Whatever the Weather

The sessions that I am running at the lovely new mental health unit Hafan Y Coed have evolved into a combination of writing and art. As this is a new venture for me, it has been interesting to see how the planning of the course translates into practice.

We have taken a generic theme for each session, and this week was ‘weather’. As mindfulness is really useful in cultivating creativity, I’ve tried to incorporate it into the sessions. Learners initially used pictorial prompts as a focus, imagining themselves into  various natural scenes, engaging all the senses through a short guided visualization. From this, they did some free-writing – jotting down anything that came to mind without worrying about punctuation or spelling or whether it seemed relevant – anything at all. This free-writing often leads to some unexpected story seeds and associations that can be developed later into a poem or short prose piece.

We read poems by some well known poets relating to the weather, and discussed how we felt about each piece. Then I presented a few examples of expressive art such as Frank Auerbach’s  series of drawings he made after walking on Primrose Hill, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolour, ‘Sunrise’.

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Working Drawings for ‘Primrose Hill’ 1968. Coloured chalks and black pencil on cartridge paper.

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Sunrise, 1916 – Georgia O’Keeffe

 

As we had access to the resources in the art therapy room, there was a good variety of mediums for learners to choose from to create their own weather-inspired art works. Within the work, they could incorporate their favourite words or phrases from those they had written earlier.

Two wonderful landscapes with text, using acrylic paint and coloured pencils.

 

 

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Objects That Speak: BayArt Exhibition

‘In my studio I work surrounded by things: wire which reminds me of hair, real hair and synthetic; horse- hair, sheep’s wool. Muslin, felt, rope paper: all sorts really. These are works in their early stages, works halfway made, works abandoned and left for a while. Very occasionally, in a cleaned-up space there is a final, finished work attached to a wall, or attached to the floor, or attached to the ceiling.’ – Lois Williams

Exhibition at BayArt by Lois William and Mary Husted. Both artists share an interest in the land and landscape, and a feeling for fragility, tonal range and layering as process and meaning. Mary Husted’s work is strongly located within drawing, while Lois Williams’ incorporates installation, sculpture, as well as drawing.

I particularly liked Lois’ wall of objects of a wabi sabi nature, seemingly rooted in the Welsh landscape. Some of the objects the artist has shaped into hive or nest-like structures, some being of a found quality. They are intriguing and totemic, each with a story, often with echoes of myth, yet also seeming to ‘speak’ to each other across the installation.

 

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Lois William’s wall of objects of various media: From Afar

 

 

I was also drawn to Mary Husted’s boxes containing sometimes a single item such as a feather or collage, and mirrors that refracted them into different forms. The experience of having to peer into the enclosed space evoked a sense of the curiosity of childhood, contemplation of the nature of perception and reality/illusion in interior landscapes.

Below: Mary Husted’s triptych ‘But for a day’, with interior views.

 

 

 

 

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Mary Husted’s Off the Page: Askance

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Mary Husted’s Off the Page mixed media collection, and below: Winter book (Chinese folding book).

 

“My work on the Open Books project has brought me in touch with artists from very different traditions. From the Chinese I have learned a new understanding of positive and negative space and a reverence for the accidental mark. This has fed into my own work and helped me to develop what I call the calligraphy of the ‘found’ or ‘given’ mark. Many of these marks are rubbings from the natural environment. Fragments of these together with drawn ‘made’ marks are combined to roam across pages to hint at rather than to depict the world around me.” – Mary Husted

Lois William’s enigmatic collection of water colours on paper ‘The Dog, the rat’, brought to mind the chance markings of Rebecca Horn in her book ‘Tailleur du Coeur’, a body of etchings sometimes rendered in coffee and wine accompanied by sixteen short texts that seem to describe some sensual encounter between objects and/or body parts and the world beyond.

 

News!

When I saw this a few months ago, I just knew I had to enter:

The Female Gaze PLAY OPEN CALL

 

I’ve long been a fan of the avant-garde film maker, Maya Deren, and here was the perfect excuse to revisit her work and life and turn it into a monologue.

I was thrilled when Sarah Gonnet of The Female Gaze magazine emailed me to say that my monologue has been chosen to be performed as part of the play on Women and Film at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle firstly as a work in progress in July, and then for a full run in early 2019. I should also get a contributor copy of the book.  Very exciting!
This is the second monologue that I have had performed. My other monologue ‘The Bump’, written from the point of view of a pregnant teenager, was performed in 2008 as part of Scratch at the Jack, Brockley Jack Theatre, south east London. Directed by Hugh Allison.
 

In the Realm of the Gods

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Early one morning, I go out into the low-lying mist, following the muffled gong of the bells. They are rung at shrines all over Bhaktapur to announce the arrival of the devotee for puja. A woman in a vermillian sari and scarlet haku gacha brings her offering of rice, tika power, and sweet burning incense to a shrine dedicated to Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. She takes some holy water from a little copper pot and flicks it lightly over the idol, circumambulating the shrine clockwise to complete her rite. We acknowledge each other as I pass with a small bow, hands together:

Namaste. I salute the god within you.

Later, in Taumadhi Square, I sit with a sketchpad on my knee, not really drawing, but trying to absorb the essence of this place with its dusty brick streets, medieval courtyards, communal wells and beautiful Newari architecture. Behind me towers the resplendent five-tiered Nyatapola Temple, sacred to the goddess Siddha Laxmi. Surrounding the city, at eight points of the compass, are shrines to the protective Asta Matrika goddesses, each one presiding over her own area of the city. They are said to demarcate the boundaries between order and chaos, internal and external realms, seen and unseen forces. At the centre of the mandala, a ninth goddess, Tripurasundari has a temple. Her inner shrine that lies within the palace, is out of bounds for all but the officiating priests.

Two girls come over, and I offer them my book and paints. One draws a flower, and colours it bright red, the other, a house. They write their names in Nepalese beneath. I have a blurry picture of them in their aunt’s craft shop, smiling, the famous medieval peacock window, Mhaykhā Jhyā (म्हयखाझ्याः) in the background. They give me a tour of their section of the city, introducing me to relatives and friends at work in their printing, clothing and craft businesses.

 

We exchange gifts before we part. I give them a silver compact mirror engraved with Celtic knotwork.  They give me a small wooden carving of the head of Ganesha.

I hope that the Asta Matrika protected those girls and their families during the chaos that was to come three months later when the earthquake struck. I will never know, only that some of the temples and shrines that I photographed and admired are no longer there. I am certain that amongst all the devastation and loss in Bhaktapur, two things will endure: the deep spirituality of its people, and their close-knit community, both of which I was so privileged to witness.

 

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Painted Manuscript of the Matrikas from a Devi Mahatmya text

 

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