Yesterday the MA taught program came to an end. I had worked out I could sit in my garden to zoom. The day was idilic. it was wonderful to see the work of Ciara and Antonnia. We broke for lunch and then had an artist talk from Richard Dedomenici. His work was about as far from my practice as is possible, and this is what I have loved so much about the course. It has been so good to exposed to practices and disciplines that are very different to my own. It is inspiring and although much of yesterday was about using film, something I haven't even considered as a medium, it was brilliant to have a window into someone else's creative journey. To see things that are not your own.
As the session closed, there was no sense of leaving as we would have done from the University campus. No suggestion of going to the pub, no walking down the corridor for the last moment. Zoom shut down and I was here, not there, in my garden. Done.
I will be proud and glad another day, but just there in the garden all I could really feel was a great sadness at the close of it all.
I have been looking at different genres of writing and at authors who have used a more contemporary style of writing both about both mothering and the theories and histories around motherhood. Mother by Sarah Knott very much follows the Narrative of the authors journey to and through motherhood. This sits alongside her historical research and the anecdotal narrative of women throughout history. I have also been reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson which follows a similar pattern of writing though is investigating identity, sex and sexuality, child rearing, childbirth and so much more.
Having taken the idea of a bricolage from the essay by R. Handforth and C. Taylor, doing academic writing differently, Feminist Bricolage, Gender and Education, I need to fully form what this style looks like for me. I have five different aspects or genres, that I am referring to as a tapestry of styles, that I am including in my project report; my narrative, the narrative of the subjects that I have drawn, my art practice, the critical context and the story of other women artists. Increasingly as I have written the essay it has helped me to write these sections separately and even colour code them. I have an original essay plan done on paper which looks somewhat like a mind map. Today I have re-written it and colour coded it to help me see that I have woven the different styles into each section. It has help me hugely to give each section a title. section 1. Beginning, 2. Discovering, 3. showing, 4. birth, 5. unexpected outcomes, 6, mothering. This means I have some rearranging to do within in the essay but it seems to make more sense now....
Today I have been contacting the pregnant models that have been to the studio and two who were due to come together; cousins both pregnant at the same time. they had been so excited to be doing this for me and now of course we can't meet so I have asked for phots and I'm polanning to put them together in one drawing... I don't want to be distracted from the essay but the essay is about the work so it will be good if the work is still happening and progressing! I have also got photos from Becca who I met first she is now 31 weeks pregnant and I might draw her onto the same page as she is on when she first visited the studio.
As there was suddenly a space needing to be filled for a critique I felt it would be helpful to get some feed back on the drawings I have been doing since the feed back from Karst. the idea that the heavy balk marks were too much and that the mothers themselves were not able to be understood or connected with because of the strong gestural marks. I have been looking again at the work of Jenny Savile and also the work of artist Anita Taylor. the accuracy of Jenny Savile"s work and the layering of moments and movements is beautiful but I think I am looking to be more expressive. I like the accuracy though. the work of Anita Taylor is huge and has a strength to the mark making that I really enjoy. in the critique It is difficult not to feel that those people viewing the work are not themselves drawing so maybe don't understand what I'm don g, perhaps don't get the context. some helpful ideas but a feeling that I have not changed things all that much. this feels difficult when the suggestion form Karst was I make very small changes to resolve things, no change of surface and no charge to material. I feel that I have dramatically softened the drawing style but it was seen as still so strong....
There was a feeling that the drawings I did from life were really fresh and felt very real. I need to find away to do this without models visiting... it was felt that when the drawings were I luges onto the big paper they were tidied up too much.
it makes me keen to get back to the drawing. interesting that some people really likes the strong marks and others didn't. there is I guess always the element that when you make marks on paper some people will like them and others won't. how tome forward with this? do what I feel is right! I'm about to graduate and with no exhibition to show case my work in I need to find my own groove and keep grooving!!
It was good to get feedback on the essay today and begin to feel like it is getting somewhere. I have the bonus of an essay that is forming into a tapestry of styles and this is what I now need to focus on. we have to submit the abstracts for our presentations next Tuesday. I need to have written much more of the critical context section before I can give my presentation. in fact it needs to be finished. I have been ready so much and now I need to put it down in more than note form. I have just received the book I have been waiting for from abehbooks as I couldn't get it from the library. Telling Bodies, Performing Birth by Della Pollock even with a quick glance is full of things I want to discus.
my world count is already quite high so I'm glad to have the suggestion form Mark to tern the narratives of the subject visits in to images as they would be the "titles" of the works if that are exhibited. Good to know that the essay is going in the right direction and that I have done a lot already. it is good to begin to fully form the idea of the bricolage idea as the structure of the essay is coming together around this idea.
I am enjoying looking at various artists in eluding the work of Indian artist Angolie Ela Menon who I met a number of times whilst living in India. looking back at my own mothering journey has been helpful to understand what I am doing now and how it so closely linked to my journey as an artist.
