Thursday, 18 December 2008

Happy holidays!

I’m flying off towards the new year and will leave you with my (currently) favourite lines, from a book that the lovely Mien sent me:

'Yes before now I have been a boy and a girl
And a bush and a bird and a languageless fish in the sea.'

(Empedokles, fragment 117)
in Anne Carson’s response to Roni Horn’s work:
Wonderwater: Alice Offshore, p. 85

You know why. Let's all be everything we can be! Wishing you a happy healthy creative peaceful & communicative 2009. See you then.

The flying femme was made in 2004, a birthday present for my mom.
Materials: Newsprint and masking tape
Dimensions: 60 cm x 9 xm x 36 cm

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Three commas and a coma

I am between ideas, with my art, with my writing. Several miniscule, barely graspable notions flutter like tiny insects at the edge of sight, but when I turn to look more closely, are only meaningless specks on the wall. A larger idea hovers too, but it has been postponed until my energies have improved and my arms feel stronger.
I can't complain though - something wonderful has happened this year: I found poetry, poetry found me. My thinking, my capacity for expression, for pleasure, my whole being has been affected. The world has grown and my ways of being in it too.*
Even if my art-making has not quite but stopped, it's mostly suspended, for now. (The preparations for Xmas have something to do with it, my creative arm-energy goes into wrapping presents.) Poetry is ‘easier’ to work with, not because it’s easy to do, not at all actually, but because my body does not need to function as well – I can turn over a few words, lines, a verse anyoldhow, even when ‘grounded’ energywise, in bed, on the floor, in my armchair, without lifting a limb.
Although I love the writing more and more I’m not quite ready to let the art go, body obliging or not. Have rummaged in my box of false and forgotten starts and taken out a little thing crocheted two summers ago from hairy-thin red wire. It’s not very interesting in itself, but intrigues me when I look at it through the camera lens. It may be flat now but it’s gained extra dimensions: there is something here about mark-making, doodling, drawing, maybe something precursive to writing… I’ve often thought that crochet stitches looked at closely resemble writing, hand-writing, cursive writing, esp. when done with wire. It’s the air around the stitches that turns them into mysterious letters, signs, hieroglyphs. Here is a loose form of writing, a scrawling, a trying out, not quite concerned yet with the production of meaning, not concerned with staying neatly between two horizontal lines. This is where I am, now, between, not the easiest of places, but with my two loves beckoning

* The M.E. impacts on every aspect of life; the social and mental effects are maybe even harder to live with than the physical ones. My reading too is turned by this illness, when I'm most tired letters scramble, regroup, blur, words loose their meaning, and it’s become one of the many activities that I cannot maintain for long. Sometimes interesting bits can surface from that alphabet soup: ‘there comes’ becomes ‘three commas’ becomes a ‘coma’ before it becomes again what it always was.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Daedalos' daughter


In a flock of girls 
he doesn't see her

Once he roused stone
to song, ran rings
around kings and monsters,
made wings, master
of high and low.

Up, up he swung,
his son in tow,
humming with glee
and glory.

A curse on the sun’s
indifferent fire, razing
a boy’s blurry dreams.
His unfinished
stone soul crashed
into the ready sea.

Oh, to be nameless.
Now the wingbeat
of a father’s fist
opening and closing
is the only thing
that stirs the air.

No light in his eyes
but for a boy
trailing a scrawl of wings,
wax pellets holding like welds.


She dreams herself armless
but winged and beaked
and bedecked with feathers.
His ringed bird, she’d fly
under a sky brimming with clouds
or in the white light of the moon.

And if she opens her eyes
and falters, flutters, fails,
he’ll still see something amazing:
a girl falling out of the sky.

Monday, 24 November 2008


She dreams herself armless
but winged and beaked
and bedecked with feathers.
His ringed bird, she’d fly
under a sky brimming with clouds
or in the white light of the moon.

Dimensions of crocheted one-piece-gloves, laid out: 52 cm x 19 cm
Poem: Fragment of poem-in-progress

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


After my enforced art-break I’m slowly starting to pick up the threads. This is the last paper figure I finished, in July I think, and as she’s sitting in a shelf just above me I’ve been looking at her a lot. She is only slightly bigger than my other figures, yet appears heavy and almost monumental. I’ve made her differently, wrapped the newsprint less tightly; there is more looseness, openness, in parts less definition of form. She seems on the verge of becoming or disintegration, and looking down at herself in wonderment. Let me fly with that: Maybe she’s not recognising herself in human form, having undergone a kind of reverse metamorphosis from mineral or animal form. Consciousness of her (new) self would be arising slowly. I imagine her getting a sense of herself by ‘feeling’ her body from the inside, sensorily scanning it, perceiving the mysterious warmth of her form, the as yet uncanny vibrations of breath, the unsteady heartbeat, moving and stretching her limbs tentatively, and assembling her impressions almost blindly. I wonder what it would feel like to wake up armless, but winged and beaked and bedecked in feathers. Or, even more difficult to imagine: having been a rock for aeons, to find soft-skinned nakedness and mutability and being unable to name this incongruous newness? I don’t think the terror would be any less this way around.
We all experience some of this – that moment when we wake up and briefly, terrifyingly do not know who/what/where we are. When we look in the mirror and find our mother or father staring back at us. Or when we are confronted with the physical and mental changes brought by ageing or illness. This summer I found I could not recognise my knees, their shape had shockingly altered – this new (or rather oldish) pair was sagging and I’d not seen the change coming.

