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.