Sometimes The slowing down Of the clock looking at cloud Cycles Of bird song Of people passing And distant voices Reminders Of clapping Hearing the Dawn chorus The hum drum of traffic Emptying bins And constant cyclists The drone of a car Passing Intermittently And ambulance sirens Reminders The traffic lights stay on green Because no-one is stopping By Or trying to Stop Time stands still Trying to carry on as normal Amidst the stillness Bikes Buses and prams Sprays disinfectant And ants Daily Briefing Reminders That you can’t face Masked faces Just eyes Sorry eyes As if to say Careful please Don’t walk too near me Stay back You go One way And I’ll Follow the signs The route The direction of the Lines, the Eyes… And cries and lies Every day Reminders Drowning in head space Living in a small space Your body becomes alive And every breath you take When you’re back safe inside Every breath at night That still breathing deep breath Reminder that Through all of this you are alive Deep in your stomach and in your chest Here right now Living through Breathing through This and Tomorrow is another day.
Tracy Harris is an artist, writer, theatre-maker and Filmmaker. Her plays have been produced by Sgript Cymru, Sherman Cymru, Mighty Theatre Washington, Menagerie Theatre. Along with Chris Rushton, she has made various BBC documentaries including Bafta nominated ‘Swansea Living on the Streets and Selling Sex to Survive. Her live art includes Lost, Found, Stolen (NTW WalesLab and Sprint Festival) ‘Bottled’ developed with Justin Cliffe and Greg Wohead at Experimentica, Chapter, and Alter Ego International Festival, Bulgaria. She has recently been working on ‘Ghost light (Theatr Ffwrnes) ‘Port Talbot’s gotta Banksy’ (Theatr3 Sherman) ‘Tracking’ her new play in development and a DIY project with Tim Etchells and Vlatka Horvat ‘a way away.’ Her 2 short films; ‘reminders’ will be in Aberystwyth Arts Centre this summer as part of Oriel lockdown.
Facing the Shadow acrylic on canvas 50 x 100 x 4 cmThe Covid 19 pandemic bringing enforced time apart from the usual connections, more time spent alone to reflect on the self. An opportunity to get to see the shadows in greater depth and clarity – a time to bring the shadow out in to the open and come to listen to and accept those parts rather than shun them. A painful and difficult process of transition and growth.
I am a contemporary expressionist artist, using a range of media to create pieces that are mainly figurative with occasional ventures into abstraction. I use a variety of techniques including painting, drawing, printmaking and 3D/sculptural works. I mainly use the mediums of charcoal, conte crayon, acrylics and oils with drawing being the central basis of my practice.
My work is led by an intuitive expression and the murmurings that come from the unconscious mind. I am particularly motivated by issues around psychology, mental health and emotional well-being and my work seeks to better understand myself and the human condition as a whole by exploring my own inner landscape. It is the process by which I continue to work on myself, processing emotions, ideas and experiences and supporting me in challenging my own perceptions and misconceptions of perceived reality.
During lockdown I found refuge in nature. Uplifting, energising, inspiring, reviving.
Artist statement My name is Ita Grattan and I’ve recently received a B. A. in Fine Art. I specialised in painting. I work in oils, watercolours, acrylics and emulsion paint. I’ve an interest in portraiture with my work being semi abstract – abstract. I like printing, drawing and I write poetry. Currently I’m exhibiting in 2 international exhibitions online. My poetry has been published several times within this year.
Even through uncertain times, a mindful connection with nature can bring us into the moment, still our minds & allow us to experience joy & beauty every day. As restrictions are further eased ‘Presence’ encourages its audience to slow down & really notice the details in nature &, in particular, flowers.
Over the course of lock down, whilst restrictions were placed on many activities, for most people, access to nature was always available. From looking out of a window to sitting in a garden or on a balcony to long walks in the country, over the course of the last year many, myself included, have found great solace in nature & reconnected with their natural surroundings.
For me, part of that experience involved rediscovering the art of flower pressing. With each flower taking up to three weeks to press & requiring a different technique depending on it’s structure & shape, the process of pressing each flower was incredibly meditative.
‘Presence’ reflects how, even through uncertain times, a mindful connection with nature can bring us into the moment, still our minds & allow us to experience joy & beauty every day.
