfully watching them either from my second-floor flat or through the windows of moving mini-cabs. The smell of green, the freshness of it, the literal breath of fresh air that I can take in almost daily now is truly wonderful. And I feel connected to nature again, finally.
(written beginning of September)

PS. Had breakfast outside this morning, after painful night, sucking in the moist green air.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Good health to the world

Last week was a week of bad news about friends’ ill health. It is inevitable that news like this come, cancer, nervous breakdown, the loneliness of a little boy, as inevitable as the change of seasons, but everything in me strained against it. Like I’m straining against winter coming. Nothing I can do but go with it. Better start getting ready. Sent cards and letters, made phone-calls, lent an ear or two, tried to soothe without denying what is. With winter I can deal after all: bought an extra blanket and three pairs of woolen socks. I envisage myself lying under layers and layers of blankets, like the princess under the pea, with just my head and arms sticking out, wielding the obligatory crocheting hook.
Have started reading some Russian fairy-tales, very fitting, and got caught up with the image of a room heated by a big stove on which two children sleep at night, ‘as warm as little baking cakes’. Reminded me of a favourite childhood tale, also Russian, in which the young hero lies on the stove for seven years, eating lots of sunflower seeds, and annually tries out the strength in his arms by attempting to lift the roof above him. After seven years he manages and goes out into the world and has adventures and of course marries a princess in due course. (One thing I wondered as a child was if he ever got up to go to the loo or to wash himself, but that’s another issue.) I sometimes try to look at my M.E. like that, although I don’t think I’ll come out with strongly muscled arms I hope I’m strengthening some inner muscle, metaphorically speaking.
Anyway. Crocheted these some months ago, when very tired and only up to making really small things, which I put together as a warm-water-sea-anemone-type-doily-thingemy (around 70 cm wide altogether). It now resides on the backrest of my purple sofa and gets dislodged frequently. Currently tieing up loose threads (in the real sense of the word) of my crocheted red dress with around 3.5 m long sleeves which I finally managed to lift out of my wool-basket. It looks very strange, if I may say so myself. Will need some extra energy to photograph it, but watch this space. Such long arms would maybe do very well in terms of reaching out and could embrace a whole lot of friends, couldn’t they.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

My father's shoes

Discarded shoes have a special poignancy, more than any other piece of clothing do they conjure up the individual who wore them. This is a pair of man’s shoes, made from tissue paper, moulded on a pair of my father’s shoes, which I kept after his death. Shoes that had been lived in, wrinkles and creases and the faint bulges left by the shape of his feet translated directly into the object made. The process of making like a final tender gesture, each shred of tissue paper applied by hand in a slow and intricate process. The personal and the artistic converge in this work.
The shoes look huge and heavy but are as light as feathers. At first glance they look deceptively real, as if their owner could slip them on again, walk on, but looked at closely they reveal their transient and fragile nature.
It would have been my dad's birthday today.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Three shades of red

Yesterday I accidentally cut the top of my left index finger with a scalpel knife. It didn’t hurt, so I only noticed when I looked down at my khaki-clad legs which were generously dotted with what I initially took for drops of beetroot juice. The dots kept multiplying under my eyes until I realised blood was dripping from a shiny red finger.
This morning I washed the dishes, as usually wearing Woolworth’s own 49 p yellow rubber gloves, medium size. When I took the left one off, a finger emerged wet with blood. The wound had opened again, what with the hot and humid climate inside the glove. Peering into the rubber sheath I found that the white lining inside the index finger was brilliant red. I filled the glove with water and poured it out into the sink several times; each time the water came out a paler shade.
Later-on when I prepared to make juice from beetroot, carrots, celery and an apple I forgot to put the receptacle under the spout. Pressing down on the first slice of beetroot I saw a dark pool of crimson form on the gleaming white worktop.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

My mother has golden hair

When I was in 6th grade I told the girl sitting next to me in class that my mom had golden hair. She wasn’t impressed. I remembered this when I was thinking about titles for this work: an everyday object transformed into something that expresses a set of new emotions and fantasies. The daughter’s longing to be like the mother she idealises. The artificial blond hair which has been obsessively threaded into the brush maybe putting into doubt the reality of the mother’s beauty and the daughter’s perception as well as the possibility of ever becoming like her idol. The work has a strong performative element and questions gender as well as the reality and fictions of the mother-daughter or in fact any formative relationship. It is now itself an object of beauty – with the mane of soft blond hair flowing from the brush and replacing its original steely bristles it is simultaneously tender and creepy, enchants and withholds.