Materials: newsprint and masking tape
Dimensions: 39 cm x 16 cm x 38 cm

Monday, 3 November 2008


I’ve been thinking about coming back to blogging for a while, my wishes as ever preceding my energy, but have felt weary about it as during the last few months I have not produced any artwork – I’ve got nothing to show. (Here's a tailor-made proverb - nothing crocheted, nothing gained...) I have not been entirely uncreative - my poetry-vein has been pulsing off and on and I have started to note down the first stirrings of ideas. But for a lot of that tired tired tired time I felt out of touch, my bed an island afloat on a glassy sea, no land in sight.
Had a dream the other week, about coming back to art college after a longish absence, maybe from illness, and finding that in the meantime the other students had learned new processes. One, A., with whom I did go to college, had made a pair of boots from thin smooth gleaming brass, with a machine-made look, which I didn't much like, but she’d actually made them herself. So everybody had made progress, while I had been standing, or rather lying, still. Neatly sums up some of my anxieties about my art-work, about blogging, about a lot of life watched from the sidelines demarcated by M.E. I feel not being involved in art-making as a loss of identity and it wrenches me. But strange things happen: As I wrote this out just now I was zoomed right back to my artist-self by a little mistake: instead of writing ‘she’s made them herself’ I wrote ‘hairself’. It pierces and pleases me with its crazy rightness. Hey, that's me! I’m back!
So - I'm marginally less tired and penning my first lines, for blogs, ideas, poems... Here’s hoping that I will get beyond these and build and grow and turn and shine. And communicate and exchange and feedback with you all again...
In the meantime I'm holding my breath - never have I been so anxious and so hopeful about an election. All fingers and toes and everything else crossed for American voters to do their bit and elect Barack Obama, for themselves and for all of us.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Alien take-over

After a brief period of improvement in July I have gone from bad to worse. Again. I should be used to this happening, but it shocks me every time anew and I deny and struggle and kick, inwardly that is, for as long as I can. Fatigue is now consuming everything, activity, movement, thinking, imagination. No more scribbling down of ideas for a better day – my head’s gone blank, my wings hang limp like damp dishtowels. During the days it’s taken me to write this the sky too has been the colour of unloved washed-out greyish-white underwear - just when I need the warm tips of the sun's rays to tickle me awake.
Time to give in, give up, give over, for a while. Back when I’m up to it.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


I expend energy by the thimbleful, scooped from a very shallow pool, a puddle really. A slow skirt-dance of ripples when I dip in, then back to mirror-stillness.
When I am tired I feel like a blurred version of myself. At the moment I go out of focus a lot. Imagine a photo developing in its tray of chemical solution in the darkroom, releasing its image slowly, steadily, as if from nothing. At my worst I do the opposite: flat as a picture, I fade into a fog of white.
Or is this when I am most in focus? Exhausted, unable to lift a limb, having let everything drop away, desire, thinking, book, pen, telephone, crocheting hook, I can only just be, breath in, breath out.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Changing places

In response to my post on 19 July Roxana asked why I chose ‘to write the explanatory text so objectively/scholarly’. First to the prosaic reasons: Writing for an exhibition catalogue was quite a challenge, but apart from the briefest mentions in reviews I have not had my work written about professionally and so had to write the text myself. I sure wanted it to be able to stand up with the other texts in the catalogue. But there’s more.
I find the change of position – from maker to viewer (to reviewer?) - stimulating. These positions are contrary and complementary and intertwined and here tied up in a kind of close-knitted/knotted bundle. Writing is a looking back, an assessment usually months after the work was completed, when some degree of distance from the impetus for the work and its production has been gained. It’s a fresh look, a changed look, and newly penetrating - I’ve often discovered elements that I hadn’t noticed while I was working on the individual pieces. Hopefully it’s also a more critical one (within reason, it’s still all about me me me).
Writing is as important to me as my visual art, and I enjoy trying it out in different ways. It is interesting to attempt to look at one’s work from inside and outside. Writing can be a different way in, at its sharpest it pierces open membranes which coat troubling facets like scar tissue. Something happens that wouldn’t otherwise - on the one hand it is a distancing process and one of translation maybe, but in a strange way it also allows me to crawl deep into the work, to inhabit it anew.
It was important to me to produce a text that wasn’t (too) personal. There is a danger of being pinned down on the personal / emotional / feminine and thus narrowly judged and somewhat dismissed. When you get personal or biographical, people often take the easy road and read the work just through what they think they know, looking for links to me, to my life, to being ill. That’s just too simple/simplifying. Explorations of difference and otherness have featured in my (practical and theoretical) work since art-college. The kind of critical thinking learned there is one of the most cherished elements of my education. So in the setting of a professional exhibition with a professional catalogue I wanted a professional text, even if I wrote it myself. Seeing it in print now I can only hope I’ve pulled it off. (Check out Roxana's blog The floating bridge of dreams - it is quite wonderful.)

