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.