My mom has just returned back home after flying over to spend some time with me in my new flat. We’ve had several lovely days together, and the warm and sunny weather all the while was like a special treat. I’d told her about my blog on the telephone but as she doesn’t have access to a computer she couldn’t really imagine what it would be like. One afternoon we sat down here and I showed it to her and translated some of the texts I’d written and the comments given too. She was astonished and delighted with what she saw and esp. marvelled at the possibility of being in touch with artists in other parts of the world. She finds most of my art strange and difficult and doesn’t know what to say, but she took photographs of my shelves which are stacked with my work and I take that as an indication of her being proud of what I choose to do after all.

This is a piece she likes and can relate to: a woman’s life in shoes. The shoes are made from very light, almost translucent off-white bone-coloured Japan paper which seems on the verge of disintegration while you handle it, and are moulded in the thinnest of layers on seven pairs of worn shoes which represent various stages in a woman’s life. Esp. the last pair in the series has resonance for me, as it was moulded on a pair given to me by a friend, Ruth, who was in her 80s at the time and is now sadly dead. The shoes had taken on the form of her old-woman’s-feet, bunions and all.
(Both pieces were made a couple of years ago.)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Red column

She’s finished! The red part of her is not as straight as it looks on the photo, seen from the side it curves forward in a sweeping arch.

I’ve been tagged several times over the last few months (and found another one this morning, thank you mien, and I was so touched by your words!) and have kept postponing my reaction. But react I will now – thank you all (Mandy, Amanda (heard about it from cusp)), it’s an honour and a pleasure.
I am still amazed that I/my blog is being found at all. Well really I’m amazed that this blog-thing exists! It’s become a marvelous feat for me, has taken me out of my artistic isolation. Not only that I can showcase my work and talk about my processes and accompanying doubts and joys - I can discover work by artists all over the world! For somebody who doesn’t manage to get to exhibitions often this has become my way of seeing contemporary art, well, some of it, as my energy usually expires before I’ve seen enough. Although there are so many tempting sites to look at I’ve chosen to look at those I can with curiosity and openness and care and spend time with them instead of flitting around just to see as much as possible. I do hope in time I’ll be able to take in more.
It’s become important to me to leave considered/hopefully supportive and constructive feedback, partly because it means so much to me to receive feedback myself, but also because I think artists generally may lack it. And it’s led to genuine exchange and affecting communication. One of my joys in daily life now is to go to my blog and see if anybody has left a message, and my heart beats esp. if it’s a message from mien or Kruse, also from anne-laure and Catherine, all artists who inspire me with everything they post and whose work is ever in flux and inventive, challenging and touching and always has integrity. Our regular exchanges have become a critical lifeline to this artist who produces her work at home where only friends see it. Not to diminish friends’ input, but it always feels tinted by their affection for me and it’s different/vital to get comments by other artists/art professionals who do not know me.
It’s been such a pleasure writing for my blog too! After years of abstinence I’ve rediscovered writing as another powerful creative tool. I often rant about not being able to draw, envy others’ their skills, but maybe it’s time to cherish this use of language which I love love love also.
Having been tagged in various ways I’m expected to write things about myself and then tag others accordingly, but I’ve decided that as I need to prioritise the little energy I have I’ll skip both. (You should see me now, I’m literally hanging over the keyboard, trying to finish this post while my energy is trickling out of me. If it was visible there would be a puddle under my chair.). Anyway - you’ll gather enough about me and my thoughts through this blog, so there.
A warm and happy thank you to all of you who visit here and leave your traces – for the interest you’ve shown and the support and inspiration you’ve given - and please do keep coming!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Sketch for ’Twelve hanging maidens’