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Summer walk

A slow walk on a hot summer’s day, excursion beyond the realm marked by silver birch. My steps almost in tune with the heat, stately speed, syncopated by stick’s rhythm: one crisp beat to two measured steps. In time they become halting, energy trickling out of me fast, traceless. More rest-points on way back, sit on fences, walls, parapets; savour stillness in air that comes with heat. Turn face towards pale blue sky dabbed with thin washes of cloud. Breath in, breath out, steady now. Up again and onwards, slower and slower, teetering, every so often scuttling sidewards like crab - waste of precious steps, but also little involuntary dance, celebrating the spot I tread around. A memory alights, of school-outings, where some of us would link arms and temporarily walk in step, chanting: ‘Ein Hut, ein Stock, ein Regenschirm,/und vorwärts, rückwärts, seitwärts, steh’n.’ And again. (In the interest of maintaining innate iambic rhythm I translate as follows: ‘A hat, a stick, umbrella too,/and forwards, backwards, sidewards, still.’ Shout out and let right leg swing and stop, like a 3D-pendulum.)
Home seems to recede. I trail a straight line, thrown just for me. Time to sink nose into cup-sized purple bell-blossoms on high stalks, nameless to me, and clusters of tiny blue flowers whose sweet-scented loveliness I share with a bee. Finally I see my door, touch my keys, let home reel me in.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

View of a room

Ambiguity pulsates with the lifeblood of the imperfect. In these figures the real interweaves with the dreamt, the actual touches the imagined, the beautiful and the monstrous exist as one. The unexpected shapes, the extra, the different sit comfortably with the ‘normal’ ones. Useless barren arms hanging by a figure’s side like dried up lianes, a hooked hunch on the back in which a pair of wings might be enfolded, heavy lumpy shapes growing from limp wrists, bulbous breasts hanging over fleshy folds, buttocks that extend into solid pear-shaped humps, a thin raised arm, a round pregnant belly - there is a degree of innocence (in the sense of unworldliness?) here, not least in the small size of the figures, but anchored in and evocative of bodily things, instinct, desire, pleasure, pain. (extract from my text for the catalogue, which I originally wrote in English and struggled to translate into German, my mother tongue, ending up with an awkward, stilted and offside text - rescued by my friends A. and W., who helped make it flow and sound German)

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Good tidings –

I'm back and all went well, really well in fact: The exhibition papier = kunst 6 (ten artists) at KunstLANDing in Aschaffenburg looks very strong, one of my figures was chosen for the exhibition poster, I was there for the private view, my family came, friends who I hadn’t seen in years attended, feedback was positive. That the packing up and arranging for transport and other preparations took me the best part of a month and left no energy for anything else, not even to receive visitors, is another story. I got it done, with blinkers on, in slow motion, bit by bit, and I got there too. After years of mailing work to exhibitions which I couldn’t attend and where I had no influence on the presentation of my work this was a delight. And left me tired and greedy in equal measure.
I’m not content anymore with sending my art into the world, my emissaries - standing in for me while I lie on my living room floor. I guess it’s a sign of better health and energies – when you’re all exhausted you stop even wishing. But while my energies improve incrementally my wishes/urges/longings/hopes grow exponentially. They’re like a big young dog lunging forwards sidewards onwards, ready to sniff out new territories, dragging behind her, just about hanging on to the leash, her lame mistress.

Photo: unpacked figures, waiting to be placed, courtesy W.K.
More to come.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Six year’s work

Imagine this: my living-room has been transformed into something resembling a gallery-space and a selection of six year’s art has been displayed on walls and shelves. I am there, poured into an armchair, watching people react to and interact with my work, I chat with my visitors, give clues about the background of individual pieces, receive feedback… Yes, it happened! I took part in an artists’ open studio/open house event and for a weekend showed my art here, at home, where it has been made. It was an amazing time, especially as my work inspired immense enthusiasm. People who had been here on the Saturday sent their friends the next day and my visitors’ book is filled with lovely comments by artists and art enthusiasts alike. They were all agreed that my show was unlike anything else they’d encountered on their artists’ trail. So there! I grew a couple of inches and now have to stoop to get through my doors.
And it was good for me to see my work displayed. It showed me that not only do I have enough (good and interesting) work to fill gallery spaces, but that the disparate strands sit well together, communicating with and bouncing off each other. There’s a really good exhibition here. One day…
Also shown: Not food, not air, not filth, not hair, My mother has golden hair, my Hunchbacked girl (I’m thinking of calling the work House), a winged figure, tiny dancing dresses cut from autumn-leaves, other bits and pieces and a strange hairy something which hangs from my lamp by default.
And now you know why I haven’t been posting here or have been dragging my feet answering the comments some of you left (thank you). I’m still hoping to catch up, but also very tired, esp. after a very interesting hospital appointment. As ever, please, bear with me.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

London mapped in words

I've got a piece of writing in City of Shared Stories, a project run by Spread the Word who invited people to write stories directly linked to a London street. All stories now map out our beautiful lively city in words, a map in flux as stories can be added anytime.
You can find my story here.

