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?