Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Situationist...

Never before has my situation had so many extrapolated meanings.

SocialPhysicalFinancialGeographicalSpiritualPoliticalEmotionalCellularGlobalIdealogicalPhilosophicalRelationalIntellectual

We are immobilised but we are still travelling, what a situation...!

I am documenting my myopic journeys through the screen before me. It's a dérive. I can go from one place (situation) to another in a mere click.

Take today:
I began with my email inbox. My starting point. It took me to a call-out from an arts organisation inviting submissions relating to our lock-down. I followed a trail to the group's site who created the call-out and then to their reference page and then to a site with a recording by an artist of words and sounds and then to the site of the artist he collaborated with..... I'm now working on how to render this as a visual recording.... from my living room obviously...

This is the top of the Far Away Tree, but are these worlds whooshing around and coming to the ladder in turn or am I the one that is moving and discovering them?  Some are edgy and there is not good magic. But some are so delightful I want to take the whole thing home with me but find I'm settling for bringing back a small souvenir in the form of a jotted note to prompt my memory of it.  A postcard or maybe a virtual snow globe from my travels.  Then I wonder how curious it is to have this compulsion to preserve the experience of my ephemeral journeys in a material manifestation. But such is the condition (situation) of being a human (situation, site, state, setting, spot, standing, sitch).

" In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there… But the dérive includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities". Knabb, Ken, ed. (1995). Situationist International Anthology. Berkley: Bureau of Public Secrets.



Thursday, 9 April 2020

What to do?

Warning: this post is a tad solipsistic....



It's been a few weeks since I downed the tutoring tools and put The Drawing Board to bed. Like the fabled Sleeping Beauty, she is waiting somewhere to be found by a prince (preferably a solvent one) who will give her the kiss of life and revive her ready for the happy ever after. We all know there is no prince, of course, I have to be my own prince, and I am far from solvent...

But, this isn't a blog about woes, I'm not complaining: I'm actually one of the lucky ones. I have a home with a garden. I'm not claustrophobic. I have my creativity. I'm not at all bored. I have my children. I'm not too lonely.  I have my love on the end of a phone. I am supported.

But I have guilt - not just because an awful lot of people are contributing and sacrificing just now and I don't feel that I am - but there is a constant nagging feeling around my own existence.  I should be producing, earning, pushing, gaining, adapting.... 

I resisted the urgent flurry to grab a new existence in Zoom, fighting against the mounting pressure to carry on with 'business as usual'.  The saturation of offerings in those first days was overwhelming and instead of grabbing my coat and jumping on the zoom rocket, like the dynamic entrepreneurs clamouring for virtual space, I found myself hiding, shrinking back into my interior world. I'm still hiding now to be honest.  I just couldn't bring myself to hold space for anyone outside of my family. To be frank, I'm realising the way I lived my life before this event wasn't right for me. Like an awful lot of people I am waking up to the realisation that I was squeezing a hand grenade (missing its pin) and if I let go it would explode.

A lot of folk are experiencing a sense of burgeoning creativity. I have that too. I am overflowing with ideas and a hunger to use materials long abandoned, to play with things and express constantly what this storm of chaos is raising and explore the juice in the unfamiliar channels of thoughts and feelings. And yet in the background is the issue that this is a luxury or an indulgence: I should be utilising this creativity and making work to sell or I should be teaching people how to make work and building my business, adapting to the new online world of Zoom. Even in this enforced state of 'retreat' I am struggling to let go of these judgements and just be. Does this sound familiar?

I'm lucky enough to be part of some initiatives that don't exist in a framework or context of 'business'.
With collaborators who honour truth, connection, integrity and understanding as success and not the familiar toxic elements of capitalism.  There is so much to explore and discuss around this. There is a lot of hope that things will change and we will see a world emerge that aligns with our true values but that's maybe a chat for another time. I'm getting into rhetoric so I'll leave you here with one last thing.

Emma Capper messaged the SAP collective yesterday and I wanted to share it because it reassured  me, gave me hope and reminded me of who I am, wisdom from just being where we need to be and trusting it. What to do? Do what feels good....


"I am starting to emerge more often now from the fog of emotions induced by this situation to feel some clarity, sense of purpose and direction. and in these moments of clarity it is our collaboration that is a shining light.. together we are stronger and we can do so much just being there for each other as a base line.
All things change and energy ebbs and flows in natural rhythms, sometimes one of us will be in a place to give and take action and others might be in a more introspective and resting place. It is important that we allow ourselves to honour that. I know I can easily guilt trip or beat myself up for not doing enough etc."