Since last autumn and following on from my ‘Five perfect maidens’ I’ve been thinking and feeling my way towards a larger project titled ’Twelve hanging maidens’ and it seems to me now that with my tied shoes I’m going in the right direction. The twelve hanging maidens are of course from The Odyssee. To set the scene: Odysseus has slaughtered the 100 suitors who hoped to take his place as king of Ithaca at Penelope’s side and instructs his son Telemachus to kill the twelve maids/servants/ slaves as he feels that they have betrayed him by shamelessly sleeping with the suitors. I am not even getting into questions like ‘did they have a choice, being female slaves?’, and ‘is the term shame ever applied in relation to sexual exploits by male figures?’ but going straight to the fact that apart from one (Melantho) they are nameless and nobody mourns them and the image of them hanging side by side with their feet twitching in the air until they’d breathed their last breath has long haunted me.
Anyway. Here is another pair which I ‘finished’ just yesterday. It’s taken me a good two weeks to get this one done, partly because the tieing needs more energy (holding the shoes firmly, the continuous tieing motion with taut thread, etc.) than say crocheting which I can do lying down, but also because I’ve been trying to tackle more practical things, i.e. how how to join the shoes together more securely and how to suspend them. I am quite happy with this version, although it’s still a sketch, there’s more to work out and I have yet to decide on the colour of the thread. The first pair showcased is still my favourite, but it's good to keep playing as something new emerges with each different pair: here I’ve let myself be led by the red-fleshy tone of the cotton which seemed to demand slight digressions into more curved contours.
(When I first read the Greek myths as a teenager there weren’t any alternative versions, but thanks to feminism we now have authors reading/re-imagining/rewriting some of the female figures, breathing new life into them by allowing them a complexity that is sadly lacking in Homer’s version. Christa Wolf’s Kassandra is one of my all-time favourite books, and now there is Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad.)

PS. Following Catherine Scriven's example (thank you, Catherine!) I've entered my Four furry maidens in the Saatchi-showdown. You can view this work and vote for it or check out other artists here.
Everybody can enter, so go on.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Experiments in progress

At the moment I can’t clearly formulate my ideas for/about my work, something which equally disconcerts and excites me. Looking over my blog-entries I realise that something is changing. Where before I almost exclusively showcased finished work about which I could write quite lucidly and coherently I’m now more and more presenting experiments, sketches, ideas, the path to … Coming out with things tentatively, it feels a bit like I’m stammering, searching/groping for words and blushing with the effort and failure looming. And yet this feels entirely right for me now. I’m using my blog as a virtual studio-space, posting images that maybe if I had a studio would just hang casually on a wall, roughly fixed with a piece of masking tape, and possibly draw a comment or two or not. With the format of the images here unless one leaves clues each one seems to have as much weight as the next one, no blue-tack, no scruffy pins or torn pieces of tape indicating that this is the way, not the end.

Currently I’m tieing/wrapping and crocheting doily-influenced nets/webs. Shoes and dresses still play a part but aren’t the end-product anymore - I’m trying to find different ways of using them/perceiving them/changing them. A net, a web, unless stretched taut and boasting its constituent stitches, is shapeless, or it can take the shape of what it is draped upon/around/over. You see here the crocheted web that I drew over my face the other day, formless now, and another one that I covered a pair of girls’ shoes with.

And I’ve been wrapping red thread around this dress with much gusto, but only during short bursts of energy, as I want this really tight. There is something about contained force and energy in that tied red column which thrills me, but it also holds the suppression of that force, both movements vascillating backwards and forwards in the process and in the image.

Saturday, 25 August 2007


Oh, the sun is out! I sit in the garden, my sunny spot near the door, still wearing layers and layers of clothing as this week has been more like October than August. I’m tilting my face towards the sun with eyes closed, feel warmth spreading over me and see pulsing floating undulating reds across which move darker cloudy flecks. Surprise: Rubbing my eyes turns the colours to green back to red back to green. Depending on where my hands move luminous oranges turn into yellow then red again, turning darker with brighter red webs moving across and dazzling green fields of light flaring up and disappearing again. Sometimes a shining red almost orange moves centrifugally across my field of closed-eyes-vision, then a fiery orange and purple-red with emerald-green coming up from below. Even just moving my eyelids (no hands) changes the colours: it’s best when frowning as a dark but very vibrant red (crimson?) appears with violet streaks. Oh what joy. And now my cardigan is off too.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Grey and red (one of four)

