The best laid plans……

Well the last three days have been almost a complete write off for getting on with my art plans…I say ‘almost’ as today I feel a little better so have done a bit more additions to my blog. I started yesterday but didn’t get much done as concentration levels were almost zero. How can something like a cold lay you so low? It’s a good job we know these things will come and go in a few days or you would be convinced it was something really serious. Still cold and sniffly and coughing but hey ho it was worse yesterday and will no doubt be even better tomorrow.

Drawing From the Past

Drawing From the Past …..in which I try to investigate what my current practice is about.

It’s a strange thing to look at my new work closely and realise that it’s not that new at all but another blending of all the trials and experiences of personal history, genetics and learning processes that make one the person one is. And so when looking at my work I constantly find myself looking into my own secret world. Can we step outside those boundaries in our creativity and produce work that shows nothing of who or what we are? I tend to think not for in order for it to be meaningful our creativity must surely come from within ourselves, from deep below the external persona we present as our face to the world. This does not mean of course that the artist will produce literal representations of his personal feelings and experiences but that somehow and in some way each work has been informed by who and what the artist is, has experienced or feels. Even an artist whose work is deliberately trying to tell nothing of himself must surely be telling us a great deal about himself indeed by this very action.

The artist Louise Bourgeois’s family history has provided her with a lifetime of inspiration in her work. As a child her father had openly taken her English governess as a mistress whilst her mother refused to acknowledge the situation. Louise was left deeply confused by the contradictions and relationships within her family circle. For over seventy decades much of Bourgeios’s work has been an exploration of the anger, trauma and anxiety motivated by her personal history and by a constant investigation of female identity and the role of the female and the home. Her work whilst drawn from intensely private sources nonetheless reflects universal concerns and emotions. Like Bourgeois by constantly investigating and reinvestigating that which we do not understand we attempt to gain understanding so that eventually we can create order from confusion. The three pieces help to illustrate the depths of Bourgeoise’s feelings. The Destruction of the Father from 1974 is made of latex, wood, fabric with a red light. The work almost seems to pulsate with aggression and anger. The surface a mass of prickles and pustules holds no fatherly comfort. This work is the Hell to which Bourgeois confines the father

The Destruction of the Father 1974 © Louise Bourgeois

By contrast the soft fabric female figure smiles shyly out at the viewer from under her headdress of kitchen like domestic objects. Like the Venus of Willendorf and other goddess images that symbolise female fertility she has large breasts and rounded hips. This figure may exude fertility and sexuality but she is reduced to an object and importantly lacks arms with which to enfold and comfort a child.

Untitled 2002  ©Louise Bourgeois

The Woven Child 2002 © Louise Bourgeois

Above in ‘The Woven Child’ Bourgeois shows us the child, small vulnerable and naked, trapped and tangled in a womblike net. But this womb is no place of security and safety for here the infant is caught frightened, confused and panicking like a fish pulled from out of it’s environment into the unknown. It is impossible to look at these works and not understand something of the turmoil Bourgeoisemust have felt as a small child and needed to constantly revisit as an adult artist. Maybe by confronting these feelings repeatedly she tries to come to terms with them and dilute their intensity or maybe she is merely trying to make sense of that which was beyond the understanding of a child and remains therefore always in that state of confusion.

I believe that this is something very basic in our psyche as human beings. We have this need to understand who we are and where we belong in the world in order to create some sort of order. We may know where and who we are in a wider sense but it is on investigating and exploring our personal history that we attempt to root ourselves in our individual place and being. This is a universal truth that goes far beyond art. Clarissa Dickson Wright, the cook and author summed it up very well in her autobiography ‘Spilling The Beans’ 2007, when she wrote that ‘All of us are an accumulation of the traits, genetic tendencies, geographicals and peculiarities of our forebears. These are the ingredients that we and the adventures and misfortunes of our lives process into the finished dish that becomes ourselves.’

