Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Hmm, what a busy week in politics. Who would have thought a year or so back that Donald Trump would be the next elected president "no surely not, you're joking" but he surely is now. And it's a bit of a "woah, what the f***" amongst most of my friends, especially my american friends. The thing that is odd about politics when it goes way off where you would like it to be, is that because we are still nominally divided up into nationalities there is a huge sense of shame when your "nation" does something that feels rubbish. There's an immediate identity crisis (I remember this from the uk's recent Brexit vote) and then a realisation that the place you know and love is not the same place for so and so who lives close by. Or maybe in the case of the u.s not  necessarily very close by but apparently joined by the flag. 
So anyway, it made me think about masks and the masks we all wear when we're meeting new people, or people we are unsure of or want to impress, and how some people's mask covers most of their face, and some people are not so masked ... I'm trying to say that we are not always who we seem to be and maybe it's only those who are close to us who see the truth. I suppose I'm thinking that nations wear masks too, politically, socially, but in the end each nation is really just a patch of land. Lines on maps designate no more than where once upon a time someone said 'this is mine". 
In my last blog post I mentioned Standing Rock, I maintain this is a very important battlefield. For me, being British (whatever that means) is about knowing how the light falls and changes through the seasons - at the moment it is getting dark at around about 4 o'clock, it's about the flowers and trees, and birdsong, the animals and insects, it's about arts and culture, those are the things that interest me, for others it might be a football team, or a kind of cake, or some thing else, those something elses are too numerable to note each one. What I am pretty sure most of can agree upon is that being British is not about notional British Values" set by a government body being taught in schools because value systems are organic growing things that adapt to meet the needs of the community.  
Thinking again about masks. For a long time countries like Britain and the u.s.a have endeavoured to put themselves in the role of hero, all the time being big benefactors of the arms trade and fossil fuel industries so really they are more like the villains. They play the "good guys", that is their mask, but maybe they aren't who they think they are. Maybe sometimes we become so attached to our masks we forget to see who we truly are. 
So maybe the hero mask has been stripped off the u.s.a (the u.k too). The election of Trump clearly shows that a large proportion of the u.s electorate think it is ok to be racist, misogynistic, unkind, dishonourable, ack you name it, Trump has pretty much every human flaw going Can the u.s really claim that it holds the moral high ground now ? But here is a thread of light that might be worth noting, I cannot really say that I think Trump being president is a good thing, but I do wonder if his presidency will be the beginning of the end of u.s global dominance in the face of what seems like rank stupidity. Powerful nations are being seen for who they really are. With someone so obviously peculiar as leader is the u.s.a really going to going to be given the same license to police and control the world. I have a small hope that Trump may be the first domino in the decline of a culture that is dependent on greed and vanity. This is long overdue I think.
What I think - and there is no reason why anyone should care what a nobody in a back water county in Little Britain thinks - is that people are more than the nationality stamped on their passport, they are flesh and blood creatures with lives connected by real things to real things. Real things are the land we live on, our children, the things that make us embrace life.
I think it is interesting, thinking about real things, that money, which isn't really physically any use to anyone is terribly important when political change takes place, the pound goes up, or down, the dollar goes up or down. It's as if money and the value of the money in our pockets set against the money in the pockets of someone in a another country makes us more or less. Why is that ? Maybe it's time to let go of that. Maybe it's time to honour value in a way that is less about money and more about earth and real worth. 
Please excuse me thinking out loud.  

