Exhibiting and Hiding

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The inaugural exhibition of the artists who inhabit General Office is going well, and there’s still another week to run of “Body of Work” if you want to add to our count!

The Private View was on Thursday night.

I seem to be quite successful at hiding from myself. Or hiding from my work. I think I was so chuffed to be in and working, with the prospect of exhibiting in what’s turning into a really great space, that I had forgotten that I was exhibiting new work that I hadn’t quite come to terms with.

In at the deep end then… other than studio conversations with fellow exhibiting artist Sarah Goudie, and my long time art-friend Bo Jones, I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about this work in a gallery context. A fact I hadn’t actually realised until the pv night. FFS Elena! There were times on the night when I felt clumsy and inarticulate, waving my arms around frantically and refreshing my bright red lipstick and fluffing up my hair in an attempt to distract and confuse the audience, for whom I hadn’t rehearsed, or learned my lines. 

But… if you chuck yourself in the deep end, you sink or swim… and I think I’ve probably done a bit of each.

I was asked, in disappointed tones: “Where are your textiles?” “oh… no children’s clothes?” and “I told my friend there would be bras… why haven’t you done the bras?”

“I’m currently drawing… same themes, but the drawing has allowed me to dig deeper…”

I got the impression from some that this wasn’t a good enough response.

But… I did also have some amazing conversations about how great the drawing was… both strong and sensitive: there you go… getting there… this is along the way to why I’m not currently using textiles, why my break, originally considered a very temporary cul-de-sac has turned into a major arterial route.

From a conversation this afternoon I realise that the stitching process is regular, whether by hand or machine… up~down~in~out… governed by the pressure of pedal, or speed of needle. Pencil/graphite has a brain to paper connection that can be so much more intimate and emotional. If I see a way of doing that with the textile I may well return. But my pencil marks are enriched beyond the capability of stitch, by having the capacity to be angry and aggressive and dark… to slight… almost invisible, delicate… 

I have often referred to stitching as mantra…

This drawing is more like music… on some days as mad as high falutin’ opera. It can be fast and slow, deep and surface sliding… on other days a gentle hum… a chorus snatched by the wind…

Bo asked me about the themes, and I proceeded to continue talking about technique… I was temporarily wrong-footed (yep, he still does it), but I do have an innate understanding that actually, it is the same. My work is always about relationships, touch, effect and influence. What is happening with these drawings on watercolour base is exactly that Bo… it might take me three days to articulate it, but this is what it is:

When I talk about my materials and my marks, I am talking about people. 

The paper is 300g Bockingford watercolour paper (expensive, donations gratefully received, haha!)

I’m using professional quality, pigment rich watercolour paint (as above, thank you…)

I’m getting through the big fat soft Faber Castell pencils as if I was eating them… (ditto)

So, when I describe my process, and talk about technique, I’m talking about how people have an effect on each other.

The watercolour paper is thick and soft, but is strong and holds its shape even if I pour water/paint on it. It can puddle nicely, and hold the puddle safely. The puddle sinks in. It is an organic process. When the paint runs in tracks along the paper it lifts it in ridges, so the surface undulates. This sculptural feeling would be lost if it was framed, so they are not framed. It is allowed to do what it does, the paper isn’t stretched. It’s left to move and adjust freely. In it’s own time. Just like people.

Sometimes though, I do use a drier to speed things up, move the paint and have an effect of it. I interfere. And sometimes I don’t. Just like people.

When the paint is dry I spend ages trying to decide which areas need to be left to their own devices, and which bits need more interference, and at this point is is possibly an experience thing… a composition thing perhaps. But once I get going with the pencils… which range from a big fat 9B graphite stick, all the way through the Bs to 6H… I am reacting, provoking, responding to the paper, the paint, texture… and this feels like a very sensual, emotional act. I could go on, but it would be freakishly, fetishistically, like art-porn. Just like people.

This is where I am then. I was stuck, I couldn’t stitch the story, I had to draw it. It’s closer to my skin, and closer to my thoughts this way.6FA9C6A3-4590-4055-A4EC-AFFE7C33B41B

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