Like most of us I too am fascinated by my past and its strange secrets. Whispers overheard at family gatherings, bits of family stories never fully understood or explained, strange words and riddles, snippets of half forgotten memories, all parts of an extraordinary jigsaw that has made me who I am. What child wouldn’t be enthralled by objects brought home from around the world by a sailor father who enlisted to escape a cruel childhood. The story that granddad came from a wealthy family but was disowned on marrying my beautiful but poor grandmother. Grandma’s sister Dolly who turned out in later life to be a man having been raised as a girl by parents traumatised at the suicide of their first born soldier son in the First World War and were determined that their second baby son would never go to war. What kind of world was it where a boy could be brought up as a girl without his siblings knowing? Such stories sowed rich seeds in a child’s imagination.

In Art Monthly April 2005 Axel Lapp defines history as ‘the understanding of the past as present’ but notes that it is drawn from objects and written documents which in themselves are of their own time and also from an oral history which will inevitably be lost and so must therefore be open to ‘subjective perception’. Future generations will no doubt strive to interpret and understand what is happening today just as we do when searching our own personal histories. As Axel Lapp describes in his article I also use the objects, documents, memories and fragmented oral accounts of history to try to understand and to communicate my own interpretation of what I find. I seek inspiration in old photographs, some from my own family. I look into the eyes staring out at me and wonder what was going through their minds as the shutter clicked. Behind every one lies the story of a life lived and a fascination that those lives are forever entwined with mine and contribute in some part to my work and who and what I am as a person today.

Susie Liddle     2010

Ulverston plays host to the printmakers again

Well Printfest 2010 came and went over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Worked really hard getting stuff together for it and then whooosh it’s over. The weather stayed mostly fine and warmish and there were a lot of people around Ulverston. I have visited many parts of the Lake District over the years but this was a new one to me. I rather liked the town. It’s small and not too touristy although of course like all such places tourism plays a huge part in the local economy. What was really nice is that it tries just hard enough without becoming a ‘plastic’ place. That weekend coincided with the flag festival and all the buildings sported glorious silk banner  flags fluttering from their walls as if some sort of medieval carnival was taking place. One expected jousters to gallop towards each other down the High Street at any moment. During Printfest 2009  it had been the Laurel and Hardy Convention in town with look-a-likes  wandering the town streets. A small Lakeland town whose streets, pubs and cafes were crammed with a mix of artists and ‘Laurel and Hardy’ devotees.  I am sorry I missed that  because that’s ‘another fine mess’ I really wish I had got into.

How did the selling side go? Well I was there most of Saturday and by 4pm we had only sold one of Frances delightul small etchings. Nothing else had been sold and the show closed at 5pm. I don’t know what Sunday brought but I would have thought I would have heard if we had had a bonanza. Been trying to analyse why sales were so sparse because the work we had on show was really good.

Of course times are tough financially at the moment for people and it’s often the luxuries that get sidelined in favour of paying the essentials however there were people buying. So what else do I think might have affected sales? I think the corner stand wasn’t as customer friendly or well lit as the Horsley Printers next to us who also had a double stand. Their’s was long  centrally place stand also on the outside run. Our corner stand meant that even though we had the same amount of wall space as them it appeared more crowded because ours was made up of two short walls placed at right angles. 

Also maybe were a bit too popular this year. I don’t mean with the buying public but with the Print Centre artists. There were so many wanting to take part and each artist was allowed to sumit two framed pieces for hanging plus six pieces of browser work. With over twenty artists, that’s a lot of work in a small space and of course a wide variety of styles, media, sizes etc to complicate hanging even more. Don and Sue, Frances and Alan and Kate made an excellent job of putting up such a big show so we are all really grateful to them and well done for taking that job on. Sue has obviously missed her true vocation because she is a born saleswoman. 

We also perhaps came out rather expensive by comparison as even though artists selling independently have all the stand costs to bear, they don’t have commission to pay on sales and can even negotiate prices with potential buyers. We can’t discount other artist’s work.

These are just observations and despite the lack of sales I wouldn’t have missed going up there and seeing Printfest because it was a great learning experience in lots of ways. Roll on 2011 let’s really knock em dead next year.

