Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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Hamilton Residency 4: rhythm

The overwhelm subsides into a kind of rhythm as I begin to understand what my new job is; what feels unfamiliar but is actually okay.


As the illusion clears – of pitfalls and boobytraps at every misstep – I can see that the floor I walk on every day is sturdy, reliable… and beautiful. The walls are well built and practical, the beams and posts resilient and strong. Built to carry workers, materials; to support dreams of steady slow progress in reward for daily, hourly persistence.


So many have carried their private stories through here, many more will do so, now that this factory has been so lovingly snatched from the jaws of disuse and abandonment, launched like a ship into the ocean of now.


The big building loves industry and honest work; I can feel it.

I imagine, self-indulgently, that it loves the current industry more than the one that built it, and to some extent Hamilton, in 1901. These bricks were laid, these beams milled and bought thanks to the labour of slaves from the south who laboured daily in cotton fields barns and shipyards. A different daily, hourly persistence from that of the workers who laboured here. Did the industrialists ‘own’ them too, I wonder.


The Portrait Project grows, here.

In the research process I hold careful space for the stories of what I now call ‘my eight’. I am quietly astonished, again and again, at this meeting place of diversity in story and self awareness, and how each disclosure connects, through my own experiences and oh so gently to another from someone else.


They are strangers to one another, my Eight, but they are all here in the studio with me now, as I listen again to what I’ve been shown and told, and form the larger story that is ours together. From this I will make eight pieces that each speak to the other across difference. I’ve never felt more challenged by a visual art project, have never welcomed a challenge more than I do now.  So many languages to learn; listening is good work.


I’m grateful to have been able to extend my stay by finding permanent studio space here, at the marvellous Cotton Factory in Hamilton. Not only will this give me the time to do justice to these portraits and my Eight, but also to build strong ties with the people who work here. A new kind of family.



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Summon the Artist

The studio is different, this second day of 2016.

It’s taking some time for the subtle but undeniably permanent changes to sink in.  Some can be identified now; the bell paintings I began in December ring at a new frequency – thirty-six hours from now they will finish in a way I hadn’t imagined.  There’s a kind of inner ‘glow’ to them – as though they were still in active process of becoming while I was elsewhere attending to christmas gatherings, encountering and engaging family; playing like someone 5 years old and far wiser with dear dear friends; making and sharing beautiful communal music; solving puzzles; sorting buttons by colour and size; breathing the outside air, forgetting worry.

These bell paintings are more fully themselves – I won’t need to work so hard to bring them home.

Almost impossible to get the yellows right for this photo. The real one is like sunlight - I'm utterly charmed by it.

It’s impossible to get the yellows right in this photo – I’m not a good photographer & certainly don’t understand enough tech to make it right. The actual painting I stare at on the wall is like sunlight.  It puts me into a hammock on a hot summer day that is made bearable by a perfect, sun-quenched breeze.  I can hear honeybees, cicadas, crickets, red-winged blackbirds, the caterpillar beside me, who chews an ash leaf.  A crow comments, occasionally.

There’s more room in here, impossibly.

How…?    I’ve not moved anything out except – oh ya.  The Bell paintings already at the Bean Cellar, and two hanging in living rooms.  Paintings that are finished take up a great deal of space and need to move on to some other wall, somewhere else.  I’d forgotten how strong they were.


None of my camera batteries have juice left.  I find patience, while they recharge and catch up with my curiosity.

step 3

step 5 – I’d give you step 7 but my camera batteries…. What I’m looking at is more like a golden thought than this earlier one.  Somehow the little bells ring inside a warm memory of change from long ago. Every colour is there- golden, rich red, deep violet, spring green, hemlock green, deep aqua loke Georgian Bay.

While I wait for camera batteries I listen, and realize that a new set of materials call to me for the first time in many years.  Paper. Ink. Plaster. Chalk.  – these will be a re-visiting, since that’s where I started long ago.  Pencil crayon, after seeing a drawing at the Durham Art Gallery that stole my heart in December (it now astonishes me in my kitchen, as it did when I unwrapped it at Christmas).

I feel I want to make use of Black for the first time since rejecting it’s place in my work 30 years ago.  It is the absence of colour.

Why black?  Now?  That’s a curious thing.

I follow the call to new media. Like a wise 5-year-old engaging in serious play. Hours go by, and no time at all.

I follow the call to new media. Like a wise 5-year-old engaging in serious play. Hours go by, and no time at all – like a good walk in the forest.

Happy 2016, everyone.  It feels new and full of promise to me.   You too?


Tech Lessons

Last year I found I needed a new-to-me Macbook Pro when I poured coffee on the spacebar of my current one.  In a year of cash that trickled rather than flowed, this took some doing, but I did it, and voila – its Faster Better, Quiet, sleek and wonderful.  In January 2015 the crashing began and was misdiagnosed three times before last month the truth was finally revealed to me:  my Faster-Better-Quiet had terminal graphics card failure.  Basically the thing is on life support while I farm it’s guts for the treasures I’d buried there, but it’s definitely palliative.  Bye Bye.

I do not grieve.  We had so little time together after all, in the context of Macbook lifespans.

Nope no grief.  I rage.

My vacated chair as I follow the sage advice to those beset with tech horror:  walk away from the computer...

