At the end of August, I suddenly came to a stop. Exhausted, I felt dizzy, my head spinning, I had finished 20 new pieces for the Rossendale Art Trail, had ordered contact cards and paper bags but no longer could I bear going into the studio. The thought of looking at another piece of handstitched work whether in reality or virtually made me feel nauseous. I decided to deactivate my Instagram site, delete my podcast and make this website private. I packed up my small van and went to Wales alone and without a plan.
That was four weeks ago, I am home and still cannot face going in my studio, making art seems futile and pointless, I do not want to make even more objects when the world is overstuffed with things in land-fill, it feels like making art is contributing to the mountain of meaningless objects. My mind feels full, the walls in the house seem as if they are coming in on me. I’m craving wide-open space and simplicity.
I know that my work is about my internal psychological process and not a commercial activity. The pieces I made for The Secret Lives of Objects exhibition were a way of investigating what had led up to a bad car crash. Recent work has been an attempt to understand early influences on my psyche. I’m questioning what the hell I’m doing. Is this art? (What is art? And who says?) What meaning does it have for others? Do I need to share this forensic investigation of my own process? Do I really want or need others to look at, like or understand these pieces?
Being away from my studio and walking on deserted beaches in Wales was heavenly, I took no photographs, did not draw, collected nothing, absorbed everything. I listened to the the wind, smelt the sea, touched a dried out seal skin, noticed the deep blues and greens of estuary water, watched the tide turn a few inches from my sandy feet. I read two books by Javier Marias, firstly, A Heart so White, the second, The Infatuations. I wrote copiously about my father and his violence towards my mother and myself. I met wonderful women walking their dogs at low tide, I met a kind man. We drove up into the Welsh hills to an organic off-grid farm, we saw a buzzard. We spoke very little. I slept & lived simply in my van.
For the first week at home I felt like a stranger in my own home, I craved the wide expanse of the beach, the feel of the coastal wind on my face, the pebbles on my feet, the womb-like comfort of my van, the simplicity of having a small bag of clothes and only walking, reading and writing to occupy my whole day. The wild woman within me, Elderhawk, yearned for the sea.
I slept a lot, not wanting to come out of my bedroom, things felt too complex and complicated, the house felt too busy. I still have not yet gone into my studio. The Art Trail is this coming weekend, I am dreading being there, I do not feel like an artist anymore. I have thrown away old sketchbooks, paintings, drawings. As I removed the Secret Lives of Objects pieces of work from their frames they had begun to go mouldy, as if they were contaminated, even though I had stored them in bubble wrap. I wanted to burn them, it felt cathartic, like letting something go that no longer serves me, that no longer is me. The spaciousness I feel with not “making” is so soothing.
There is this absolute need to be in the present moment and notice what is around me, I just want to absorb it without frantically having to grab, record or possess it. There is a sense of merging, formlessness and being moulded by the slightest changes in the environment. There is more inner stillness and less compulsion to walk or “do something”. I have no plans, no ambitions, I wake in the morning giving myself permission to write, listen and observe. No screens, media or music. Bliss.