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.