My vacated chair as I follow the sage advice to those overcome by tech horror: walk away from the computer

There are three books in progress on that thing.  Four short films about making art – none of which I can open on my OldTrustyNoSpacebar.  Many many GB of exploration of the #Water project and the #Paper Works project.  Songs, sheet music, arrangements, new contacts, doodles, rituals, photographs…

In one year, all of that, gathered, pondered, collected.  I thought I had four more years at least.  Rage.

The floor in front of me as I contain my rage, so that I can calmly get back to work...

The floor in front of me as I contain my rage, so that I can calmly get back to work…

All of this can be dealt with, of course.  During one of the misdiagnoses I prudently bought a backup drive – everything is there when and if I need it.  I just need to … dig.  Also, many of the projects require software that OldTrustyNoSpaceBar doesn’t have.  Not a problem, I can sort this out too by downloading updates and freeware from the internet.  I just need to … find the updates, the freeware….


OldTrusty, this morning, looking game.  Bluetooth keyboard solved the garbled writing issue...

OldTrusty, this morning, looking game. Bluetooth keyboard solved the garbled writing issue…

The thing is, I’m writing and recording music for Liz Zetlin’s film, Herons and Monks.  I’m so very honoured to be asked, so excited to mix voice and cello to her images and her poem – as tastefully as she has built the latter.  It’s a lovely film.  Liz has been waiting and waiting to hear what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been busy with concerts, rehearsals, teaching, helping my folks leave the family home, but mostly in denial about Faster Better Quiet, who was getting worse and worse each time I worked – Oh! files lost just before saving, posts gone forever, poems fractured into digital soup… I took It in again to the repair guy.  And again, grim but still hopeful, thinking – when I pick It up next week I can clear the boards of all else and finish…

By then Faster Better had lost my respect and my love.  Well no wonder It died.

Meanwhile, no internet at home.  OldTrusty lives at the studio and can’t connect through the internet provider we have at home (something to do with a Snow Leopard glitch….eih?).

A clever #Selfie, learned after last year's project.  This was the little Rothfuss

A clever #Selfie, learned after last year’s project. This was the little Rothfuss

So, shrug, I read a little perfect book by Patrick Rothfuss.  And then another big one by Donna Tartt, and another by Alice Hoffman.  My insomnia disappeared for ten days.


I took a holiday – the first real, healing one I’ve had in about twenty years.  Just two fantastic sleeps, with books.  I did take OldTrusty, but just wrote journal.

It’s a week since that little holiday, and I sit in the end of the cleared time, writing this on OldTrusty, since Better Faster is written off.  I have laid down at least forty vocal and cello tracks in my begin-from-scratch music for Liz’  Herons and Monks.  Dear OldTrusty has caught and saved twelve of those, but lost the rest because (as my recording software tells me fairly regularly),  cannot record.  disc is too slow.  That’s alright.  It’s making the work better.

It’s making me better, actually.  The film is about many things – stillness, patience, gathering, scattering, dancing and releasing.  All of these things have happened with me and my technology these past three days and two sleeps, while I make music fit for herons, cranes, a monk who, close to ninety, sits for eight hours a day, over nine days, to build a mandala out of sand.  Music also for Liz, so dear to me, who has waited.

Thanks Liz.  See you tomorrow morning.

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sunlight, & ee

My studio is new and beloved.  The paintings, the sewings, the drawings and the music have all surged ahead after long weeks and months of stasis.  Patient, faithful and still, they have all waited like the good friends they are, for my return.

Ahhh.  So rich.

Bathed in sunlight I stand at one of my six big windows and listen to the conversations flowing through the room – Faure with a fabric artist guru from New Zealand about interesting new trends in upholstery;  Seamus Heaney with John Newton about Dan McGee’s gladiolus – that specific colour of luddite red; Ted Hughes roaring his laughter with hobbit-sized Edouard Bartlett about a sideways student who managed to astonish his audience; Sir Ken Robinson with my beloved Cow (a puppet made in Carnarvon 20 years ago) about the pleasures of a sharp pencil.

This morning a long-time friend and colleague sent this to me from her fridge:

I haven't yet found the title for this, but I will.

I haven’t yet found the title for this, but I will.

Here’s a bio of ee. (1894–1962), who said this in summary of three final ‘non-lectures’ at Harvard University:

“I am someone who proudly and humbly affirms that love is the mystery-of-mysteries, and that nothing measurable matters ‘a very good God damn’; that ‘an artist, a man*, a failure’ is no mere whenfully accreting mechanism, but a givingly eternal complexity—neither some soulless and heartless ultrapredatory infra-animal nor any understandingly knowing and believing and thinking automaton, but a naturally and miraculously whole human being—a feelingly illimitable individual; whose only happiness is to transcend himself, whose every agony is to grow.”

So bless this Sunday full of sunlight and total engagement with the world.  I’m going to go and paint with Seamus now.

Be well, everyone.


(*He meant “human”, I am sure. )

here’s the poem again – yes, she’s got it right.:

yes but even
4 or(&h
can b
usiness soca
lled me
n dis…cussing “parity” in l’hô

tel nor
man(rue d
e l’échelle)
die can’tquite poison God’s sunlight