Made first but presented last: a dress of grey-brown hair, my favourite shade. I bought all I could get of this beautiful (because it touches me) double-tinted hair from two local shops a year ago, still have got some left, kept aside/safe for a new project. Colour of the present is red red red, I think red and crochet red (in wool and wire and hair) and write red, even dreamed red last week, but more about that another day. Grey-brown is the colour of ageing, of years turning churning, of memories accumulating and dislodging, of old age catching up with childhood remembered, of going back in time in mind while time seems to move forward faster and faster - towards the end. Hair greying and thinning on head and body, slowness and sagging of body but hopefully not of mind.
It’s also the hair of an old rangy cat the fur of which has been torn and shed and grown back unevenly. The tint of an old winter-coat that has kept its owner warm over the years. Of speckled bird’s eggs and the nest they lie in. Of ashes which brings me back to the colour red – the flames that consumed.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Two of four

I’m going backwards in time here - she was the second one I made of this series. After crocheting the dress and turning it inside out I plaited thin strands of hair, made coils and sewed them onto the dress. I wanted different textures for the dresses and was thinking of hairstyles from before my time, what we called Haarschnecken (literally translated: hair-snails, beautiful and gross) – hair-coils here.
Thinking about this today all kinds of associations come to my mind: good girl, neat girl, pretty girl, and a plethora of expectations and attitudes towards such a girl, a mother spending time to tenderly/carefully make up her daughter’s hair every morning, Heidi (you almost phantasise a dirndl), but also, more alarmingly, blond hair, blue eyes - Aryan ideals and all that entails. Different with the dress presented before – with buns stitched into surface: buns make me think of spinsters (which I want to reclaim as a positive term). On both dresses something starting to proliferate, like a beautiful fungus. There is an innocence here, mostly in the size of the dresses, and a fairytale character too. The hair, the material itself evoking in different degrees bodily things, instinct, desire, animal nature, wildness, untamedness. I like that all these diverse elements coexist here, the pretty and the disconcerting, the domesticated and the wild, innocence and animal nature. Like the complex beings that we are...

Friday, 10 August 2007

Just now, this morning

Wednesday was such a good day: I read in and delighted in and almost cried over a wonderful new book, made a couple of drawings for new ideas, did a bit of writing and some more crocheting in the garden, talked to some friends, all in small doses, but I felt good and alive to the world. Yesterday was entirely different, one of these tired days when my body just doesn’t function, limbs are leaden, things keep falling out of my hands, and worse: everything in me is dimmed by fatigue and I can’t think any new thoughts, can’t take anything in, even my imagination is mostly evaporated. Knowing what is good for me I still spent a lot of the day outside, lying on my sunbed wrapped in cardigans and wearing big socks which should be confined to the wardrobe in August but it was chilly. I was as ever surrounded by my tools of the trade: sketchbook, pens and writing paper, some Greek tales, some crocheting and a delicious pot of strong coffee, but no drawings were made, no words were written and I was glad that I could just follow some train of thought that had already been set in motion with the crocheting I’d started the day before.
Now it's Friday morning, I’m sitting here, writing this, still in my pj’s but feeling awake for now. NOW. So I’m presenting hairdress 3 of 4 without further ado, then I’ll have breakfast and go outside and I hope lateron I’ll be checking some of the blogs I like, of other artists, look at their work and read their thoughts and get inspired by their work too. This may well be a good day, if not, at least a good morning. The sun is shining.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Isn't she lovely?

I find it so difficult to put up something tentative, not worked out here that I've had my finger on the delete-button umpteen times since I posted 'Played myself a drawing' and only refrained from erasing it because I so much wanted to. So today is much easier, as I've finished a piece of work that is close to my heart. A set of four hairdresses, in work since last summer I think, each about 45 - 50 cm high, hung from branches. I'll introduce them all, but start now with the one I just finished. 'She' is the most furry one. I've crocheted 'her' from thick strands of ginger and dark brown hair and the fur is the bits that I leave hanging inside everytime I start a new strand. When finished I turn the dresses inside out. The texture here is lovely, the stitches dense and tight and contrasting with the softness of the strands' ends. There is a wildness about this one that cuts through the cuteness evoked by its size. I want to tell a story with her, a story that is only unfolding now that I see her.
(I found myself humming Stevie Wonder's Isn't she lovely... while I wrote this. It's true, I do feel strongly about some of my work, something like affection, love, pride, joy - I've made this one! -, esp. when the work has presence as this one does when seen in the flesh)