Friday, 2 May 2008

About speaking

At the moment I’m thinking a lot about speaking, about having a voice, finding a voice (or is it voices?). As I’m not making a lot of art at the moment I almost feel as if I’ve lost (part of) my voice. Trying to write poetry does make up for it some way, esp. when I can write about something that I can feel. My writing is very much rooted in the body, in the physical, as my art is. Or better: in being embodied. I try to make emotional states manifest in physical shapes, to translate physical sensation into form, explore ambiguous states of mind and body, with all the complexities and vulnerabilities that implies.
I wrote this poem seven or eight weeks ago for the course, it’s not a brilliant attempt but this morning I found myself going back to it and as I haven’t got any visual art to offer just now I’ll give you this. I am thinking my way forward or sideward maybe to understanding the octopus mask I made, it links in here somehow, but I can’t formulate it yet. This is exciting and a bit scary too, a good place to start.

bees buzz in her mouth...
(poem taken out for editing)

Thursday, 24 April 2008

If wishing helped…

During a conversation with friends about the shadow M.E. casts with its temperamental hold on our physical and mental energies we came upon this question: Now that everything is slowed and pared down and we seem at times to be in an almost eerie state of suspense –- should we accept this as life or should we feel that life will really only start (again) when we are better, even well. It’s a fine line to tread. For me it is important to not allow illness to take over my life, to strive to get better, to project into a future, but also to accept this as part of who I am, now. Denial would be as counterproductive as resignation. We do need to live now, this is it, this is life, with or without energy, every day. During the days when brushing one’s teeth or pulling up the blinds or reading an e-mail seems an accomplishment it can be difficult to hold on to a positive sense of self, one beyond illness. The fatigue can pervade every cell of one’s body, every nook and cranny of one’s brain and the feeling of suspense comes from constantly having to postpone, defer – conversations, walks, meals, creative exploits, whatever. Maybe later. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next year.
Strangely it made me remember something: When I was a child at primary school I wanted to be another girl, Dagmar S., who was in the same form as me. I did not want to be like her, but really wished to be her, as for me she was loveliness and lovability incorporated. I have no idea what she would have made of that had she known. She may well herself have wished to be in somebody else’s shoes.
Today I don’t wish to slip into another person’s skin, but when abjection catches hold of me during extremely exhausted periods I find it difficult to see myself as a whole. I can’t help feeling untethered, a pod-like thing that holds something that might one day emerge. Or not. These periods don’t last long, I’m glad to say and now that writing has taken its delicious place in my life they are diminished further. So yes, the poetry course has started again after the Easterbreak and I’ve had my first really positive criticism, funnily enough for my crocheting girl-poem. Writing that poem felt so good as my visual art and my writing came together, and it made the poem pulsate. I’ve been missing crocheting, several unfinished pieces are scattered around, but as ever focus is of the essence.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Following on...

Finally the sun is out again (which does wonders for my mood) and the other day, when I was sitting in the garden, feeling the sun’s warmth spread through me, I tried to clarify some of the thoughts I touched on in my last blog, about the artist possibly having childlike qualities. I certainly did not mean any kind of innocence but was thinking about the feelings invoked by offering up for scrutiny what we’ve made - wanting, craving, needing appraisal, and the vulnerability that is built into that need.
Of course the wish for feedback is legitimate, after all art is about communication. It is akin to speech in that it requires an other to respond. However there is something in the solitary nature of the artist’s work, be it in the studio or at home, which makes the moment of exposure, when we present what we’ve engaged with and spent our energy on, a fairly dramatic one. Often we cut ourselves off from others in order to focus completely on the work and then, when the art is finished, it becomes social all of a sudden. It’s what we mean it to be, we do want to communicate, we do want to open up to the wider world, but the fact is that with our offering we invite judgement, which we fear as much as we desire it. There are different kinds of artists and maybe the degree of vulnerability varies, but I think on the whole we all hold our breath until… One of the contradictions of course is that through our art we communicate outside of language, but the response will mostly be in words. The very worst is no response, indifference; not far behind is a negative, condemning one, then comes being told what one has done looks ‘nice’. The best is a constructive response, including criticism, a response that is based on a deeper engagement with the work, that maybe exposes something in the respondent too. I have had quite a lot of that here, have felt nurtured and challenged by it in the best possible ways and am immensely grateful.
As ever I've only scratched the surface here, thoughts are trailing loosely in all kinds of directions and it's taken me ages to formulate this! But having asked myself (in response to a comment by Susan who makes me think like no other) if writing a blog is worth the effort, esp. feeling that I can’t do it often enough and that I usually lack the energy to read other blogs on a regular basis, and don't leave as much feedback as I'd like, I say yes. Trying to formulate my thoughts here makes me think deeper and further than I probably would if it all just stayed in my head. And quite a few of the ensuing discussions and exchanges are open and deep and relevant. Maybe if I was part of a lively group of artists and ‘naturally’ engaged in critical conversations about the making of art I’d not so much need the forum here, but that’s not the case. For years my art-making has been a kind of monologue as it didn't get out into the world much, and I've felt the lack of engagement with other artists acutely. And so there, here I am and here I stay, and appear whenever I can. And in any case I enjoy and value my virtual links with artists in other parts of the world too much to let go of them. I'm off now to look at some of those blogs I cherish, it's been a while and I can't wait. It's one way of stepping into the world and engage.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

