Thursday 18 February 2021

Memory and Remembering : Recollections II

 In addition  to the  City Lit Art and Ideas  course , since  November I’ve been participating in a monthly   textile  course  with artist Alice Fox ‘ PlaceMaking Winter’  where  we’re exploring means  of recording our local natural  environment .   The different focus  and emphasis   ( on  ways of  retrieving the past  and being in the present ) have complimented each other ,  but both   share  a lot of reading  which I’ve enjoyed immensely.  Books  have always been important  to me , to the extent  that  when asked  about hobbies  during a management course, I didn’t think to  include reading as its more than that , its integral to who I am.  For various reasons  it seems I  haven’t  been giving  myself  permission/ time  to  read !

One  of these  books  is ‘ Landmarks’  by Robert MacFarlene  and  lot of  what  resonated  with me  were  the ways of looking and experiencing what’s around you, particularly  the childs -eye  view ‘ rapt by the miniature and close at hand’ . ‘wonder is now, more than ever, an essential survival skill’.  

 When the  group   shared memories ,  I realised mine aren’t  generally about people  but about places, plants  and insects, colours, experiences .  My first memory  is of picking daisies   and placing them in  a pink eggcup ( I would have been less than 3  as it was on the lawn in our first house ) .  

 At the end of the  final session of  the  course we  watched some clips  from  ‘Afterlife’ by Hirokazu Koreeda .  I think the memory  I  would   choose to take  into the Afterlife  is of  Prawle Point   in summer 2013.  I was  sitting sketching  the wonderful coastal  scenery  surrounded by rare plants , dazzled by  hundreds  of  six-spot burnet moths  flying around. It’s significant  that it combines  both my  art and scientific  sides.  I was lucky  that   I was   allowed to  study  art at  ‘ A’ level as  well as  biology and chemistry  ( it took some creative  time- tabling !),  continuing to draw and paint   alongside   my career as a botanist/scientist . What both disciplines  share is a way of looking and thus my way of remembering 

I’ve travelled widely for both work and pleasure  and have always  taken lots of photos. There are  crates  of slides   and packets  of photos  in the garage unlooked at it 15 years. Like ' Funes the Magnificant ' I feel that if I started sorting through them there would be no time to experience the present ! I don’t  feel the need  to  consult them   however as I  have  ready access to my sketchbooks. 

Quick drawings  and  notes made at the time  summon up  memories  of places,  time,  and people I was with far more than photos as  when you're drawing  you’re already editing to record what’s significant . I’m  really missing  going to art galleries and exhibitions , seeing  how  other artists  interpret  and edit what they’ve seen and experienced, what they regard as important.

In this  example   from  Xmas day 2002  at Thien Mu Pagoda Vietnam, dragonflies  were hovering,  there was background  hum  of Buddhist chanting. A monk admired my drawing and gave me a pear. 


In  2003  I  printed  copies of some of the photos taken and drawings I made in Vietnam  onto fabric .  It was early days in experimenting and they weren't very  successful and they were consigned to the scrap box. 

However , through the process of  layering and stitching , not only have I been remembering my trip there but  it's beginning  to result in  pieces that are intriguing in their own right. This may  be the start of a series  but what would you call them  ?  Layers of Memory?  Stitching to Remember?  


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