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Played myself a drawing

Actually drawing is such a frightening thing to me, not sure why, maybe it's the blank white paper. Have been trying out different ways to get around that and played myself this drawing: took a girl's dress, cut it along the seams and laid it out. Initially it felt a bit difficult to cut into something entirely o.k., felt like almost wanton destruction. Isn't that a funny word, 'wanton'? Of course I can't use an intriguing word without checking my trusted Thesaurus for further clues and found that it has much more meaning than I knew of and a lot of it referring to women, which of course interests me even more. You'll have to look it up yourself as I'm getting too tired to sit at the computer. Funny that, really only meant to post the pix and then find myself typing away, running behind my own train of thoughts which I'll cut of now.
(Wished I'd taken more care when cutting so that the 'lost' shapes had clearer shapes as I find them interesting too. Next time.)

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The pleasures of things tiny

One of the things that I’ve learned through having ME is an appreciation of small things that I might not have paid much attention to when I was well and very very busy. I don’t think I’d ever have gone around my garden sniffing the bushes’ leaves or delighted in the tiny white hairs on the stems of my one tomato-plant which grows right next to the chair I have breakfast in on a sunny morning. As I have been housebound a lot my focus had to shift and find inspiration in what I’ve got around me. I discovered the light/shadow-drawing made by the sun through my drawn blinds in the old bedroom and watched it slowly moving across the wall as the morning passed. The green hill that I could see from my bedroom became my Switzerland. A rare outing to an exhibition with a friend can nurture and inspire me for weeks and weeks.
My energies have been fluctuating a lot lately, so I’ve had good moments (rather short) and bad ones (much longer). The good moments are seized on and enjoyed to the hilt; it’s those seemingly endless grey mind-body-soul-numbing fatigue-periods that are hard to take as they obliterate everything, sensation, thought, desire. I have art-projects for every kind of energy level, making tiny light things when it’s difficult to hold stuff that has any weight at all really, straightforward simple crocheting without pattern or counting when my brain just doesn’t work , slightly more complicated stuff for when body and mind are reasonably in sync (i.e. working with hair) and something with pattern and some weight (the often mentioned red dress) for the better periods. Often that means that I work on different things during the day. I’m better in the morning, so my newest hairdress usually grows slowly early in the day, in the afternoon something else will be focussed on and in the evening, if my arms can still be lifted at all it’s something simple and straightforward.
It’s hard to say if I’d started crocheting if I hadn’t fallen ill with ME, but it suits me well now as I can do a lot of it lying down. And I’m expanding what I can do with crocheting, learning new stitches, trying out all kinds of materials, from yarns to hair to wires to wire-sleeving. My head as usual is buzzing with ideas of all sizes. From the child-size walking legs featured in my first-ever blog to hair dresses to tiny wire-doily-like things and something (so far only imagined) suitably large-meshed to be made from the coil of red wire-sleeving lying in my hallway the possibilities are endless.
PS. I am playing too!
PPS. I just love the way the real object peels away from the shadow in the second image.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Playing is hard

I’ve been thinking a lot about playing lately. Playing experimenting trying out letting things happen not working with a plan, it’s something that doesn’t come natural to me. I like to know what I’m working on, even if it changes while I’m working on ’it’. I like to have a bigger plan that guides my creative steps. Lately that has left me dissatisfied. I found that it quenches strangles chokes cuts off some of my artistic impulses which suddenly demand to be followed up. I am torn. Between my need to work in a structured manner, to produce coherently, to be good, to do good, to do right, to do well, with a clear aim in sight, and this new urgency to stumble mumble fumble in the dark. Normally I start out with an idea about what I want to say, what I want to explore. Things branch out from there of course, accidents happen, new ideas and impulses find their way in. And I’ve done some good work like that. But then I started thinking about playing… and found that playing and thinking are mutually exclusive. As soon as my ever-domineering head kicks in JUDGEMENT comes into play and spoils the fun. Judging does not go with playing. This is not new to me and playfulness has never been my forte, but having ME has strengthened that forbidding voice: every small period of energy has to be used and made the most of, every instant of alertness probed and squeezed and utilised and manifested and made meaningful in that vast grey fog of fatigue. In those short moments I have to prove myself. In a strange way I’ve remained a workoholic, only one of a very condensed kind! First work and then play is still my self-activating self-regulating over-arching motto. Ha! No more! Says she and then doesn’t know what to do with herself. Panic. I’m breaking into a sweat just writing this. But I want to play and see where it takes me. I want to be excited and surprised and have adventures with myself. I have tiny moments when I can, do, tiny moments.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Concealing and revealing