The artist’s dress

The handlebar dress had been nagging away at me, it never felt quite right and I wish I hadn’t posted it. Took it out again a couple of weeks ago and unravelled parts of the sleeves and about half of the skirt. For a moment I had the impulse to go on and undo it completely but then decided to try one more thing and here it is. The underside of the sleeves are sewn to the skirt’s hem. This dress-shape has been on my mind for a while, it crops up again and again in tiny drawings all through my sketchbook, but I’ve had reservations about making it (and posting it). It seems it needed to be done. And now reflected about.
I’ve been thinking about myself as an artist, as usually having a bit of a crisis about it, and wonder if this dress may be about how I feel as an artist. The kind of work I make is not abstract, it is heavily anchored in being and feeling, in being embodied, being a woman. For me the artist’s work cannot be done without questioning aspects of oneself. It means that I am laying myself open, to myself first of all, but also to anybody who looks at the work and engages with it.
Inhabiting this dress means being locked in that gesture (until 'she' slips out of the dress), every movement of her arms has an impact on the degree to which she conceals/reveals herself. Being an artist is what I consider best about myself but it is not a clear-cut thing, its aspects pull in opposite directions: there is the urge to tug away at curtains, to worry wounds, to reveal and display, and vulnerability, even shame about doing just that and maybe doing it badly. Also fear and uncertainty about what one brings to light, as that is by no means obvious when starting the work.
This dress has gone through so many shapes (and even this text has gone through umpteen mutations, its slant changing, its mood, its content). This is its ultimate shape and as a mark of finality I have washed it. In the morning, when I decided to post the dress, I had no clear idea what concerns it would bring up for me beyond what made me do the work in the first place - they came out in the writing. More questions buzz in my head: Do I see the artist as a child? (No, but…) Is my work too self-referential? (Maybe, but…) To what extent can one control how one’s work is read and is that an issue that the artist should consider? How does one cope with criticism or the lack of interest? And fundamentally, for myself: is it all worth the effort? There's more, there's always more, but I'm too tired now.
Fittingly I have started crocheting a mask, knowing full well it will conceal as much as it will reveal.

Dimensions: 46 x 68 cm (incl. coathanger)

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Girl, crocheting

Leashes stretch from her hands in ruddy colours.
Head bent she takes stabs at a flaggy fleece,
pricks and probes.

She wields a small metallic rod,
curled at one end,
miniature bill blunted for girls’ hands.

Despite her attempts to subdue
a mangled triangle grows slowly.
Its twin stains the floor.

The eyeless needle delves in, pulls out.
Between her fingers trail
thin ribbons, bloodless arteries.

Clammy hands drag loop through loop,
stitch curly hieroglyphs, each row
a protocol of checks and curbs.

From patterns written in a secret alphabet
she casts spells beyond her years:
chain, cross, lover’s knot.

In time stray threads ensnare and enmesh,
cast snakes down her lap,
ripples on floor.

Reds, pinks and blues entwine -
her heart in her hands
contracts and expands.

Every stitch unties a knot.

Monday, 17 March 2008


After the last blog of plenty now a blog of want. Obviouysly inspired by Heinrich Hoffmann’s Suppen-Kaspar, whose diminishing boy-figure I’ve never forgotten, the dress was crocheted from a finely spun silk/wool-mixture, using a thin crocheting hook. Lots and lots of tiny even stitches. As with all my dresses I worked from the centre: down from the narrow waist for the skirt and up for the bodice. I loved the feel of the blue skirt flowing slowly from between my fingers. The bodice was a sweatier affair, wielding a very small crocheting hook to produce extremely tight stitches. I wanted a dense, firm and contracted feel here and chose the pattern to give the impression of bricks used to erect a tower, all in contrast to the softness of the wide flowing skirt. I had chosen another pattern originally and when I changed my mind about it half way through I found it was impossible to unravel the stitches as they were completely interwebbed. Had to cut everything off just above the skirt and start again. That bit of necessary aggression seemed strangely fitting.
The dress hangs from a mattress needle. It is gigantic, 25 cm long, and looks and feels like a needle made for a giantess. I imagine her sitting on top of a hill with legs stretching into the valley and mending her daughter's torn dress with dainty stitches (in giant’s terms). I’m digressing, but in a way it makes sense, as the dress is also something to do with how much place one wants/dares to take up in the world. Of course it’s always more ambiguous than that – by trying to make yourself small and almost disappear in thin air you also stand out. Delicacy set against and with stressed, strained toughness.
With each dress I crochet I fantasise a girl. I see this one as having come to a stage where she refuses to take anything in. Not food, not air, not filth, not hair, not insult, not injury, not fear, not hope, not affection, not

Dimensions: 61 cm x 90 cm

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Grins and tears and more grins