Saturday, 5 November 2016

We are living through an interesting time in history it seems, maybe it always seems like that, but the battle at Standing Rock by the native americans and the backing those people have all across the world from other indigenous tribes and those who feel that the worship of money and false status, as represented by the awful spectre of Trump as a quite possible next president of the u.s.a,  has gone way too far seems to be pivotal. 
It is hard for the oppressed to stand up to the oppressors and too often, if we ourselves are not uncomfortable within the status quo we remain silent or even back the oppressor so as to maintain our own ease or out of fear that our card will be marked and we too will become the victim. We all know when we do this, consciously or unconsciously. We all know when we take too great a slice of the cake to the detriment of another. The phrase "who ate all the pies ?" is common tongue but who did eat all the pies Georgy Porgy - Osborne, and his family, when he was in government, and no doubt despite the debacle of the eu referendum he is still eating. I name him but it could be David Cameron, Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair, and those are just a few local to England parasites. 
All over, on a great and small scale greed and over-reaching ambition have been lauded, to be rich is to be successful, no matter if you are a bastard who exploits and manipulates, lies and cheats to be that person, it guarantees your safety so long as you can maintain the pillar that holds greed as a great value. And over-reaching ambition, ambition per say is not a bad thing, but when it over-reaches the abilities and others pay for that ambition, are trampled, down trodden, starved of resources, then that ambition has over-reached itself, and is gross vanity. 
So now, perhaps, as individuals, it is time for us all to choose where we stand, what is our standing rock, how do we protect our source of clean water. Sometimes it is necessary to stand up to the oppressors, to say "no, that is not good enough". For some that stand will be camping on land due for fracking or oil pipelines, I know some amazing people who campaign and work for the rights of land and people. For others it may be a meeker battle, a small personal stand against those who oppress them personally. For the right to be free needs must belong to each one of us and the need to respect the right of all to be free is a mark of good society.

Perhaps as an afterthought I should add that in many ways the greatest battle we may ever undertake is the battle within ourselves for the better parts of ourselves to emerge. Our own erring towards the light or dark side undoubtedly ripples out into the environment and those whose lives we touch, and no one person has the monopoly on being right, so the choices we make personally are not really clear cut. It begins maybe with owning our choices and knowing that the footprints we leave behind us are ours alone and therefore to take care to tread lightly. This is easier said than done.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The last church we went to see was Thurlton, I didn't take photographs there really apart from a couple of the map of the grave yard and the stained glass window that would have been above the altar - from the outside. Thurlton is a church to which David has close connection so maybe it was out of respect, or maybe it was because we were greeted by two very chatty ladies of the church who were logging visitors and very happy to see us because we were their first and only ones. I think we both went a little shy in the face of so much enthusiasm. But it was interesting to look at and hear David's stories, maybe we'll go back again on a quiet day.  
Hales Church is beautiful in it's way, but it's a strange sinister beauty, where Heckingham felt full of light, both inside and out - with the sheep peacefully grazing in the field at the back and surrounded by soft green hedgerows. When we stepped out of Hales and walked round to the back we were faced with a bleak landscape of ploughed field and smoke rising from a fire next to a modern barn. It wasn't an ugly view, in fact it raised an oh wow in me, it was very rural norfolk, and rural norfolk can be a bit jolie laide. 
And then we walked through a small patch of wood with a large oak all rotten in middle that revealed an empty honeycomb in a fair size cleft between the good and the bad wood. And ten steps on we found a couple of condom wrappers, close by another oak still very much alive and wide in girth and tall, which had a kind of pagan offering quality about them. Perhaps it was only me thinking that. 
Further on we came to a gate with a painted sign saying "Closed. Price List in Shed" no frills, no prettiness here please. Over the gate the track led off into more bleak East Anglia.

Another thing that we took note of was the odd graffiti on the pillars by the front door, there were initials as expected but also lots of crosses and also joined dots that were quite primitive. 

Our next stop was Hales which is said to be kin to Heckingham, the stone carving around the door perhaps being done by the same hand. But Hales church is a very different place. Like Heckingham it is set in the middle of nowhere. It's hard to imagine more than a few in it's congregation even in more godly times. Like Heckingham it is cared for by the conservation trust but seems to be subject to more vandalism. The window above the alter was broken and the chairs were pushed over. We liked it but it was little creepy.  There were stairs up to a wooden balcony and we sat for little while wondering who/how it was used perhaps musicians like in"Under the Greenwood Tree" by Thomas Hardy. Just hypothesis, neither of us knew. We were able to have a good view of the quite impressive wall paintings from that vantage point. Particularly the rather fierce looking man painted larger than life size.
By the alter there's a sad stone for a six year old girl with a carved relief skull. And oddly a pair of little boots on the pedals of a small organ. As we were leaving we noticed masses of butterfly wings on the floor under the chairs, peacock and tortoiseshell. And a wooden cross was chucked on the floor too. There was definitely a discomforting vibe. No gentle prayer here I think. 