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The line of least resistance.


I love lines.
They are secure.
Hand rails.
They keep the journey on track. For the moment at least.
Lines can be questionable but for now I daren't question anything.
I keep to the line.
I don't colour outside of it.
I have lines of lists. Like talismans or mantras that hold some sort of reality for me.
I don't veer off the line, wayfaring.  I follow the path.  The paradox is that I am drawing the line ahead of myself. I am creating the path for my insecure, confused self to follow.

Friday, 20 March 2020

In the company of the soothing voice of Sarah Gray.

There was one day, earlier this week, that felt like we were still in what we knew but we were entering into what we really didn't know. A transition, a borderline, a precipice.  I sat with Sarah Gray in Soundart Radio's recording studio, creating a programme, talking for an hour about drawing.

We were just getting used to constant handwashing, not really hugging, feeling a bit weird.... little did we know the world was going to get even weirder.
Sound Art had to close the next day.  I had to cancel all my work.  And then there were no baked beans left on the shelf. ...

I keep drawing. .....

This is a message in a bottle from that day. 
https://soundcloud.com/user-494675905/ep-4-on-attendance-with-beth-heaney


For more soulful, nutritious, wise and delicious work from Sarah she is here https://www.soundsitesomatics.com/


Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Sap Rising

I'm part of a collective called SAP.  We are in our infancy and I will tell you more as we gain ground over the next few weeks but here's a little snippet of us preparing some charcoal and oak gall ink for some fun in the woods on Friday.
The sheer pleasure of getting out, making fire, messing with alchemy and feeling the longer light this evening was just what I needed.






















Wednesday, 26 February 2020

A Room of One's Own


We chatted in last Monday's group about the frustration of not having a space to make in. I always bang on about sitting every morning with your cup of tea and drawing it for a regular exercise in limbering up but it's not enough if you're itching to really get into something.  It needs space and time and ideally to be left and then returned to and this doesn't work on the kitchen table where you have to clear up each time you've managed to grab five minutes to 'create'. 

I'm without a studio at the moment and I haven't been making anything satisfying for ages. I've been busy setting up courses and trying to grow The Drawing Board as a thing and I haven't been going 'in' at all. The thing is, it doesn't just mean I feel a bit off because I'm not really connecting with my own art it also means I'm not as good a teacher because I'm not exploring and evolving in the same way.

This is one of my more recent pieces and it was so good to connect with materials again. I have a practice that often gets way into the conceptual and it's heady and as much as I love it I need the process of letting something just emerge through the material. They are very different ways of working but they feed each other. Eva Hesse was very much a material process artist and conversely Sol Lewitt was ideational, conceptual. I love them both.

Accepting your own process and understanding it can be a great grounding for your practice but also for your being. It even reaches into self forgiveness and that great feeling of letting go of any grasping need to be something else. We all have it in us to be these fantastic beings. Our own knowledge is rich with how to be fulfilled and it does seem to begin with acceptance. We owe it to ourselves to make the space and time to do this, even if it does mean creating a crazy mess in the house!  It's worth it. Put some music on, get the paints out and re-use some old paper and get going, just make some marks and see where they take you.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Drawing Surgery ii

The surgery was so lovely. It was great to be with a mix of generations, all drawing. We helped each other, made connections, laughed, conquered fears!  Happy place.  The next one is Thursday 10-12 at the People's Cafe, The Mansion, Totnes. ALL WELCOME bring something to draw with (I have supplies if you don't have anything) and it's just pay what you feel.

Ceni was so inspired by the breakthrough she made in drawing portraits that she cannot stop and sent me this from her now bulging sketchbook. She has really made use of suggested lines on the hood. She got skills that woman! So we started tackling portraits by doing some continuous line drawings of faces opposite us (without looking down on the paper) and she just ran with it and loved it and now it's energised her drawing as you can see.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Drawing Surgery



There's a little cafe in the Mansion in Totnes, right under Studio 1 called the People's Cafe. We're going to be there every Thursday 10-12 to meet and chat and draw and I'll be on hand to guide, inspire, motivate and support with anything drawing related.  Just pay what you feel. Here is the badly rendered poster for it.... ...                     One of the best things to come out of any drawing course is the sense of community the group feels. I know I struggle to work in isolation and the times when I've been most happy and productive have been as part of a cohort. I wanted to extend this out of the constraints of the courses.  And create an informal group that sustains a               philosophy of learning, developing, growing, exploring, experimenting and being through drawing. So I hope to see some of you there. Absolutely ALL welcome.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Sensing an object


In my Monday group I wanted to explore using our senses as a way of immersing into drawing.  Today we're beginning with smell.  We always begin with a short meditation to drop down into a relaxed, open state and to really feel into the space and time we've given ourselves for this. I always try to extend this into the drawing activity so that there's a flow between relaxing into drawing and drawing in turn relaxing us with its ability to bring us into the present and connect us with our environment. I'm really interested in experimenting with this feedback of meditative flow and exploring just how much more immersive and connected we could be if we focussed on one of the senses as a way in.