Just in case I’ve been giving the impression that I’m always struggling here’s my entirely positive post-birthday post, as ever written way after the fact.
On the day a group of eight friends took me to my new favourite
South-Indian restaurant for a delectable early evening birthday dinner. Everything was organised, I had no hand in it at all (it clearly wouldn’t have happened if I had) apart from crying yes yes yes. At said restaurant I sat propped against the wall with the widest of grins on my face, really, my smile muscles got a full and steady workout. Just when
I was about to flag beyond repair the most beautiful birthday cake was brought in, a gooey chocolate one topped with red candles, and when everybody burst into ‘Happy birthday to you’ I duly burst into tears.
Blew out the candles (won’t say how many), made a wish, ate a
sliver of delicious cake, then back home and straight to bed,
still grinning.
A real cornucopia of presents too, from everywhere: a red camelia, whose first opening blossom I greeted in the garden this morning, a luscious red-golden throw (which graces my sofa now), a soft crimson-flowered winter-scarf, a spring-coloured stola, bunches of pink and red tulips, a pink-red-golden tin for everyday treasures… You’ll have detected the colour-theme by now, but here we’re going beyond: books of poetry, fun and serious, a beautiful book about the artist Sophie Calle that holds surprises, the Cranach-poster that strangely caused controversy on the tube, two gorgeous drawings by my favourite little boys, a wee silvery two-in-one salt-pepper-mill, chocolates, music, snowdrops for next year, a tiny plastic greenhousy thing for sowing seeds inside, lots of seeds too, oh, and of course the aforementioned heavy tomes of dictionaries, destined to sow seeds in the fallow furrows of my cloudy brain. Quite a bit of dosh too which will purchase red (yes!) blinds some day soon, and a pair of long overdue reading glasses. A lovely brotherly and sister-in-lawly visit concluded the festivities the following weekend.
Since I fell ill I haven’t celebrated my birthday in a larger group, often too tired even to take note, definitely too tired to organise anything much. So thank you, dear dear M., for making it happen, thanks to all who came and grinned back at me and thanks to all who sent me those beautiful presents, cards and thoughtful good wishes.
I’m especially touched too by the (pink, ahem) envelope to R.’s birthday card, on which she has drawn a few choice samples of my artwork, and very beautifully too.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Back for a day

Things have changed since I’ve started the poetry-writing course as it absorbs almost all my mental energy. I don’t crochet. I don’t make notes about ideas. I don’t sketch. I don’t read blogs, I don’t write mine very often. It’s quite disconcerting, these activities did fill a good part of my days and shaped how I saw myself. My visual brain was always working, always churning away, and now that the coursework greedily devours all my attention, it is still, dormant. In some ways the new regime suits me: writing can be done almost anywhere I sit, lie, stumble. But trying to write poetry is hard work, slow work, every word needs to be weighed and appraised and weighed again, and I do feel on unsure ground. Yet when I’m on a roll something high voltage kicks in that makes me feel utterly alive no matter how my body feels. It makes me kind of surge internally, if you know what I mean.
So instead of being surrounded by yarns, needles, crocheting hooks, sketch books, pens and pencils I’ve now got within reach pens and writing paper and my beloved Thesaurus. The two very heavy tomes of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which I can hardly lift, lie open next to my bed of blankets on the living room floor. (There’s something about a dictionary – I love leafing through its pages, looking at words that are as yet utterly mysterious to me and wondering how I could stretch myself to use them in some way. Unfortunately they escape from my brain like puffs of smoke almost as soon as I turn the page…)
It is strange that my visual side can lie fallow like that. And I feel the lack of blog-bonding acutely, miss the exchanges, the mutual inspiration and encouragement, and don’t want to lose touch. As I’m not producing just now I thought I’d go back to what is already there and what still and again interests and fascinates me: the imperfect body and how it can be imagined to speak of emotional states. Here are two drawings made a couple of years ago, clearly linked to both my paper figures and dresses.
Now I’ll disappear again, off to try to write a poem about speaking, the physicality of speaking, probably way too ambitious a task for a beginner but as with my visual work I’m going for what grips and compels me. I’ll learn from my failures. And maybe you’ll hear a holler or two when I think I’ve written the perfect line.
I do hope to check in with you soon and see what you’ve been up to in the meantime.

Friday, 22 February 2008

I’m an opsimath, and thank you

How I’ve missed my blog! My online poetry-writing course is brilliant, it is laying out new pathways in my brain and excites and exhilarates me, but as a baby-poet amidst students who have been reading and writing for ages I feel like a small child showing off mud-pies ‘baked’ in the sandpit. I’m also feeling the strain of writing in a foreign language like never before. Doesn’t stop me though, I’m here to learn and explore and experiment and enjoy. The tutor is kind and supportive and always manages to find a little something that’s interesting in my efforts, bless him, and had some lovely things to say about Old woman, but I know he’s making allowances for me. That's o.k.
I am so grateful for the chance of trying myself out in new ways, stretching myself, and the sad news I had on Monday, about a friend finally giving up her struggle to stay alive, underline this. Last week, just when I was fiddling with a small poem about an old woman, her chance of reaching old age was taken away irrevocably. I’ve been writing furiously this week, as ever in fits and spurts when my energy allowed, but glad I had something that I could focus on intermittently. That’s where writing is different to say, crocheting, which leaves parts of my mind unoccupied and might facilitate a steady descent into the pits. While I write all of my attention is in that act, and it’s helped me to keep at bay for bits of time the overwhelming sadness of losing M., whose lovely sparkly face continually hovers around the edge of my vision.
So this small pebble of a poem is for you, M.