Two tablets set into the floor, the bears are for William Mingay, a gent who died in April 1713 and his son and daughter, William and Mary.

And the outside 

Then back to the car for the next on David's itinerary, Heckingham. Heckingham Church is beautiful, It has an extraordinary carved door frame made of white stone protected by a small porch. I took photos but you have to see this  for real my photo doesn't do it justice. This is a pretty good entrance. 
And, oh, this church is something special. It's a small church with a thatched roof in the middle of nowhere, still consecrated but not used so it is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust and they have done a good job. It feels very old and it feels like it has soul, or spirit, or whatever it is that people conjure from out of the ether, and it feels clean and good and light. I was really a little blown away to be honest.

After looking at the church we wandered down one of the paths leading out of the graveyard which took us along a walkway covered over by branches and then down to some marshy fields, our way was somewhat blocked by overgrowth and as it was raining we doubled back and took one of the other pathways leading out of/into the church grounds and headed towards the river. The path was similarly overhung with trees giving cover to those using it and we thought about streams of townspeople heading to church on Sunday morning, from servants to landowners. Later in our trip when we were waxing lyrical about history again I said that my version of history was really a mix of costume drama and books I've read so may not be very true to how it was. I think David agreed but hey we painted some pretty pictures. 
As we were walking the rain stopped and the sun broke through, we were happy to see house martins,  or maybe swallows, gathering on the telegraph wires, getting ready to head to warmer climes. David pointed out places he had connection, his uncle's farm and a newish housing estate that he remembered as a field.