Goethe's ideas about perception and the exploration of a subject have given me a framework for this and I'm keen to learn more about it to support how we approach drawing.
He proposed "experimenters seek the natural, lawful organizing ideas and/or archetype behind specific natural phenomena..  to immerse one's self in a living interaction with the natural phenomena to be studied, with all available senses."
In drawing it's important not to see the object as a preconceived, categorised, label. So if we are drawing a flower, approaching this as a drawing of a rose is going to influence the experience of the drawing and the outcome before we've even explored the actual thing and our interaction with it. We lose a whole gamut of experience and new knowing.  We can enhance the drawing experience if we first get to know it by sense and discovery rather than fixed ideas. 

This is a wordy example I found of the five stages of the Goethean Scientific study, relating to drawing, it's incredibly inspiring: 

1. Exact Sense Perception
At this stage the focus is on the detailed observation of the facts we can perceive through all our senses while suspending all form of personal judgement and evaluation. Isis Brook suggests that at this point one “lets the facts speak for themselves” and proposes that drawing is a good way to enter into this way of seeing as it alerts us to the “details of pattern” and shifts us from a “seeing roses” to a seeing “a particular rose” mode of perception (Brook, 1998, p. 54). We try to go even further and make an attempt to suspend all classification systems that we usually employ, so we stop seeing a rose and encounter the phenomenon, formally called rose, as it is.
2. Exact Sensorial Fantasy
Goethe called this next stage of his method ‘exakte sinnliche Phantasie.’ Margaret Colquhoun and Isis Brook refer to it as ‘exact sensorial fantasy’ (Colquhoun and Day, 1999; Brook, 1998). This literal translation can lead to misunderstanding. Henri Bortoft fittingly calls this stage “exact sensorial imagination” (Bortoft, 1996) and thereby avoids the implications of ‘not being real’ that the word fantasy evokes in the English language.
This is the stage where imagination is employed as a legitimate tool of scientific investigation and as the key to entering another way of knowing, an alternative epistemology. The way of perceiving form, process and participation employed in Goethe’s epistemology furthers understanding of phenomena in their dynamic temporal dimension. We no longer “see the thing in an objective frozen present” and begin to see movement and transition, which makes us aware of the “flowing processes” and stops us from “freezing them with the solid nature of the exact sense perception” (Brook, 1998, p.55).
As we enter into this process oriented and dynamic way of seeing, we imaginatively perceive the form of the phenomenon as an expression of the process of its own transformation, moving through its history to its present and into its future.
Once we are able to focus our awareness on the dynamic transformation of the object and its form, we can try to imagine the dynamic unfolding of the phenomenon differently. That is to say, we can willfully imagine a different sequence of transformation than the one that emerged based on our engagement in stage one.
While repeating some of Goethe’s studies of plants and light, I have experimented with moving through a leaf sequence of a plant or the spectral sequence of colours in an arbitrary order that did not correspond to the underlying natural process. It is a difficult task that exercises imagination. What I experienced was that imagining the impossible — the not natural — resulted in a bodily response that indicated to me that I was leaving my participatory engagement with the phenomenon’s process of transformation or its coming into being. Brook explains: “the second stage could be seen as a training of the imaginative faculty in two directions: Firstly to free up the imagination and then to constrain it within the realms of what is possible for the phenomenon being studied” (Brook, 1998, p.55–56).
3. Seeing is Beholding
In this third stage of Goethean observation the aim is to suspend ac- tive perception and, as much as possible, only receive. We simply behold the phenomenon in the dynamic awareness we reached through the use of our imagination. This is the stage where we “allow the thing to express itself through the observer,” argues Isis Brook: “what is expressed is the being of the phenomenon, something of its essential nature.” She suggests that these experiences are often best expressed in “emotional language,” and “through poetry, painting, or other art forms” (Brook, 1998, p.56).
The phenomenon now takes the active role, and the observer simply encounters the phenomenon with an open mind, no preconceived notions, and having first gone through the process of familiarizing him/herself with the phenomenon through the preparatory stage and then through exact sense perception and exact sensorial imagination (or fantasy). Beholding the object in such a way, we offer the phenomenon our human capacity for conscious awareness so that it can express itself.
When this happens, the experience of the phenomenon revealing itself in one’s own consciousness feels very much like a sudden flash of insight, much more like something received than something created. Brook puts it this way: “To experience the being of a phenomenon requires a human gesture of ‘self-dissipation’. is effort is a holding back of our own activity — a form of receptive attentiveness that offers the phenomenon a chance to express its own gesture. The result of this effort may be an inspirational flash or Aha!” (Brook, 1998, p.56).
4. Being One with the Object
Stage three flows directly into stage four. At the point of being one with the object we “conceptualise to serve the thing: we lend it this human capacity” (Brook, 1998, p.56). Isis Brook suggests that the four stages could also be summarized as: perception, imagination, inspiration and intuition. She acknowledges that since each stage builds on the experiences the observer had in the previous stages, each stage is harder to articulate to somebody who has not engaged in this methodology actively before and experienced the various stages. Brook describes stage four as follows (Brook, 1998, p.57):
What becomes possible at this stage of perception is, in the inorganic realm, the appreciation of laws and, in the organic realm, the appreciation of type. For Goethe type is more than a descriptive plan shared by plants or animals and thus requires more than an exploration of outer form and its constituent parts. Being one with the object allows an appreciation of the content or meaning of the form as well as the form itself. This content is only available to thinking as only in the process of thinking can the outer appearance of the thing, and its inner content be combined by conceptualisation.
When form is understood as an expression of process, all form is seen as intrinsically meaningful since it communicates to the attentive observer where it comes from, where it is going, and how it relates to other forms and processes. Form expresses its own coming into being through relationship. The patterns in this process of transformation can be discerned as laws and types — as possible paths or modes of expression. Each phenomenon has these possible modes of expression, which communicate how it relates to its wider environment, to the phenomena around it. ese relationships define what is possible in the object’s, the phenomenon’s, the form’s transformation and how it occurs.
Referring to her own experience of working through Goethe’s studies of the metamorphosis of plants, Brook suggests that: “the leaf sequence can be experienced as if one is living in the changing forms of the leaf rather than seeing the individual static representations” (Brook, 1998, p.55). is ‘living in the changing forms’ is a particular kind of experience facilitated by Goethe’s epistemology. It expresses a new perception and conception of process, form and participation, which is reached through engaging in the practice of Goethean science.

