Itchiness and Comfort

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In preparation for writing a proposal including an explanation of my work, I am reading “Stuff” by Daniel Miller, and “Material Memories”by Marius Kwint et al. Reading of the latter has again brought me to Aristotle… I love a bit of Aristotle, me!
“Whatever can be said of what is tangible, can be said of touch, and vice versa; if touch is not a single sense but a group of senses, there must be several kinds of what is tangible”
(De Anima, books I & II, pp577-83).
My writing here is in an effort to apply what I am reading to what I am making, and why.

Touch… I have read (but now am unable to find the citation, sorry) is the first sense to develop, and generally the last to leave us, even in severe cases of dementia and old age, where the other four have left us, or faded.

I think I have written before about feeling/touch… That immeasurable distance, for instance, between the felt warmth, before needing to touch the source. The space in the bed between one person and another, the comfort of radiated heat. I have drawn analogies to the radiated warmth of a departed loved one. A stretch perhaps, but I feel it nonetheless. My mother, now departed over twenty years… I still feel her radiated warmth.

So the tangibility of memory, for me is a real phenomena. As an exercise, I stretch my mind back to feel. With a nod to Aristotle, I shall include taste as one of that group of senses that becomes touch, as texture and taste are so closely aligned, in my mouth at least. In this matter, there is an element of synaesthesia. My memory blurs the line between one sense and another. In this stretch back, while doing other things with the rest of my body, my skin remembers…

The feel of the rough weave of the canvas along the edge of the deckchairs.
The papery feel of onions left to dry on a workbench waiting to be plaited into strings.
The popping on my tongue of warm ripe blackberries from the hedge.
The feel of the sun.
The itch of a woollen skirt with elastic at the waist.
The silkiness of a spaniel’s ears.
The bark of the freshly felled elm trees lined up, played on, sat on, read on… Caressing the smoothness under the separated bark that caused their death.
Splinters on a new five-bar gate.
The feel of a new calf sucking hard at my fingers in a bucket of warm milk.
Fresh baked warm rock cakes…but picking out the sultanas because they felt wrong.
Lying so close to someone on the grass in the park, unsure if you are actually touching, but feeling them anyway.
The pages of a new book. Or an old book.
The gliding of ink across smooth paper.
Well washed and worn printed cotton… In all its forms: stripy sheets, a floral apron, a tablecloth of embroidered flowers, a summer dress, a proffered funeral handkerchief……
It is no wonder then, given this brain, in combination with this body, these hands, that my art is how it is… I think perhaps, although yes of course this is Visual Art, touch is the sense that is the most evocative for me. This is why I am not just happy for viewers to touch my work, but I actively encourage it. How can they begin to understand my material choices, or have their own memories sparked, or expect them to feel if they don’t FEEL?

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