The quoit is skimming across the deck…

The quoit is skimming across the deck, it lands with a wobble. I win a prize. This is my first memory. I am on the deck of the Queen Mary transitioning from being three years old to being four. I am somewhere on the sea between England and Sri Lanka, or is it Sri Lanka and England? Exactly where, and even the direction of travel matters not.

I am mixed, mixed race.

Some say mixed up. I don’t, I am privileged, though sometimes confused. I certainly discombobulate others, but I’m no nincompoop.

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Wendy Manel de Silva, May 2020

WIP (work in progress)

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Inhabiting and journeying through the house,

I live in my brown skin – always.

I live in my rusty house, the rust chosen to echo and fix

memories of the disappearing industrial landscape

of my English husband‘s hometown.

It’s been my home for over 15 years.

Like a hermit crab, I’ve found,

sometimes made myself, several homes in London,

the city I landed in, on a BOAC aeroplane in January 1971.

Enoch was dreaming of bloody rivers.

What greeted me on my journey from the airport

was a cold, cold, grey sky

blackish sludge on the edge of the road

and children skating on the duck pond in Broomfield Park.

 

I’d moved from  Park Road in Havelock Town

named after Arthur Havelock, the British Governor of Ceylon,1890 -1895,

to stay with my generous aunt and her family

in an upper level maisonette in Palmers Green which is named after a field,

Palmer’s Field, in records that date back to 1204.

My parents, eking out their Sri Lankan exchange controlled £50 allowance

lodged in a bedsit nearby.

My two brothers dispatched north, to Manchester, for a sojourn with our maternal grandparents who lived in Fallowfield, neat Platts Fields.

The family rumour is that Nanny was disinherited, why we never found out.

But we learnt, 50 years later, that there were probably two sides to that story.

My Grandpa’s sister spoke Ancient Greek. Her (uncorroborated) history included being headmistress of Manchester Grammar School for Girls.

 

I did not mean to end up reading like a page out of out of ancestry.co.uk.

Indeed, with a start I realise I can’t nestle in there.

People; kind, curious, nervous, alarmed, racist maybe,

will ask me where I’m from, where I’m really from.

Maybe in one sense they are right,

I’m not really from Highbury in North London.

 

My art practice is an attempt to answer that question for them.

For me, it’s a question that keeps presenting multiple answers

with shimmering lights and black holes

which I explore when I’m feeling strong.

It’s about living in my skin, more or less comfortably.

It’s about living in this world, on this planet,

from before I was born, to after I am gone.

 

 

Wendy Manel de Silva, May 2020

 

Symphony for the speechless

Aurelia Duplouich May 2020
Sound Collage Duration: 3 min 41 seconds

The idea of making a soundtrack came from being in lockdown in a farm in the French Alps, isolated from any other human beings apart from my own family and two farmers. Like many, I experienced this time as a moment of introspection and because everything around me was about nature, the cycle of life and death became very present.

I started teaching myself how to mix tracks for my vocal harmony group, so my new routine included lots of time spent practising vocal parts, mixing them with others and basically producing music rather than making it.
I began recording sounds of my life here: my kids playing with newborn lambs and shepherds dogs, or walking in the fields, but I have also given them lines to read. They decided it was more fun to act them out. The incredible variety of sounds in an isolated rural place I hope were giving an idea of how beautiful and unspoilt it all was here.

In the same time, we were witnessing death all the time, not just the death toll that was painfully enunciated at the evening news, but also right here, a couple of meters away, a dog dying of old age, chicken eaten by the foxes one night, a baby lamb slaughtered by the shepherds dog because he wouldn’t feed….and more tragically, many pine trees dying of viruses, a direct consequence of recurring droughts and rise in temperature.

The idea of a collage was inspired by Robert Rauschenberg and his view that anything could be used, not just what is aesthetically pleasing. I have, in the same way, left mistakes, spontaneous laughs or curses, background noises and done a very basic editing.

I’d love to continue developing this piece back into a proper 4 parts symphony type composition, and collaborate with a performer/mime or signing-artist to develop a full installation of it. AD

Composition /Voice: Aurelia Duplouich
Piano: Ricardo Gosalbo Guenot
Readings: Evie Raford, Teo Raford, Noah Raford

Image: Aurelia Duploouich – Mapping research
Aurelia - Mapping Research

Recommendations #2

The Encounter is free to watch online from 15 May until 22 May 2020.

The Encounter tells the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who, in 1969, became lost in a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest while searching for the Mayoruna people. His encounter was to test his perception of the world, bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus.

“We are, as a consequence of this pandemic, bodily cut off from one another. Disconnected. Isolated. But perhaps this sense of our separation one from another, is simply a heightening of what we felt before this all began. We are thinking now, not only about how long this will last, but also what happens on the other side. To reconnect we need, perhaps, to learn to listen more closely. To each other. To our communities. To other cultures. To nature itself. The Encounter is at its heart a story about ‘listening’, not ‘hearing’ but listening; to other, older narratives which, at the deepest level, form who we are, and if we do, we can imagine how we can ‘begin’ again.”