A Thousand Kisses

The title of my cyanotype with papercut overlay comes from the mistletoe the girl is carrying. At first glance the image is very pretty but there are deep social and sexual undertones. Her breasts are exposed… She carries the bundles of mistletoe either side of a pole like a beast of burden.  Mistletoe which is connected with sexuality is carried as a gift. The papercut is reminiscent of a paper doily that might be used at afternoon tea in a respectable upper or middleclass household. It references the role of a servant to which a poor young girl might aspire.

A Thousand Kisses

Little Boxes

Boxes of secrets

I have been working away all week designing and making some little boxes containing cyanotypes. I was thinking about making them for Prinfest at Ulverston which is over the May Bank Holiday week end. Most of my work is one offs so I don’t really have anything for the browser and I hope these ‘boxes of secrets’ will fit in on the Print Centre stand. They are covered in papers from the V & A range and then open as ‘exploding boxes to reveal saucy vintage images that I have printed using cyanotype. They sort of go well with my books which are now recovered in similar antique looking papers. I have tried using a resin cast  doll’s house statue in the middle (nude of course) and also  putting an image in the centre. I think the image works better. Rather than stick the figurine to the base I can always pop one in loose if I want to add more to the piece. Luckily I kept all my options open with the first statue which I glued in as I  glued it to a loose piece of matching paper which can be replaced. The boxes are about secrets and peoples secret lives. The pretty exterior encloses and hides a  world of female exploitation and domination by men at a time when they would have been very ‘proper’ and respectful in the treatment of  women. A glimpse of ankle was considered shocking but underneath all this propriety seethed a world in which to be poor or a servant was to be sexually vulnerable. This was of course hidden behind a wall of correctness. Pregnant servants would be sacked instantly, illegal abortions performed and often servant girls only kept their jobs and their livlihood by being ‘nice ‘ to the master of the house. Is it so very different today. Certainly not everywhere? 

I am not happy with the little figurine. I think  all images works better. The idea was ok but it doesnt work in practise. Well I don’t think so anyway. Make a comment and tell me what you think.  Maybe I should keep one and see if it sells better as an experiment.

New Work

This is a little look at the first of my new work. I really feel there is a lot of potential in this theme and I have only scratched the surface so far. These first pieces have had a really positive response at Oriel Scala where they are in the current exhibition so that is very encouraging. They haven’t sold yet but they only went on display on Tuesday so early days.

Can You Hear Our Whispers Echo Down the Years

This is set in a deep box frame and is a retoned cyanotype image which I masked during printing. The sad little eyes of the two girls gaze out through a thorn hedge which was sprayed onto the back of the glass. The result is on the way to the effect of capturing the passing of time which is what I am trying to achieve.

Is it progress or is it panic?

Gallery 36, Rhyl

I just checked my blog and realised it is a month since I added anything to it. I have a dozen good reasons why but today I will write something however brief. I need to rekindle that little spark of enthusiasm that I had at the start.

Well the title of this post gives a clue to how I am feeling about my art. Why do I feel as if in the throes of a panic attack at the thought of my work? I have been trying to analyse myself and actually it’s blindingly obvious. Too much to do and too little time to do it in is the answer. Welcome to the club I hear you call! A panicking mind is overwhelmed with confusing information and consequently freezes or goes into shutdown just like my tired old computer when I press too many keys or sometimes any keys at all. It thinks ‘can’t do that, can’t cope with all that’ and then it sticks it’s fingers in it’s little computer ears, shuts it’s big flat screen eye and goes LA LA LA until I go away…..

It’s quite late now as I have just got in from a Rhyl Create meeting. A good positive meeting with lots of interesting progress on the search for funding for next year. It would be so sad to see such a vibrant group fail for lack of £5000 for rent. Fingers crossed that will not happen as no one could work harder at the project than Lynda and team. Lots of exciting projects being discussed but of course it’s now we need things to happen. Here are a couple of photos I took tonight of some of my work in Rhyl Create’s Gallery 36. It’s changeover this weekend so last chance to photograph them tonight.

Gallery 36, Rhyl