We are bathed in golden warm light, enchanted by the dramatic, long-reaching shadows of autumn. I’m tall like a giant on the shaved grass of Gage Park, stretched out from my feet by the sun.
After a scan of news from Palestine, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ukraine I wonder. Do we learn how to better navigate our anxiety in the challenges of these times. Each in our own context, but also in solidarity, a communion of care. Does the portal of anxiety lead to courage. I wonder.
Two long-legged stink bugs have landed on my sunlit screen to bask in slow motion, the cat snores her contentment beside me.
Most of the responses to the question ‘What’s different for you, since the lockdowns?’ are so forthright and honest that they ring like bells – the kind of bell that inspires a shout of laughter. In response to these I mix iron gall ink in micro amounts with the natural colours I’ve made so that what gets written into the paintings for this December show* will have more permanence.
I have received more than a hundred responses to my ‘what’s different now..’ question now, with more coming in each day. These have made an enormous difference for me in the work for this show, which is now about a communion of care, in times of great change. A deeply heartfelt Thank You to each of you who has responded so honestly and generously.
David Graeber, my favourite anarchist / anthropologist says that “valuable work is a form of care for others. Something that benefits people in a direct way”. With Andrew Simonet I believe that the arts are all about care for others, that they benefit us all, powerfully and directly.
Andrew suggests that artists really need to thank other artists more often. He invites us to do so on Thank An Artist Day, which is December 12. I’m building my list of thanks to’s in preparation.
These pieces I’m labouring with now: the ancient tree, the empty facing-away chair, the half-full glass, the floating snaffle bit are metaphors for me – for time and perspective, loss and grief, choice and sovereignty. Every one of them is about freedom, a shift in perspective. They are all very demanding at the moment.
I’m in the stage for this show where professional anxiety is my constant companion. This is solo work, this practice of art-making, and as deadlines approach the portal of worry opens wider and wider, just as my resistance increases. This is a deeply uncomfortable but trusted part of my process; I know without any doubt that I’ll step through to a loving completion of these images, wiser than I was before I began this project. They have been my path through both grief and wonder this year.
Cello helps. I’ve been asked to pull together a string quartet for the 24th annual Leith Church Lessons and Carols on December 18th. Oh JOY. There’s a great deal of strength and agility in my arms and fingers to re-claim for this gig. I’ve also just joined Sinfonia Ancaster, which will require some steady work so I can pull my weight. No matter. The addition of daily practice is a balm, the ache in my finger muscles welcome.
Colour helps. I’m enthralled by these natural inks, the studies in their individual lightfastness and transparency in layers. It’s technical, painstaking work, but oh so satisfying. The colours are most definitely alive. They express their diversity just as humans do, each unique unto itself.
Cabin is another balm. I was able to spend three nights there a week ago, in warmth and sunlight, cradled in the sound of falling leaves, soft waves on the shore. My heart’s ease; there is nothing but rich open gratitude, great honkings of geese every night at sundown.
*After Lockdown is my part of a joint show with Eileen Earnshaw at the Centre3 Members’ Gallery in Hamilton. It opens during Art Crawl on Friday December 9, and runs from December 3 through to January 3. I will be there on the 9th, and will also book a little gathering with folks early-mid December to share some info about the inks, the texts and the metaphors. If you’d like to be part of that, let me know and I’ll send you the details.
I’ll sign off now; it’s time to practice.