Simon McBurney, Complicité Artistic Director

I saw it at Barbican in 2018 and was under its spell for a long time after. I am really happy to see it return, even if in this substituted form.

Monika Kita

Lockdown Day 19 – Memories through photographs

I remember the sensation of waking and in half sleep tracking the journey of the sunlight moving through the blinds and across the wall. The songs of birds in the trees and the silenced traffic. The skies were cloudless and seemed to be the brightest of blues. Reaching for my camera I crept out of bed and started moving silently around the room, aware of the click of the camera shutter in a still, sleeping house.

Memories of watching the blur of the moving rectangle of light slowly travelling down the tiled shower wall. I remember thinking how beautiful the early morning light was and how something so ordinary could suddenly appear extraordinarily beautiful.

As if it were yesterday, I am transported back to the sensation of moving around almost in a dreamlike state, noticing the early diffused light slowly drifting, casting a blurred palette of muted coloured shadows.

In the early weeks of the lockdown I was very restless and unsettled. Like many people I found it impossible to get back into my year 2 art project. The process of experimenting with photography and filming inside the house, in the garden, and on local walks has helped me to feel more grounded and connect with the desire to respond creatively to the context we are in.

Initially I resisted the idea of creating art as a response to Covid-19 and in many ways have struggled with this – something about the dissonance and discomfort of inhabiting multiple and different worlds – one minute having endless time, enjoying the beauty of found images, taking solace in blue skies and the blossoms of spring, juxtaposed with the impact of the ever present global pandemic like a surreal film projecting in the background of my mind.

I have come to realise that both the context and constraints we find ourselves in as artists will inevitably shape and frame our work, both consciously and unconsciously. I find myself embracing this experience and am valuing the time to be more reflective.

A few weeks ago, during a tutorial with Tony, we reviewed a selection of my photos including the 7 AM images. We discussed ideas around new looking – how something used to be and appears now, the ambiguity and instability of some of the images creating a feeling of not being sure where you are and what you are looking at.

Over the past weeks an emerging theme in my work has been playing with the notion of looking in and out and glimpsing fragments of the world. Photography has become more integral to my artistic practice. I have welcomed a somewhat heightened sensitivity to looking, resulting in a different type of noticing and responding. Currently I am in the process of embarking on making an experimental film, working with fragments of still and moving images, which I hope to put together with a poem or narrative. At the moment I am still in a state of prevarication and finding it easier to work on fragments of things.

Completing writing this blog coincides with reading the following article where acclaimed photographers from around the world share a single image reflecting on their experience of the coronavirus outbreak.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/may/10/through-my-lockdown-lens-11-leading-photographers-capture-their-confinement

From Inside 22.04.2020. Photograph: © Nadav Kander Courtesy Flowers Gallery

I particularly liked this image by Nadav Kander and his words below:

I find it quite a gentle, poignant image. I like the way the blind drawn between inside and outside asks questions rather than answers them. The clear view would have been less ambiguous, I guess. This is veiled – I think that makes it more alluring.”

I am wondering how the voices of these artists and their chosen images resonate with you.

Fiona Horigan

Making Art in Lockdown

It’s at great expense to others that I have the privilege to enjoy my life at home now, I have relatives who are vulnerable who we are keeping a close eye on, but I feel I’ve been given a chance to have fun with my daughters, having nagged them in the past to work for their exams…all that has been taken away so we are calmer and happier, they are making art too…and no one can see what a mess our house really is! I’m enjoying the friendship with our neighbours and the fact that we can’t go away or stick to any plans because there aren’t any! This time has also really added weight to “You only live once, so live your life!”

We built a summer house in the garden for the kids around 17 years ago, it’s now been converted into my studio (we put a kitchen worktop and an easel in there) and I love going down there to escape. I’m relishing the peace and the time I have to think there, it has given me space to reflect on my life and just do what I really want to do. Experimenting with all the materials I have bought over the years has been fun and the weather has made it easier to utilise the outdoor space, to collect new ideas and to clean up afterwards with the outside tap.

I think the online tuition works not only because we have such a strong and supportive group (tutors and students), but also because we all know each other already having spent a year and a half together, there is always something new on our CLFA What’s app chat and there is a kindness and acceptance between us, which is extremely encouraging. To add to this, I’m finding that You Tube is brimming with of free art lessons during this time.

I’m not the most organised of people, but I find it easier to sort my work on the computer, put my pictures online and discuss them via Zoom with the tutors. It’s almost less distracting than in the classroom. It doesn’t replace seeing people and their art face to face though and the impromptu chats which go with it, so hopefully we’ll meet again!

Thank you everyone for everything and here is some of the art I’ve been making.

Pip Bicknell

11.5.2020

It is so true that possessions do not make one happy

It is so true that possessions do not make one happy, as it is equally true that having a plethora of art materials at hand does not necessarily make one a good artist. Before lockdown I could not go past an art shop without buying something, kidding myself that it was just that one pencil what I needed to produce some amazing drawing.

