The premise was: work that explores dark desires, fears & ‘the
forbidden’. Work that investigates or references taboo subjects such as death,
phobias and socially excluded or marginalised groups and individuals is
I find that using exhibition call-outs and deadlines is a good way to get work made and often leads to unexpected results in response to the subject matter. When I started with this topic, I had a very different idea to what emerged. Sometimes, the work decides to go its own way.
As it happens, I didn’t enter this one, as I wasn’t quite happy enough with my final piece. There wasn’t enough time to develop it. But that’s ok. I’m really happy that I tried. Because nothing created is ever wasted. It always leads me somewhere. Even if that is in a whole new direction.
At first I tried to adapt work I was already making. But that didn’t quite work. Then I thought about doing a piece of writing, and that somehow led me to looking at medieval woodcuts of witches dancing with the devil, and how that whole hysteria about people (mainly women) as witches when all they were doing is healing and using their intuition, came from fear.
The monotype I made is based on one of those woodcuts, but I have updated it. I’ve been thinking recently about how choosing to follow the creative calling takes a lot of courage and willingness to take risks. Without that, art has no edge and says nothing new. So my piece perhaps represents choosing to dance with the muse; embracing the wild animus within. I’ve called it The Dance. I think some influences were Angela Carter’s tales and Paula Rego’s prints, and the red dress is also something that stood out for me in Helen Sear’s video piece ‘Company of Trees’.
The after-school story-telling and art sessions have evolved into the children writing their own story in weekly installments that I type up and read back to them the following week. They still listen to folk or creation tales from different cultures each week, and these tend to inspire elements of their own story.
Week one, they decided on the characters and a general outline of the story with the Working title of ‘Miss Ira and her Army of Hyphrans’. All the children had different ideas, so it was a challenge refining them down into a workable plot.
To help with this, I encouraged them to draw the characters and to write their ideas on ‘scrolls’ that could be put on the wall and referred back to during the term.
Boy transforming into a hyphran monster after being injected with the serum.
Characters from the story: The evil Miss Ira, notes about a hyphran monster, a magic boomerang. Lily, the magic stone, the twins Larry and Lara, and Jack.
This week, two girls created a wonderful map of the places where the story is set, including the school where the evil headmistress plots to steal the children’s souls and turn them into hyphrans, the eco-village where the main characters live, adventure playground with portal to the other world. Some of the boys added characters, pets, a hyphran monster and the shed where the twins Larry and Lara carry out their experiments.
after the rain in the bowls of
mighty Juglandaceae dark mirrors
nut of Jupiter
Boston-Cardiff circa. 1879
Here are some of my favourite art works by children I have been working with over the past months. They have been responding to old folk stories from many cultures.
The Lady of the Lake (Wales)
Maui’s Magic Fishing Hook (Maori)
The Fox Maiden (Korea)
Guardian Totems (Korea)
Baba Yaga (Russia)
Blodeuwedd and Twm Carnabwth (Wales)
Aztec Gods (Mexico)
The Bird with Two Heads, and Ganesha (India)
For the last week of this five week cycle of storytelling and art from around the world, we travelled to Russia to hear about the enigmatic Baba Yaga. She is a many-faceted figure, variously seen as a Moon, Death, Winter, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, or archetypal image.
After discussing some of Baba Yaga’s traits: iron teeth, lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs, sails through the sky in a mortar yielding a pestle, the children listened to one of the many tales involving Baba Yaga: Vasilisa the Brave. It exhibits Baba Yaga’s ambiguous nature – scary, yet wise, and the choices of a girl who triumphs through courage and perseverance.
Below is a selection of the wonderful illustrations of Baba Yaga by children on the course. I’m always amazed at the detail, personality and energy of these drawings that the children do without hesitating as they listen to the stories.
Vasilisa’s magic doll by Lily.
For Week 3 of the Children’s Art and Writing course, the children listened to three stories from the Dreamtime creation myths of Aboriginal culture: How the kangeroo got her pouch, Barramundi, (how the fish came to be in the waters), and a Kunwinjku Dreamtime Story of the long-necked turtle and the echidna, telling why they live in separate places. The children learnt about animals from Australia they had never heard of such as the wombat and the spiny anteater (echidna). They painted and drew their own images from the stories after looking at examples of aboriginal art for inspiration.
The children learned how every hill, water hole and tree, living creature and natural phenomenon was believed to have come into existence in the Dreamtime. They learned how everything about aboriginal society is inextricably woven with, and connected to, land.
In Esme’s story, the great god Byamee, who had been in disguise as a wombat, goes into a bar to celebrate his discovery of the creature with the kindest heart. The sky spirits speak to each other in secret symbols.