Knowing that the first draft has to be on the 21st April, I have spent time today making a clearer draft. It has been hard to focus on the MA in the midst of the Covid-19 situation but drafting a plan like this has helped me to reconsider what I am doing and to connect again with it. I have been able to lay down quite a few words today and the world count is over 3,000. I’d like about 7,000 for the first draft hand in a week from now! Being able to sit and really replan the essay and see it a separate sections informing each other has been really good. Five sections in all. My narrative through motherhood, the context, other artists, the subject narratives, my artwork.
As I have begun to think about my journey towards the work I’m doing now, I have looked back at old sketchbooks and found drawings I did when I was living in India and expecting our first child. In a large stripey T-shirt I draw myself and my bump. Then there are drawings of Alistair 1 1/2 days old and then breastfeeding. This subject has long been part of my practice. I photographed The full Lee opened
I was so inspired by being in the studio with Emma that I got into this the same day. Taking on board the suggestions from Karst, I did not use compressed charcoal and didn’t add in any marks that didn’t have a purpose. This is softer and has a sense of the model more fully perhaps. I will do nothing else to this. Now I’m itching to get in with the drawing of Becca and have to have the other models in the studio. This was worked up from the drawing done in the session and not from a photo. That felt very good to do too.
After quite a lot of unsuccessful searching, I decided that I might find pregnant women, happy to be drawn by simply posting to a local Facebook page: Westward Ho! Community group. I posted a few of the images that I had drawn so far with a description of what I was doing on the MA. I simply asked if anyone would like to volunteer to be drawn. Immediately I started to get people sharing the post and messaging me directly. Emma was one of the women who signed up really quickly. We messaged a few times and then fixed a date. Annoyingly the first date had to be moved on one week as I was suddenly away. On the morning that Emma was due to arrive I messaged her asking if she knew where she was coming and she realised that she needed to be a fair bit later than we had originally agreed. I had set up the room ready for her arrival making sure there was space for me to have an easel, collapsing some of the tables I use for Art Classes. I filled the kettle, made sure the biscuit tin was full, and waited for her to arrive. Of course neither of us knew the other, but immediately we seemed quite comfortable in one another’s company. I explained how the session would go and that it would only last for an hour. First of all we would have a conversation about her pregnancy and the story leading up to it and then I would do some drawings of her. I asked if she wanted a drink, she didn’t but might later.
This is Emma’s second baby and she was 33 weeks pregnant at the time of the session. Her first child is a daughter who is 10. Emma and her husband had given up any hope of having another child. They hadn’t done IVF but they had investigated why they were not falling pregnant and all the things that they had done had not proved successful. So it was that Emma was not really expecting to find that she was pregnant. She said that she suddenly went off tea and coffee which she drinks quite a bit during the working day and then went out one night and completely didn’t want to drink anything alcoholic at all. This made her suspicious and so she got a pregnancy test. Because she was so settled on the idea that she could never be pregnant and felt she had stopped longing and wishing for it, she was afraid to even take the test. She did it and found, of course, that she was pregnant. It took her three days to tell anyone. She was by this time 6 weeks into her pregnancy. When she finally managed to tell her husband she took the test out, showed it to him and burst into tears. He was really pleased but she hadn’t been sure that he would be as they had begun to make plans to do things because there was no baby to worry about and only one child. They had started to think about taking their daughter to see the blossom in Japan and put together ideas for things they could do if there was to be no baby.
Emma is part of a strong friendship group of five women that she had met since she had had her first child and so she knew they would clock that she was pregnant quite quickly. Just before finding out that she was pregnant, she had declared that she was going to detox so she was able to keep it quiet until 12 weeks. When she did tell everyone they were delighted and her friendship group were rather thrilled because there hadn’t been a baby in the group for five years and now that they know it’s a boy, there hadn’t been a boy in the friendship group for 12 years. Emma has no local family as her parents and step-parents live in Lincolnshire and they are not particularly close. Her husband’s parents both died some time ago. The friendship group has been enormously important as part of their support group.
Once we had talked about the pregnancy I suggested that Emma might sit for a pose first which she did. I wanted her to feel comfortable being drawn and closely observed. She asked for tea, she obviously is back liking it. We talked intermittently and I asked her not to worry about sitting still but to just be comfortable. I took some photographs and then she said she was happy to do a standing pose. I asked her to imagine what she normally does when she touches the baby and she showed me where the head was and she placed her hand there. The baby had just turned in the womb to no longer be engaged. She then talked about the fact that actually there is a problem with the pregnancy and she has been signed off work. She has a worryingly reduced amount of amniotic fluid. It is possible that she might have to have the baby next week. She is being closely monitored and this is why she was so free to come today, but also possibly why she got held up. She talked about the fear that there is around this child as it is so precious but also was very optimistic that everything would go well.
The first standing pose went really well and I felt it was the most meaningful of the three I did in the session. As I went along I took photographs. Once I finished I showed Emma the drawings. She said she had really enjoyed being drawn. She gathered her stuff and we left the studio. As we parted it felt right to hug. We had made quite a link, two mothers; one drawing, one being drawn.