Some months back my friend David mentioned the church in Heckingham as being particularly lovely and as we both have a bit of thing for looking at churches we went on a mini South Norfolk church trail on Saturday. As it happens our trail coincided with a county wide church trail so we were greeted in two of the churches we visited by welcoming women who were ticking off visitors. 
This was David's stamping ground so he led the trip. Parking up in Loddon by the war memorial which stands on edge of the grave yard. Loddon is a pretty impressive church with an interesting screen depicting a child being murdered rather gruesomely and the aftermath of the murder in which people were framed and then the child was made a saint because the monks in Norwich wanted a saint to rival the Bury St Edmund's saint. I'm guessing Bury's saint is Edmund. That's the gist of the story anyway, more research may be needed to verify and elaborate. There's scratched graffiti too on the pillars which is always interesting, the urge to leave a mark is timeless I think, perhaps an animal instinct.  
Loddon is a big church and at the back there are two doors- one from the porch and one from inside the church - leading up some stairs to a priest's room equipped with a small fire. I think being Vicar of Loddon probably wasn't too shabby a gig in the olden days when everyone went to church. Loddon is a nice little market town that I imagine has boasted all the amenities needed for comfortable living for quite some time. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A couple of weeks ago I found a needle and thread on the street. I'm a picker-up of pavement things  as any of my friends or children will bear witness, mostly rusty bottle tops and nails, and bits that have fallen  off cars, feathers, playing cards, and grounded bees which I put on close by flowers to stop heavy feet from treading on them. But finding a needle and thread felt like poetry. I wasn't very happy that day and it was treasure that made me smile, it had a fairy-tale feel. As my named practise and medium is textiles it seemed fitting and  a little magical, like a gift from outside to remind me who I am. It made me think of fixing cloth, fixing life, making good something which has been a little rent, mending. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Every so often in life one comes up against narcissism, one's own and other peoples. In love it's a complete nightmare because narcissistic behaviour goes against everything that love embodies and makes loving excruciating. But it doesn't just happen in love.
As an artist I am conscious of my own narcissism, being an artist demands some narcissism, or is it self worth, because unless your work is photographic in execution, and perhaps even then, it is a form of self expression. 
What tips the balance over from healthy narcissism to unhealthy narcissism ? Is there an obvious marker or does it vary within context ?
Some people seem to have no doubt. For me, lack of doubt is one of the most un-nerving characteristics I can meet in a person. Those who are absolutely certain very rarely give leeway, or allow room for another to manoeuvre, and often they expect the world to revolve around them. I find their company  fairly painful - dull and confining. 
But then the ability to be decisive is also important. Recently when I was making my piece Sutram, part of the pleasure of making it was making decisions about the placement of each thread, the choice of site and materials. And yet in making those choices I have to go through a period of intense experimentation in my studio, making awful things that only really good friends get to see, and the final weeks are full of doubt as there is a high element of winging it when making a work that is designed to be responsive and connected in body to the site in which it is placed. 
Back to narcissism, confidence is, I think, the lynch pin.  As a confident person I am able to own my space in the face of questioning and yet also I am able to realise that questions arise as a result of things not being fixed, that my ideas, notions and being are not the central point but are held within many points, that right and wrong are subjective, and no-ones right goes above and beyond another's right.
I touched upon this in an earlier blog post in which I was looking at the 1998 Human Rights Act which is currently under threat in Britain. 
When I was looking at it before I had a somewhat revelatory moment when I realised that this act covers all of us. All of us. Not just the people who think like us, who want the same things as us, who live like us, but everyone. Under the Human Rights Act (HRA) we are all protected. 
I have slipped away from narcissism, or have I ? A narcissist suffering from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) would put their needs above anothers without any doubt or recourse to conscience. Is it possible that a country or culture could be considered narcissistic ? Is war narcissistic ?  In peace there is no one better.  A leader who advocates peace is surely worth hundreds who advocate war. War seems to be the ultimate narcissistic act and the use or trading of weaponry for social, political or financial benefit suggest a peculiarly oblivious kind of mentality - psychotic or stupid or both. 
I'm musing about this stuff because it messes with my head and taking it out of my head and putting it on paper or in a blog or into a piece of work allows me to see my questions from outside of myself. My self is important to my well being, of course, and it is ultimately where my work stems from, but I am just one small self, one part of a much, much greater body of selves each one of equal worth. For me it's important to remember that. 

Perhaps I should add as a post script that confidence fluctuates and there are times and situations when my confidence plummets. I think that confidence is built in us as children and childhood is an emotionally dangerous time because we are subject to those who care for us. If we have been lucky we will grow through childhood to be balanced beings able to meet, know and measure our own needs and other people's and make appropriate decisions accordingly. But I suspect this is less common than it is desirable, and so this balancing act is something ongoing for all of us, all the time, unless we hide away and never meet another person. For me claiming and maintaining my self esteem is a challenge I am still working to meet. But thankfully I am beginning to understand that my worth is not measured against another, or by another, and that i am equal to, tho' not the same, as most people I meet. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

So I made some charcoal. I just wanted to give it a try so they are just rough pieces but satisfying for a first attempt. 