There is a level of intuition that goes with my practice. I spend my days trying to explain the inexplicable. How do you capture the experiential, the all-encompassing, other than intuitive inclination? My intuition has guided me many times; and has yet to lie or mislead. I can only express the state that I am in, and I believe that is something which all artists do. If not that, then what? I am wondering if I know what I am doing. Or is it that I do not have a clue and that is the genius of it. After all, “painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”, according to Edgar Degas. Intuition guides the way. The fire dances before me and I sit and wonder if it is okay to just sit and wonder. Is it okay to be stationary? To be still? To sit alone, breathe, observe, think? Thinking is a dangerous thing, it can lead to ideas, and ideas might lead to action, and with action may ensue chaos. Or at least that is how it has always been for me. Chaos is both a by-product and trait of the work I make.
I have spent my life overhearing, maybe over-seeing but have always tried never to be overlooking.
My area of enquiry comes down to the statement: you see what you have felt when encountering an artwork.Feeling, seeing, and hearing become one and the same to the traumatised mind. (Van der Kolk, B., 2014) The materiality of trauma intrigues me. How does the object retain the experiential/phenomenology? The object becomes the experience. The moment becomes the memory/the immemorial. In the visceral translation to paint, the images become the memory. (Deleuze, G., 1964) In 1950 Marion Milner, a psychoanalyst contested that drawings and paintings could embody knowledge or personal experience and exploration of the medium. Milner spoke of statements made through images not only bringing “so much of the past into a single moment of present experience, they also embraced a wider range of bodily experience than intellectual verbal statements can.” (Milner, M., 1950) Fire is not that different from the human. It breathes, it is feeling, it is visceral. The energy it moves with, not unlike the physicality of our existence; but fire exists with more temporality and spirituality. It is not so tangible for us, we harness it, but it will never fully bend its will. There will always be a ferality. It has only been in the inkling of insanity that I have come to realise how much the brush and pigment means to me. I sat for weeks looking at the void; red wall and flickering fire, the void was not in front of, but within myself. I have scratched with dry dusty pastels and pencils but longed for nothing more than fluidity with each scratching frustrated mark. I did not understand till now that paint is how I breathe. I think that the hardest thing about being an artist, or even just a human, is resilience.
Colour is more soothing than words can say Colour understands It empathises like the animal And feels with you, the tension you hold The weight you bear Whether it be Your shoulders Heart or Stomach Colour feels it all Synapsed by the brush Translating silence into creation.
Something about cadmium orange paint has encapsulated my imagination…The movement of light …its non-tangible state. I feel it translates equitably to trauma. The movement of the fire translates well to how abstract shapes still can communicate through our subconscious recognition of signs and our innate ability to recognise that which appears human in the non- human. I still question how our traumas may be contained visually within the “recognised” object, or the intangibility of something such as fire. Merleau-Ponty places the artwork as an object with its reason for existence being found in how it was expressed. Due to the artwork having its own non-conforming reason for being, it gives a “fresh or unconventional understanding of the event depicted”. (Matthews, E., 2002) The images of fire which I have captured in my frustrated state are meditative much like the large-scale fabric pieces of Scottish painter Alison Watt, but administer the sensorial sentiment of Michael Borremans’ works. I find my paintings exist between the meditative and the chaotic, drawing from the most extreme ends of both spectrums. These extremities join to create something that contains a core of the wordless intangibility of trauma. I question this mute state with short written memoirs/text-based artworks that withhold the same importance of the images. These are born from lingering thoughts, memories and persistent hauntings that do not belong within me. Several weeks ago, I came across an old sheep skull discarded and partly covered by the undergrowth, at the edge of a forest walk. I felt strangely compelled to bring it home, not knowing exactly what I would do with it. I think it was my curiosity met with moral questioning that left me so unsettled about the object. But this just made me more drawn to the uncomfortable feeling it brought about in me. A similar discomfort drew me to bright red mushrooms. I neither knew whether they were edible, poisonous, or even okay to be picking. Yet so beautiful, vivid, and almost flesh like. Daily, I closely observed and captured the three fungi fruit. This became a documentation of their decay, form, colour, texture, and shape that changes daily, despite being the exact same set up. I have discovered that I may not spot the daily changes in their decay process simply by looking, but when I go to paint them each day there’s subtle differences in each sketch. However, upon further examining of my mark making, I question whether I have been documenting my own state, the mushrooms state, or both. Merleau-Ponty describes art as the artists manifestation of meaning which is born from “the flow of [the artist’s] individual life”. (Merleau-Ponty, M., 1964)
Scarlet elf cup. My petite red muse, Small kisses of crimson hue, Little do you know, But perhaps more than I. And with a puff of shimmering dust, Your wisdom passed down the line.
I do believe there can be beauty in the abject when wrangled like André Serrano, his images imprinted into my mind the day I saw them. A sick-romantic duality of being vague enough to visually intrigue and hard-hitting enough to withstand temporality. I cannot help but be drawn in by what feels so succinct, sonorous, and raw.