At the moment I have no access to the small studio that – after months of careful consideration and a considerable amount of self-generated guilt that took a long while to shift (but that is another story) – I rented from a company that provides studio space at reasonable rates for London. The studio holds ninety-five per cent of my art materials, including tools and supports, paper, canvas, and a folder containing a collection of scraps of paper and images that I use to make collages. Having a sense of what was going to happen, on my last day in the studio in mid-March, I nearly took the folder home. I didn’t in the end, as it was heavy, and I felt lazy about taking it on the bus. I immediately regretted it, and for a while I thought I could not possibly continue to make art without my folder or my supply of materials. Let alone the space.

Also, I believed there had to be a shift in the ideas I was exploring and felt bereft of inspiration and empty. In fact, a few weeks on, I realised that I did not have to abandon my ideas and projects after all, I still stand by them, but I also realised that sometimes there is nothing truer than the saying ‘less is more’. I am enjoying not having much to play with, not only finding new strategies to convey those ideas but also reusing some of the work I have made in the far and near past. Everything can be cut up, and collaged, or worked on. I still miss my folder, and my tools and paints, but in a way, I learnt to let go.

P.S. Before submitting this entry for the blog, I sent it to a very good friend to get his opinion. He picked the word ‘play’, asking if it was a deliberate choice and if making my work was for me a form of play. I had pondered upon this myself, but the answer I gave him was that play is the right word as it reflects an attitude whereby rules and common sense do not matter. We cannot go back to be children, but we can seek to recreate – even by failing – that sense of wonderous freedom and fearlessness.

Claudia Rampelli

Notes on Creative Survival

During these difficult and destabilising times, our greatest challenge is going to be to find ways to maintain our creatively community, to come together and make together at a distance. The discipline and structure of your art practice may well become significant in the coming months, but continuing to self generate and sustain meaningful artistic activities is going to take some careful thought.

I want to share with you are some thoughts about how we might re-tool our artistic activities to take account of this new situation. I know our heads are full of the many uncertainties we face, but if possible continuing to work is a priority because creativity needs to be actively stimulated. You have to do something.

Over the course of this year we’ve talked extensively about the importance of a creative process, working through a medium, how your method isn’t neutral but comes to shape your output. This is a real difficulty in the current situation. Most of us have a practice built around activities that require access to a studio or have come to rely on particular materials which may no longer be available to us.

The first thing we have to be is realistic, accepting that our output is going to take a hit to begin with. But it’s worth noting that the tighter the constraints are, the more inventive and ultimately creative you are going to become in developing your practice. I have a friend who lost his studio some years ago and began making miniature paintings at home. By popular consent these were significantly more interesting than his previous output and completely reshaped his practice. Before we continue making though, we’re going to need to take a little time out for reflection.

We’re fortunate in that we’ve all established a fairly defined sense of what’s at stake for us in our work. This is where you need to start, thinking about intention. The creative processes we established earlier in the year were about helping to determine it. Now you need to think about resetting your creative process in response to it. You need to look dispassionately at what is currently available to you and in a sense think about beginning again.

It’s really important that you don’t simply try to work with whatever is to hand. You’ve arrived at your method and use of materials through careful negotiation. For example, if drawing is the mainstay of your practice, picking up a phone camera and immediately trying to make images with the same degree of refinement using photography isn’t going to work. The medium doesn’t function in the same way. Photography captures an image in one ‘take’ rather than putting together lots of individual ‘looks’ as you do when you draw. In this situation, you’d want to be clear about your intentions and set up an open-ended creative process utilising photography in response to them. So rather than trying to make a complete statement, instead establish a new mode of working, acknowledging that it will have an effect on your thinking.

If your work accents medium and process, the first thing you need to do is characterise the attributes of that medium that define what yo do. Does it need to be elastic, heavy, light, transparent, absorbent etc. Once you have a list of the material qualities that are important to you, start to think about how you might improvise with domestic materials. For example, right now Alex is devising a possible sculpture project for Year 1 Tuesday students involving soap carving and casting with household materials. For me, the domestic context and associative meanings likely to arise from the use of household materials re-imaged are far more likely to kickstart creative thinking than working with more formal materials.

What is going to be required of you is real creative thought to shift your understanding of what an art material might be and how you can work with it within a domestic setting. We may also have to consider the final format your work takes and ultimate means of dissemination. As I say, if you carefully define your immediate objectives, this is something we can focus on in your tutorials.

When you have to change some of the fundamental aspects of how you work, what you work with, when you work, how you share your work, and how much time you can devote to your work, it begins to steer your output somewhere different. In many respects the current situation forces us to adopt strategies artists normally deploy when they are ‘blocked’, where practice is changed to to create uncertainties and new takes on existing concerns. At this point in your year it’s obviously frustrating to be blown off course but, in the longer term, knowing that if things ever dry up you have a way to start again is probably no bad thing.

Tony Hull

March 2020 (sent at the start of lockdown)