I am tethered by an invisible thread which binds me to my own story. This is why I sew into my photographs, to feel attached to something I still yearn for.
I am so pleased to be able to share news of my solo show which opens in the Print Sales Gallery at The Photographers’ Gallery on March 8th. The work, Constellations and Coordinates, comprises of two parts. Constellations features needle-mark unique black and white hand-prints with numerous perforations made to raise the surface of the image. Coordinates offers a range of highly colourful embroidered pieces, each making a different gesture and offering a point of familiarity in a path of navigation.
A few of my newest hand-marked works will be exhibited in Print Sales Gallery at The Photographers’ Gallery, London from April 27th until June 9th. I am delighted to be included in the show Work in Process alongside Julie Cockburn, Felicity Hammond, Alma Haser and Liz Nielson. More details here.
Pieces from my series “Dragonflies” will be on display, with their hand-marked perforations made slowly on the surface of photographic self-portraits.
This continues as part of my long-term work Armour Studies (Regarding Skin), a consideration of skin as the permeable layer between interior and exterior, and the porous body.
There is a group of us in Bristol who meet up every now and then to connect through our shared pursuit of very diverse photography practices. It began more than a year ago in a cafe, just four of us having coffee and hogging the table for about three hours. It has gradually expanded to be a group in which there must be more than 12 women on the email list, although it’s generally no more than a handful of us that meet at any one time. There is no pressure to turn up, and no agenda.
Mostly we’ve met in a cafe near the train station, which was borne out of the fact it was central and a couple of people live a relatively long way away. But this time, we met in someone’s house one Saturday morning, at the kitchen table.
It is an amazing thing, a kitchen table – it never just means meal-time. It is an object that sees partners splitting up or repairing painful wounds, that looks after piles of clutter, watches children having tantrums, that witnesses friendships affirmed or broken. I vividly remember the kitchen table of my own childhood – it had a split down one side where the wood-join a quarter of the way in had long given up, darkened with both age and food, the top scrubbed sometimes with bleach. I worked in an antique shop for six months in my early 20s and learned they were actually dubbed ‘scrub-tops’ and always went for a good price – that rustic feel which promises Ma Larkin is just around the corner to make everything all right.
Although the group of us who meet up mostly know each other’s work it was the first time we all actually got something out to share and get feedback on. I’m sure it was the influence of a table….the lack of pressure, the home, the familiarity of what a kitchen table means. It is a far cry from a formal ‘crit’ – and all the better for it. There’s a time and a place for that. And there is a time and a place for this – following in the long lineage of women sharing: quietly, at a kitchen table.
I have often been asked “Was it therapeutic making it?” in relation to my project Conversations with my mother, in which I explore maternal severance. I understand the impulse to ask this question, and mostly attribute it to someone wanting to ask me something personal. But the reality is no – no it was not therapeutic making this work.
On one level I could agree it was restorative – but that is because I worked every day to make something – and it is the routine and act of making which is satisfying for me. Many people can lose themselves in the process of work in order to recover from a difficult life event and I certainly found it beneficial to go to the studio daily.
But to say it was specifically therapeutic detracts from the significance and relevance of the artistic process. I also fear that to say it was therapeutic would detract from the role of the artist in making something which is for going out into the world: an artwork to make meaning in order to communicate to someone else for their benefit (not for the artist). That’s not to say I don’t experience some sort of catharsis and it would be disingenuous to say that I didn’t – making is a journey and I would be loathe to say I didn’t change along the way. I guess I’m trying to emphasise it would be too short of an answer to say it was therapeutic…to me, that would imply I arrived at some sort of answer and that I made it more for me, which is not true. I made it because I had something to say.
My focus is on making work deliberately and consciously to make connections with others, rather than making work to stay personally with me. I do that by telling a story about something real to me in some way – but one which is has some recognisable quality for other people.