Old woman

A tattered arm-chair holds her,
the lavish parade of velvety petunias outside
just smouldering blotches of red.

Inside her a huge eye is prised open:
girl with pig-tails turning pages
of mail-order catalogue,
early evening waiting-for-dad song curdling into lullaby,
the shuddering terror of spider in hair (they’d laughed at her fears),
the dry rustling of autumn leaves kicked up with glee. 

Words sail through her mind like zeppelins:
incarnadine, inamorata, inchoation. Line in a poem
she can’t fully remember: ‘arms limp like carrots’.

Through the window the sky’s a steady spectacle, turning
from blue to white to pink to night.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

This is a thank you!

It’s almost a year since I’ve started my blog, and it’s been brilliant! My world has become so much bigger. Introducing artwork that would otherwise have remained unseen, reflecting on my processes, talking about what inspires me has been great, but most importantly, I’ve made connections with other artists, with you. I’ve come to feel part of a wider artists’ community again, and although contact and communication within that community is through virtual means, it is open and giving and inspiring and real and has helped mend some of this artist’s anxieties about being invisible, inaudible and out of touch. Many a morning I’ve gone straight from bed to computer to check if new messages greeted me, and that click on new ‘comments’ makes my heart beat in anticipation every time.
That my writing would blossom here was unexpected. Producing texts about my work has always been a way of making me think deeper, examining the pieces more closely from a slightly different vantage point, just aside of the maker’s. And although I always took great care when I wrote statements about my art I saw these as secondary, their main function to support and illuminate the art. This has changed here. Inspired by the positive feedback I’ve received I’ve dared to post discreet text-pieces, relying on the imagery held within.
Writing is an even more secretive pursuit than making art. My artwork is at least visible to those who see me at home, bits and pieces, unfinished as well as completed, are always scattered around the flat. Words on paper are more elliptical, and need to be actively offered up. My confidence has grown with every enthusiastic, even excited comment about my words, and it’s made me want to explore writing more seriously. Here’s my news: I’m now a student on a writing poetry online-course!! It’s a great challenge, mainly in terms of my energy and ME-clogged headspace. It will mean less art-making, alas, and I'll become even more of a minimal blogger – but please don't stop checking in, I'll be around. I'm so very hungry for new experiences and poetry beckons to me like a country that I’ve never been to. I can’t physically get around much so this is how I’ll do it, from bed if needs be. I’ll become an explorer! A space traveller! A deep-sea diver! The captain of a steamship, a story-teller, a bird, a sea-anemone, a witch, a wild thing, a piece of rock on the moon, a ray of sun. Spring is in me.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

About speaking

There are periods when I am too tired to speak. It’s made me aware that speaking is a twofold effort – mental and physical. Real fatigue not only muddles and slows down one’s thought processes or at worst all but extinguishes them, but transforms every tiny action into an arduous mission. When I’m at my most poorly, and thank goodness these severe periods have become rarer and shorter, forging clear chains of thought and transforming them into comprehensible and meaningful sounds is on the far side of possible. In the extended enforced silence my own voice becomes strange to me. I have become unsure and self-conscious about speaking (up) and often think I’m speaking too loud, even though friends assure me that I’m not.
To get used to hearing myself speaking again, to make it normal to myself, I have started to read poetry aloud. Had a lovely experience with my current favourite, Louise Glück’s Snowdrops, which I tried to learn by heart. Initially my voice sounded feeble and monotonous and seemed to diminuish the power of the poem but I read the words again and again and again. In time making friends with the poem’s rhythms helped unfold layers of meaning that had escaped me before. I could feel my throat unclenching and my voice becoming full and resonant, until I finally seemed to embody what I read and cried ‘yes risk joy’ with such a burst of emotion, of pleasure, exhilaration and real bliss, as if it/the poem/the words had come out of me naturally.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Small hairy thing

Took this out the other day, crocheted years ago very very slowly from strands of three (artificial) hairs. Surprise, surprise, it once was a tiny dress (!) which had been bugging me for ages as it never looked quite right. It still took some effort to snip off bits and make it become, well, just some thing. Not knowing what it is or what it’s going to be stresses me and delights me in equal measure. No, to be truthful, it stresses me more, but I can take it.
For now it’s a plaything, which I can reshape anyway like. It is very malleable, I can pull it inside out and turn it around, I can prod nudge tweak crumple tear fold unfold and every time it becomes something different. I remember the son of friends, I think he was three years old at the time, sitting at the kitchen table and with full concentration shaping a piece of dough. While his little fingers were moulding the dough he mumbled a kind of running commentary to himself, "…it’s a baby, it’s a ship, it’s a sail, it’s a …". I love the way he was absorbed in the process, the way he went with the changes wrought - his creativity unfenced, unfastened as only a child’s can be. I want some of that, please!
My wonderful hairy something fits loosely into the bowl my two hands make. It is almost as light as a spider’s web and yet, when I hold it in my hands, it seems to have real substance. It’s a drawing, it's a vessel, it’s a porous stone, it’s an organ, it's a doughnut, it’s a purse, it’s a …