Friday, 26 August 2016

I have an unexpected ten days clear. I'm still assimilating why so I won't go in to details. Suffice to say I have ten days clear. 
This means I have time to turn my compost heaps, a gardening ritual I always relish and have blogged at least half a dozen times before, I think. This time I will also be trying to fix them up a bit because they've been on their last legs for ages and a friend gave me some pallets so I'm hoping I can make them fit for purpose again.
This year is strange because my little cat is not there next to me, she would always hang out close by if I was in the garden whatever I was doing. Easy repeat physical work is quite meditative and soothing so I am using the time to contemplate on life, my life, her life and  the time we spent together., and the lives of others too.
I am putting the best compost, the sifted third box mud, where I have buried her. I have transplanted ferns, forget-me-nots, crocosmia, a hardy geranium and primroses around the flowering quince which we put over her precious little body.  My little old dog who died many years ago is buried close by under a young oak and so her grave too is getting some tending. She has small spring cyclamen that came from my grandparents garden on her grave. And red campion. 
Those we share our lives with, animals included, are so much a part of our being it is hard to let go when they are gone. Oh boy. Love is a strange gift. It is the best, the sweetest joy, but it leads to the sharpest pain too. Would I rather not love ? Surely no.
Back to my compost heap and my garden. Sometimes when I turn my compost heaps I am joined by a friendly robin. But said robin is more friendly in late autumn or early spring when his belly is empty, so he has not come to bug-pick this year. Thats good for the bugs, I always feel a bit bad for them, I'm not one to throw birds worms, I figure my turning the soil is help enough. 
The smell and feel of earth is always good medicine for me and fresh compost soil is a real treat, it smells delicious and is gorgeous and damp and crumbly in my hands as I top dress whatever flower bed I have chosen to spread it upon. The clinker I put as mulch on another bed. it's much rougher but holds down water and rots into the ground gradually, it's made up of short sticks and rummage that is too big to fit through the sieve. The longer sticks are a third bounty and get bagged up to be kindling for the next season's fires, indoors and out. So much treasure from what is waste. I guess that's why I love this compost turning ritual so much, it gives me a feeling of great abundance, it makes me feel peaceful and happy. Feeling peaceful and happy is good.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Before I get too wrapped up in today, I'm going to glance back at the making of my sculpture "Sutram" for the 2016 Waveney River Sculpture Trail. It's a work that nominally stems from my friend Andy's tweets from his weather station which I love because they have that same quality as the shipping forecast, or the football results or tide tables. But really it is about transience. The uncapturability of the moment, for just as you reach out to hold it, it slips away, like water or sand running between your fingers.
Time, life, as I have just seen, passes by, yesterday is gone and tomorrow, not yet here, is unknowable until we meet it, and then is gone, is yesterday. Clock time is a bind we have created, it is subject to interpretation and slightly flexible as anyone with a friend pre-disposed to be late, or counterwise early, will know, but it is a mathematical construct. One o'clock, two o'clock ..
How else do we tell the time, it is by our people, our creatures, our places, it is by the change of light, night to day to night to day, or winter to spring to summer to autumn, seasonal shifts, not just in how shadows fall, but also in birdsong and flowers, temperature, rainfall (I return to Andy's tweets) .. 
We watch our children grow, become adults, leave home, have children of their own, watch them grow too. We see our parents, once indomitable, become more frail and know that our time with them may be cut short, not unnaturally, but how can we bear a world without them. I am lucky, both my parents are alive, our connections have often been stormy in the past but seem to be quieter and kinder now. This is a relief.
This passing of time, the inconsequentiality of our lives and yet by contradiction the great consequence of our lives is something I have tried to express in "Sutram". There are myriad other  lines that have gone into it but I cannot write them all, it would take all day, and who has all day to know another's thoughts unless there is deep love between the one and the other. 


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

I hadn't realised how long it has been since I blogged. It seems strange that I haven't posted about the work I have just put up for the Waveney River Sculpture Trail, I will write about that later and post pictures. 
But my reason for coming on to my blog today was to write about my beautiful little cat. She came into our lives 13 years ago, a tiny-weeny kitten, white fluff with a heart shaped tabby patch on her side and a tabby tail and ears. She was a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant cat. A real charmer. 
I have so many memories of her, how her tail curled into a question mark when she was small and watching her chase said tail quite viciously as if she didn't know it was attached to her. And a year on  being with her while she gave birth to her kittens. We kept one - the only boy - and he is a wonderful reminder of his mother, similarly good natured, loving and lovable. 
But cats (and dogs) don't live as long as humans and my sweet little girl cat had a problem with her thyroid and got thinner and thinner over the past two years, she was happy, possibly happier than before she started losing weight and was playing with her catnip mice in the week before she began to really fail but .. here's the sad bit, and I'll be honest I haven't had a day for over a week when I haven't cried because last week she stopped eating and in the end I had to call the vet to come and put her to sleep because I didn't want her to be in pain and it's hard to know how long starving to death takes or how it feels. 
So my wonderful snuggle-up girl cat RIP. You were great and I loved you and I miss your lemon-drop eyes and your purr and the way you cat-chatted. xx