girl’s tapdancing shoes wrapped in mercerised cotton and suspended

to wrap – to fold or wind around so as to cover, to surround or conceal by surrounding, to enclose, immerse, or absorb, to fold, wind, or roll up, to be or become wound or extended…

to bind – to make or become fast or secure with or as if with a tie or band, to encircle or enclose with a band, to place under obligation, oblige, to impose legal obligations or duties upon, to make irrevocable; seal, to restrain or confine with or as if with ties, as of responsibility or loyalty, to place under certain constraints; govern, to bandage, to cohere or cause to cohere, to make or become compact, stiff, or hard, to enclose and fasten between covers, to provide with a border or edging, to employ as an apprentice; indenture…
(from Collins Concise Dictionary)

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Drawing with light

Yesterday a burst of energy coincided with perfect weather conditions and I was finally able to try something that had been on my mind for ages. Summer seemed to be back (last seen in April) - the sun was shining full-blast and I took outside a copper-wire doily I’d crocheted. The sharpness of the shadow-drawings delights me no end. Glad I seized the moment as sky overcast today again.
(if you click on the individual pix you can look at them full-size, it's worth it)

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Hey there

My blog is on my mind a lot, it’s become one of the things I really want to do and I hate that I have such long periods when it’s impossible. Had stuff on my mind to write about, made notes, but too tired as apart from washing of self washing of clothes of the essence today. A blog can be a whimper, a whisper, a shriek, a cry, a halting bit of speech, a steady flow of words, a stammering, a bursting forth, a tentative groping for meaning, a trickle, a pouring out, a bubbling up of laughter. Today it’s just an out-breath, a barely audible sigh

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Red shoes and other things

Sometime in May Jade from the gorgeous spectrescope tagged me to name five things people don't know about me and while I almost decided not to spend time on this I felt bad about interrupting this chain of blogs (does anyone remember this chainletter thing which almost put a curse on you if you didn't continue it?) and found myself thinking about what I would mention, so here it is:

1. I love the colour red, in flowers painting yarn summerfruit sunset jewellery clothes anything. Once I tried on every single red item in a shop but just about managed not to buy it ALL. I also have a thing for shoes and red shoes, or better the idea of red shoes is pure bliss.

2. I am scared of drawing, of committing lines to paper. Did a life drawing course years ago and drew with pencil lines so fine they were barely visible to the eye.

3. My favourite smell is of freshly cut grass, the sweet freshness, greenness of it. At the moment I go through my small garden everyday, which is surrounded by bushes, and breathe with nose buried in the foliage, trying to sniff out each distinct scent. Some scents are barely perceptible, the ivy’s is the clearest, and with the other leaves I have to work a bit harder, but there is something there.

4. Words can hold such mystery. My favourite German word is Zitronensilber which literally translates into lemonsilver. It holds an elusive link to my dad’s childhood, describing a lemonade that he loved as a kid. I’m not sure if it was self-made or actually sold in bottles and can’t ask him about it as he died some years ago. The word itself, its sound and imagery in one stroke evoke the treat of a sweet and only subtly sour faint-yellow fizzy liquid tickling the child’s tongue.

5. I can’t tell jokes to save my life.

I in turn now nominate the following to do their bit if they want, definitely no curse involved: Under secret door, sighbirdrift, tattingmydoilies, diary-project, cally creates.

Back to (art)work: A little while ago I bought an old pair of girl’s shoes, red of course, maybe from the 50s. I’ve been working with shoes off and on for ages, more about that another time, and as I’ve lately been tired of the narrowness of my vision of what I do with - dresses, shoes, figures, dresses, shoes - I decided to try to use these in different ways. I see these as sketches, I’m trying to feel my way somewhere different and am intrigued with new shapes emerging; not sure yet where it will take me.