Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I remember learning to crochet (at school) as an alienated chore – little girls can’t be inspired by making pot-holders. Last year however, at my brother’s house, I happened across the tiny, salmon-coloured and rather close-fitting outfit which I’d made for his favourite soft-toy, a little brown-beige Steiff doggy which he’d had since he was a baby and whose once soft fur had become threadbare and was leaking its filling. With the best intention our parents had tried to replace it with a new one, the same kind, but looking like a gleaming, puffed up version of this love-worn object, lacking its familiar scent and without the hairless indent around its middle (the opposite of love-handles) where his small hands had gripped it every night.
I had completely forgotten about it and wish I could recall its actual making, esp. as crocheting has become my medium. Looking back in time it’s easy to make connections which are rather too neat, but the outfits I fashion nowadays seem to throw an arc to this one: a two-piece ensemble, consisting of a vest and pants which logically allowed an extra opening for Wäuwäu’s stubby tail.
See also Rosie Kearton’s blog, who at the beginning of the year invited artists to participate in ‘The painting in the attic’ – a visual art collaborative project exploring links between childhood creativity and the work we make now.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Back to basics?

Keen to learn about making applications, writing proposals for exhibitions, etc. I went to a Creative Practice Seminar on 3 March, organised by the industrious duo Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley, of ZeitgeistArtsProjects. As so often I describe an activity when it’s long past, but every outing (by which I mean leaving the house, about once per week), demands a longish, invisible and incommunicado recovery-period during which I slowly claw back tiny bits of energy.
I went by cab. From my shoulder hung a satchel with a light cushion and a yoga-mat. The event was informative, inspiring even, and during break I briefly chatted to two people I’d met before, which was delightful. But I could only sit for so long and, before leaving early, ended up lying on the floor for a good while, on my red coat, as rolling out the mat seemed too energetic an exercise. There I was, at the front of the small auditorium, near entrance and speakers (I had imagined a room where I could do so unseen at the back) but fatigue dispelled any embarrassment, and after all it enabled me to stay on. Self-consciousness surfaced days later when I started to get over the worst of the exertion, along with useless thoughts about what I had missed.
Why am I writing about this experience when it makes me so uncomfortable to dwell on how having M.E. affects me? Last year I tried hard to focus on my art, most of which I make lying down, and put being ill into the background, of course without ever neutralising its steady, sharp, poisonous sting. My motivation to be evasive about the extent of ‘my’ M.E. was manifold:
• I hate the effects of being ill, how it slows me down so treacherously, curbs control and independence and makes my world smaller.
• I keep thinking improvement is just around the corner.
• I was/am worried that it will negatively affect, even dispel, offers of opportunities to exhibit my work.
• I don't want to be labelled.
• I don't want my art seen through its prism.
• I have times when I judge myself for being ill, as if it was a matter of willpower. (That’s not being helped by the prevailing complacent attitudes towards people with M.E.)
• And last year, which after all was a good one in terms of visibility of my art, I had hoped that my work would pull me bodily out into the world too.
I can’t keep this up. It stops me communicating as I’d like to, openly and truthfully. So this is an attempt at finding a more realistic stance, a valid modus operandi, not just here, blogging, but in my life. I feel I need to acknowledge again, to myself, to you: I’m an artist who has got M.E. It affects everything I do. And here I can and will make a case too: Because of illness I may be limited in what I can do/where I can go, but my art is good and will be out, and I’ve got things to say, and will say them. I will use this blog to write about my art-practice, which includes talking about how my ability to get on in the (art-)world is affected by my physical circumstances and what that might mean for an artist, because there are loads of us.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Last chance to see!

BRAIDED TOGETHER. Hair in the work of Contemporary Women Artists, the brainchild of Charlotte Lindsay and Rebecca Baillie, is a fascinating, and carefully curated, exhibition. In a time when, here in the West, female body hair seems to become ever more fraught, BHVU Gallery feels like a breathing space, where artists push their media to probe narrow (still/again, only differently coded, if that) notions around gender and female beauty.
Go see: Two self-portraits of exquisite delicacy, put together by Tabitha Moses from individual hairs (she also shows her classy hairpurse); a video-piece where the artist Jessica Lagunas can be seen pulling out the grey hairs on her head one by one, excruciating to watch; Jenni Dutton's life-size blond hairdress, which I very much wanted to touch; Mary Dunkins’ photographs of women with very very long hair rippling down their backs, exuding an almost otherworldly stillness; Karen Bergeon's dark and funny hair hats; Wen Wu's gently creepy hairplay paintings; Samantha Sweeting's separation piece, the only work that includes hair off a male head; Marcelle Hanselaar's seductive painting and etchings of women whose bodies grow a fur of hair; Trish Morrissey's photographed portraits of women whose feminity is undiminished by their facial hair; and my Five perfect maidens, plus, for me in a new light, My house of howls, about which I’d been unsure, beautifully presented, on its own plinth.
This show deserves to be visited by a wide audience, as does BHVU, the small, artist-led gallery in the north of London with a strong programme. I wished the work could travel further afield, and be reviewed. Anybody?
The catalogue is an integral part of the whole project, a handsome object in itself, which puts the exhibition in a wider art-historical and social context, with fine photographs (Kiki Smith's Mary Magdalene, 1994, graces the cover!) and thoughtful and well-researched essays by Rebecca Baillie, Shir Aloni Yaaru and Lucetta Johnson.
You can see some of the curators’ artistic and theoretical work here and here.

Photos here courtesy of Charlotte Lindsay – thank you!

BHVU Gallery, Unit A, 2 Leswin Place, 
London N16 7NJ
Open to public: 18 February – 18 March 2012
Opening times: 12 - 6pm Saturday + Sunday or by appointment
Admission: Free