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Nearly a week on from the European referendum in the U.K, and what a week it's been. I voted to stay in, I looked at coming out, I know that there are valid arguments for coming out but not one of the main proponents for leaving mentioned these. Their vision was not for a caring, sharing society it was for more grasp, more greed, more nastiness so in the end it was an easy decision for me. I voted to remain for environmental protection, freedom of movement, human rights, workers rights, for the sake of peace and stability. 
As it happens, when the majority tipped by a whisker to the leavers, I found that I am actually more attached to being a European than I thought, that my continental blood ran angry at the petty parochialism of people fixated on a "British" way of life. And that the briton in me baulked at the notion of belonging to the same nation as those that follow the repulsive Nigel Farage.
It could be argued that my desire to maintain my European status is also petty parochialism, that we can make new alliances now all over the world and not just with those countries that are our closest neighbours. But there was another way, put forward by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, to remain and reform. 
There is no doubt that the European Union is a flawed machine, that it has become greater than it's parts perhaps. As a member of that union it seemed that we could have helped to bring about a change for the better, not just for ourselves but for the whole union, for the whole world. 
Here in my town, Norwich, it is all strange; people don't look at each other; who voted in, who voted out .. most of us will have friends and family who voted against us .. do we stop loving those people ? no .. but do we see them differently, do they see us differently ? I don't know. Was this what it was like when Hitler came to power in Germany ? Small seeds of mistrust turned citizen against citizen. I hope we are better than that. 
The leave campaign are very keen to say this referendum result is a done deal and for the Remainers to now, shut up and put up with the new order. But that wouldn't have happened if they had lost this vote. Farage would have been on tv whining about another referendum and so on and so on. And so, why shouldn't thousands of people mass outside Westminster calling for their voices to be heard. Why would Westminster not listen ? 
So the division in Britain continues, those that would normally hold the status quo are also most likely to have voted remain and so their motive for holding the peace is no longer there. There is a tension in the air and it is hard to know how it will be dissipated. 
So I watch and wait. No day is the same. Some days I feel numb, some days I feel hopeful, some days angry, and some days - most days - ambivalent and anxious. 
And what can anyone do in that space but carry on with their work, whatever that work might be. Today I am making paper from recycled envelopes. It happens to be grey but it's not a statement on my mood, other days I've made blue and pink and green. The paper is for my piece for the Waveney River Sculpture Trail which I did last year too. 
In the midst of the craziness post referendum it is nice to fall back into making, particularly as this piece was always about change and release and response and movement so I can use the making as a chance to reflect. Deep inside of me, the part of me that knows itself to be creature not man, I know that whatever must be, there is a way through, even if the death of my body, my being, is a part of that way through. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

All across Norfolk and Norwich artists are opening their studios again, some do it every year, and some on and off. I did it a couple of years ago and it was alot of fun and interesting talking to visitors and seeing what caught their attention and what didn't. 
This year, my good friend Janet Cranness opened up her studio for the first time. We met while we were studying together in 2008-2010 and over the years since have built up a relationship that I value highly. 
Janet's work is gorgeous, she is an illustrator and printmaker who dabbles in textiles so we kind of overlap as I am a textile artist who dabbles in printmaking and illustration. Her eye for colour is exquisite and her drawn line is easy and sometimes comedic. She has some lovely images on her website
It's a joy and an honour to be able to see someone else's creative process, I'm sorry to say that Janet has finished her open studio stint but there are still lots open this weekend and I'd highly recommend visiting if you are in Norfolk and have time and a small inclination