Enjoy the petty glances It’s not what you’re here to see You’re here to see yourself And that’s nothing to do with me. Find comfort in the unknown And solace in the dark You’re here to see yourself Glance not twice at what you read. Nonsensical as it may sound And gloomy as it may be Its time to face our truths And understand what makes you me.
“The aesthetically sensitive man stands in the same relation to the reality of dreams as the philosopher does to the reality of existence; he is a close and willing observer, for these images afford him an interpretation of life, and by reflecting on these processes he trains himself for life” (Nietzsche, F., 1872)
Van der Kolk, B. (2014) “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” PP.32, 83Deleuze, G. (1964), “Proust and Signs” cited in Bennett, J. (2005), P.36Milner (1950) “On Not Being Able to Paint”, London, U.K, P.142Matthews, E. (2002) “The Philosophy of Merleau-Ponty – Continental European Philosophy”, P.137Merleau-Ponty, M (1964) “Cézanne’s Doubt”, P.19Nietzsche, F., (1872), “The Birth of tragedy and the Case of Wagner” cited in Emerling, J (2005) “Theory for Art History” P.31Artist statement As a young emerging artist from Donegal, Ireland, for the past three years I have been developing my practice based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I incorporate elements of photography, text, and painting, with a specific focus on figurative painting. My recent works are an arm’s length at largest, I keep them small as I feel this invites a more intimate encounter. Studying personal psychological experience which gives insight into collective trauma is the raison d’être of my paintings and text-based artworks. I create these artworks to shed light on traumatic memory, how it affects the brain-body connection as well as phenomenological experience. Studying the interior landscape (mindscape) and its relationship with the exterior landscape is fundamental to my practice, this in turn addresses my own female embodied experience.It is integral for me that I capture something which feels untainted, sincere to its core. This has simply been the psychological result of years of hidden truth. I have become someone who is soothed by control; my creative process reflects this trait. A symbiotic relationship is created through this; between myself, and the act of painting. The activity adopts a cathartic role as the painting slowly comes to life, each carefully selected hue constructs something which communicates the internalised evocative fear that cannot be communicated by words alone. (Van der Kolk, B., 2014, P.56)
The materiality of trauma is something which intrigues me. How does the object retain the experiential? Perhaps the moment captured through the subconscious inclinations of the mind, which directs and frames the image, is the binding catalyst for the immemorial or hazed traumatic memory, and the object. In the symbiotic process, there is a visceral translation of paint to surface, during which an ebb and flow of rigid and palpatative tensions held in the body come across onto surface, through each stroke of the brush. “Sensation is what is being painted…what is being painted on the canvas is the body, not insofar as it is represented as an object, but insofar as it is experienced at sustaining this sensation.”. (Deleuze, 1981) It is my belief that you perceive what you have experienced, when encountering an artwork. Feeling, seeing, and hearing become one in the same to the traumatised mind, as traumatic memory intercepts separations between the senses. (Van der Kolk, B., 2014, PP. 32, 83) The paintings and text-based artworks I create also query human-centric ideas of perception, self, and the “other”. The natural growths exist dualistically as both sentient organisms, which pose a questioning of human-centric ideology, and as anthropomorphic objects. As anthropomorphic objects they become a reflection of our own gaze, and psychological plains. I choose to depict claustrophobic close ups of scarred, vascular areas of morgue reminiscent skin, or fungal growths. My subjects question the differences between the natural growth and the human, or, if there are any. A suggestion of a holistic return to the natural is indicated. I believe that like humans, the landscape too holds memory and traumatic experience of natural disasters and human interactions. Given recent discoveries into fungi’s role in communication, survival and decay, within our own microbiomes (Ghannoum, M., PHD., 2016) and within our forests (Simard, S.W., et.al, 2012) these growths have become of particular interest to me. My text based artworks act as poetic signposts for the reading of my image-based works. Often these text-based artworks or poems refer to nature and become a way for me to express something that is much more difficult to communicate through purely image-based artworks.
I find there to be great healing within the natural world. Through the capturing of these natural objects and feelings of personal fascination, deterrence, fear, or connection I conceptualise my own cognitive processing of trauma into that which can transform itself into something cathartic and therapeutic for both myself and the viewer. “The aesthetically sensitive man stands in the same relation to the reality of dreams as the philosopher does to the reality of existence; he is a close and willing observer, for these images afford him an interpretation of life, and by reflecting on these processes he trains himself for life” (Nietzsche, F.,1872) https://www.irenesweeney.com/