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Orange clouds and orange arms

The sky was blue today, light light light! And just now the setting sun which has disappeared behind the row of houses opposite is illuminating the small white clouds that dot the sky and they’ve taken on the lightest of orange tints, glowing as if lit from within. What pleasure.
My mood is better too, still unsettled, but I can feel again. Have been thinking over the last week how best to reconnect with my artwork and decided to review some of my projects. This is the first one, loosely entitled octopus-girl. I love the colours (they’d go perfectly with the aforementioned clouds), that glorious fiery orange, the pumpkin-flesh-tint and the rose-tint. Bought the cotton-wool in autumn, to last me through winter and let its warm glow seep into me during grey-weather periods. It’s got its work cut out.
All my dresses, in fact all of my work, is inspired by the urge to make manifest emotional states and the experience of pressures from inside and outside, exploring them without writing them in stone. I seem to use arms/sleeves a lot to express something (see here, here, here and here again). This dress digresses however in that I’m trying to get firstly further beyond the conventional dress-shape, secondly more three-dimensional, and thirdly simply freer. I haven’t worked out yet how to make the octopus-sleeve shape, that will be a bit of a challenge, only know that I want to use the pumpkin-flesh-tint, maybe in a different yarn.
This is the dress to say goodbye to dresses (although I’ve still got the Suppenkasper-dress on the go), I need and want to move on into less-clearly subscribed shapes, still with crocheting as that is simply the best medium for me when I need to work lying down (which is a lot of the time), but I’m so-to-speak casting my net wider. More about that soon.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Tiny peaks are still peaks!

The weather - my mood, perfectly in sync at the moment, alas. Kicking against it, but weak kicks, as very tired. Against the rain’s drip drip drip my mantra I'm an artist, I'm an artist, I'm an artist, but it lacks conviction as I don't feel connected to anything much. Know it will pass. Hope soon. Wednesday was a bit better, sat in sunny garden in full winter regalia - coat, gloves, scarf -, drank in the sun and momentarily felt better. Thought about phrase ‘I don’t feel myself’ and tried to work out if I mean ‘I don’t feel myself‘ or ‘I don’t feel myself’. Both, I think. Thank goodness there is a part in me that knows how to push on almost by default (and hey, I probably have the M.E. to thank for that), a single vigilant cyclope’s eye open to minute changes in mood and energy, tiny peaks that can be used before greyness closes in again.

Thank you dear blogger friends for leaving such touching messages for me. To feel affection through the ether, that’s quite something. And it means a lot!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

This is what I am today

Given that my only new year’s resolution was to show more courage in everything, I feel I’m faltering at the first hurdle, the hurdle being the black depression that unfailingly descends on me at this time of the year and only lifts for occasional intervals. Every year I think: not this time, I take steps to keep it at bay, and then there it is again. Today is one of those grey, wet, truly unpleasant, only half-wintery days, it’s not really January-cold, even winter seems in limbo and it might be ever-lasting. Just now I don’t give a damn about a little red bud on a brittle rose-branch, it’s hard to see how I could get excited by it only days ago, as I’m being choked by, almost obliterated by something that I can hardly put into words. Its huge and heavy shapelessness is part of the problem, nowhere to attack it from. It closes in on me, clutches my throat, bears down on my chest cage, saturates my body with dull pain-not-pain, squeezes joy and reason from my brain and fills it with brown sludge. As it’s so familiar to me at this time of the year part of me knows that it will end, as it always has before. Spring will come too, and yet. The worst is that just at this moment even my art means nothing to me, I’m cut off from it. Still crocheted a bit this morning, going through the motions, this is what I do, this is what I want to do, but not feeling it.
This is what I am today.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Always becoming

This is a strange time of year for me, as much to do with the fraught changeover from one year to the next as with the fact that I spent a long Xmas-break away, with family and friends - good time, precious time, but time during which I half lost sight of my artist-self. And now that I’m back and have more or less recovered from the journey I find that I don’t easily fall into my mode of working again. It’s not just a matter of picking up the threads I left dangling, I have to actively reconnect, have to make an effort to reinstate myself. Is that weird?
I tend to feel weighed down by big dates (incl. birthdays), their charged significance and the affected cuts they make in the flow of time. M.E. certainly has brought with it the persistent sense of lagging behind and questions like: do I measure up? am I where I should be at this time of my life? distract me from what is crucial – just the business of living, of being in process, of becoming.
I want to have my own, living, breathing ways to look at, think of this time of year. And eventually yesterday, on my own, I found it in my wet sunny garden, reacquainting myself with the dark green bushes and hedges, checking for buds which I discovered in abundance and all kinds of shapes and colours. The ones that touched me most were tiny red ones at the end of dark, thin, brittle-looking rose branches, at first glance almost fleshy and close up revealing dense layers of minuscule leaves. Seeing old and new so inseparable and indivisible helped me realign myself with what I am and not with what I sometimes think I should be.
Good news: I will have several of my paper figures (some already existing, some yet to be made) in an exhibition this year. More details about the show at a later date.

The figure: work in process, dimensions: 51cm x 43 cm x 26 cm