I was fairly wrong about what the Friday class at Nottingham Contemporary Gallery is about, I thought it was going to be about professional development and improving technique for applying to galleries for exhibitions. It seems to be more about making marks and learning how to resolve a body of disparate work at the moment 😉 But I’m having fun “playing with the pencils on the bench”…(Alice’s Restaurant) and it is a very interesting group of people. On week 3, we had a really wide ranging discussion of why and how people make art, covering neolithic cave art/ shamanic dance/ mindfulness/ performance art/ Black Mountain College/ El Anatsui’s recent work at Brooklyn/ and so much more, we did a show-and-tell on what we liked markmaking with (charcoal/ body/ freeform yarn/ random up and re-cycling/ words/  fountain pens and moleskins/ editing suites…and more!)

We then had an hour to make a piece on a set theme and incorporating the brass rubbing technique Chris tutor showed us (be careful if you want to look up frottage,  ALWAYS include art or you will need eye bleach) and blank newsprint, but then letting rip however we wanted. After having discussed lines/line making/ marks/ markmaking and explaining that my favourite way to draw is with yarn, in the air, that using a chain of freeform crochet creates instant texture and three-dimensionality, my mind had wandered to lines and Hundertwasser’s words “The straight line leads to hell”. The theme was text, texture and context and I found my mind wandering from straight lines to flat lines…

and I found myself making a piece about the experience of watching my husband flat line, while the ambulance crew worked really hard to try and re-start his heart…I’ve talked about this in therapy, but not much elsewhere, and for a moment I considered not following the idea…but then I felt how much I wanted to do something on it, so I went with it, and luckily it worked for me and didn’t seem to upset anyone else. Partly because the rest of the group has to ‘read’ your work before you explain, and partly because I was so immersed, I didn’t give a trigger warning, which I felt a bit bad about afterwards, but that was just how it fell out. Chris class member took a photo:


It’s a very long piece, at least 2metres


These are the flat lines and monitor heart beats and de-fibrillation attempts


This is what I was left with, flat lines and the paper wrappers from all the cortisone syringe shots etc


and a place I cannot follow…

the coloured ‘line’ is the variegated chenille yarn I happened to have with me to start making a component for ‘whispering wall’, which I had freeform chained with loops during the discussion, which I laid (too linear a word!) over the papers. It puddled and looped from before to after the papers, and represents the 3-dimensionality, I as a living person retain (though so many people try and bury the widow with the coffin, hell’s teeth, stories I could tell you) and the disconnected connections I feel, I can tell you the story of this event but in the installation half the story belongs to Andy, and his story becomes disjointed…I started off shifu-ing the paper (Japanese paper/fabric technique) but it was very reluctant to do anything other than knot, so I let it lead and worked with that. The group caught  most of the signs/signifiers, but without the narrative, they had no context to give them the story, they got very close though. I liked that my story  is what made sense of it – that echoes the real life event and the role of the yarn element in the installation.

I feel like making this was very important for me, it may not be a great piece of art, but it was cathartic. It’s not art therapy, it still clearly had formal values and presence, it just also had a more personal story than gallery art often allows itself to tell….which I think is a shame, I think it is possible to make impassioned art on personal subjects. Curators often don’t realise the bias they show, what is allowed and what is taboo, joy and beauty are hardly seen in galleries 😉 Not serious enough?

It reminds me of being an anarcha-feminist who wore bright colours – REAL anarchists wear black…(ahem, REAL anarchists do what they freely choose?)

Week 4 was more markmaking, with a lot of resist techniques shown, including one new to me with oilbars, where you use blender to cover words and then watercolour the rest of the page. You could use any of the stain/wash- able oilbars if you diluted them with blender, but then you’d have to get your hands dirty 😉

Anyway, I had a lot of fun, and as I happened to have a roll of hessian texture wallpaper with me, used  thaSTA44363-001t:


STA44366I really amused the other class members as I crooned over the paints, it was so nice to feel paint rapture again and see the texture of the paper springing out…

I paid for it though, I still have a sore arm four days later and I really did barely any, sigh…I think it was doing it on top of taking parcels to the post office and carrying a roll of wallpaper around…but wait till summer, then I’ll be able to do more I hope, and meanwhile these fragments have given me happy thoughts 😉