REFS:
https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/zarte-empirie-goethean-science-as-a-way-of-knowing-e1ab7ad63f46ttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/271667294_Goethean_science_as_a_way_to_read_landscape

Sunday, 2 February 2020


These are the dates for the next five sessions I'm offering at the Mansion, Totnes. 
It's based on exploring the five senses over five weeks through drawing.  We will explore and experiment with mark-making whilst subtly developing some formal techniques and tools.  I'm looking forward to some really immersive, sensory moments in the studio.

The last few sessions in Studio One were great but there's always a nagging feeling that some aspects could have been better, especially when some folks feel frustrated or disheartened at the end of it. I really do know that horrible, but necessary experience, of feeling dissatisfied with the outcome when you're drawing. I regularly find it hard to be resilient and remember to stay in a process of learning and exploring rather than focussing on making a perfect masterpiece.  Not one of my students on this course should have felt despondent - they all had innate skill and ability and individual style - but encouraging someone to see and feel and celebrate this is a mighty task and I am still working on how I achieve this. Like drawing, teaching is a constantly evolving learning of not knowledge but knowing and reflecting the experiences of the students back to my own truths helps me remember my own advice and how hard it is to live that advice!  I can settle for the default of producing a fairly decent, safe image of something I'm drawing or I can push myself to leave the comfort zone and be faced with a 'failure'.  I wish that instead of judging my capabilities on this 'failure' I could push on everytime and have a look at what irks me about it. I will grow if I do this. In teaching as in drawing and indeed, in life, I can design the sessions with a guaranteed 'successful' outcome but where is the development in that? The key is to enabling the growth to happen in a supportive and enjoyable way, to encourage curiosity, to make 'mistakes' lightly without fear or self judgement, to roll with it. And to not give up because the learning is gold. And like drawing this 'knowing' will become easier to access the more I practice. 
Thank you to all 15 of you who have taught me over the last 3 weeks, you are awesome x



Situationist...

Never before has my situation had so many extrapolated meanings. SocialPhysicalFinancialGeographicalSpiritualPoliticalEmotionalCellularGlo...