Thursday, 24 November 2011

It's been a while

well, much has happened since I was last here; the Shorelines Exhibition at the Maclaurin, Ayr, was installed. It took me 33 hours to install Seasilks for this, lots of Ibuprofen and a total disregard for heights. I'm very pleased though, it looks just fine in gallery 1. I included the sounds of the sea as well, it helps convey my meaning.
The symposium went well, all seemed happy with the very stimulating papers. New friends were made too, which is lovely. I had my mind changed in a most engaging way by Iain McGilchrist, which was a surprise. Don't deconstruct creativity too much, you may just destroy it altogether!
Sadly, I now have an immense sense of grief; the work is no longer in my studio but 'out there'. The void it leaves inside is cold. A good friend has told me that this is what writers feel too, when 'letting go' of a novel.
All that I am is in that work and I now need to remake myself, acknowledge my new role and move on.
Along the way I have lost a very dear friend. Research and friendship are not happy bedfellows it seems.
Ah well.....
If you want to listen/see the work when it was first shown in Taigh Chearsabhagh, North Uist, then follow this link:
I go into the gallery, stand under my work and just close my eyes.......I'm home.

Monday, 31 October 2011

My looking glass

This image speaks of the place I inhabit, in my head; multi-layered, complex, slightly distorted.

no pictures this time

It's been a while since I last felt like writing anything here, no special reason, inertia/autumn/distracted....whatever, it doesn't matter now.
I do, however, have a much stronger focus on what I'm looking at, or rather, who; myself, first person narrative, life writing, there are many names for this, another might be unkindly called navel gazing. Why bother?
Well, still curiosity heads up the list of reasons why.
That and a growing awareness of others out there who are doing just the same as I am, looking inwards while looking outwards.

As to the validity of this, there are names I'm aware of, names which keep recurring in my reading; Denzin, Ellis, Pelias, Atkinson, Conquergood,'s reassuring to find that I'm not alone.
How arrogant! Of course I'm not!
I've also discovered that I love Edinburgh; just being there is good, walking around being someone I'd like to be. Or maybe I am already that person, hidden under the layers of being?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

dark spaces and inner beings

I spend a great deal of time on reflective writing, through watching words grow on a page so my understanding grows. Added to this process is the creating of textual collages, which also enable and inform understanding.
Autoethnography is dangerous ground to stand on, or so it seems. Solipsism comes to mind and is whispered round corners. The only way for me to achieve what I hope, is to quietly think about my life, its roles, facades, portals and also departures. The 'letting go' of life's various performances is difficult and complex, multilayered and dark.
The liminal space I'm trying to inhabit is tight, new thoughts protrude from the confining walls.
If however, I let my head go silent, the image at the top of this page, is what I see.

Monday, 19 September 2011


I spent a while in the Scottish Poetry Library last week, what a comforting space amid the mayhem of Edinburgh.
Another place I visited was my own past; one full of facades, this is one too, above, though how enigmatic it really is...who knows.
I came across a phrase which rings true; gender identity is created by the roles we play. I've no idea who said that but it is beginning to form the essence of new thoughts on the research journey.

I've intentionally avoided any gender issues, too huge, too crowded, too overwhelming. But now, after a two week stint in Edinburgh, being a 'city' girl, I'm ready to look in that mirror.


I also 'see' the artwork I want to begin in relation to transitioning, liminality and identities; performance, concrete poetry, spoken narrative of journals, 'cast skins' and own clothes, taken from the wardrobes of possible persona, ones which I tried on for size and discarded after the second act.

So where's the theory?  it'll come in time.

Monday, 29 August 2011

reflection on action

Two recent textual collages of my response to emotional experience.
It may be really obvious to say this but I've recently discovered that as I create these textual collages about my recent experiences on Arran, as a way of 'visual thinking', that unless I write notes as I create, then subsequent writing about them can only be an interpretation of the visual content.
Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but it wasn't intentionally done. I hadn't realised what a difference it would make. I found that such was my intense feeling at the time, I couldn't write, I just had to make, with my hands, touch familiar materials and do it all intuitively, Writing would have been out of place within this action/response. I also didn't have time to think. This is especially true of the second, lower work featured above, when I used old, familiar objects from my studio windowsill to express my 'head', as it were. There is so much empty, white space on the paper, the objects chosen are quietly tied down, the paper, the most delicate I have here, almost translucent, has been neatly pleated but the torn edges are irregular.  I used the minimum of imagery to speak volumes. I wonder why? Might it be that with great depth of feeling, rather than breadth of feeling, words are no longer effective? Only the visual will suffice? It leaves the work open to interpretation and the understanding and communication needs to be implicit.
Not rocket science, but thinking on Schon's Reflection in and on action, I can see disadvantages. Both methodologies offer insight, but each quite different to the other. Writing , at the time of creating, gives an accurate description but may miss elements which silently slip into the frame and it's only later, when viewed again, that these elements are obvious? Might this have happened anyway if I'd written words at the time of making the second one? I don't know.
I suppose it's not a case of either reflection in action or on action but that both are necessary, to give a fuller 'picture'?
But then, it all gets rather clinically objective, with 'self' in the 'frame', like a specimen in a jar?

I welcome comments/thoughts on this as I 'reflect' further.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

cold day reveals more

I've spent most of my summer on Arran, my home, my spiritual centre, where I feel safe. My journey recently has revealed a great deal about transitioning; how we regard change, as transitioning, when it's not that at all. It's just moving stuff from one place to another, the stuff comes too!
I almost didn't come back to the mainland, I may not stay long, who knows, so much of life here distresses me and I long for the silence of the sea in my head.
This image seems to say what words can't, not my words at any rate. Layers, depths, submerged thoughts, tones of experience, shades of doubt, they're all here within this image taken on a cold day this summer, on a shoreline overlooking Kintyre on Arran's west coast. A favourite place.

Monday, 22 August 2011

visual thinking

I wanted to make a stand, to show I'm different now, to say out loud, 'look at this change'
when there really is so little to show or to say. So what?
But there is a lot to feel; subjective mutability seems to be the way of transition, it appears?

Saturday, 13 August 2011


I'm back on the mainland now, after a very difficult period on the island where our house was carefully reclaimed from the depths, mostly, I must say, by this young man here; my son, whose strength, endurance and pragmatism gave me hope when all seemed lost. Thanks kid.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

reclamation of self

Making inroads into trying to get back into my own self, wherever that person is now. I'm reading Bridges' Transitions again. Feels as if I just didn't get it at all the first time round. Also seems that I'm a Forest Dweller; this is a very comforting thought as I try to reflect on my distressing transitioning.
I can 'see' my head, but can't articulate it yet, so wont.
This is what I did this afternoon in my studio here; a textual collage of what I feel but can't say out loud.
Maybe I will talk about it later....maybe not.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


I didn't mean to do this; say out loud, here, what I really think, but, I will now.

I struggle with transitioning.

I miss my island home.

I can't see my shoreline.

I can't think at all.

As I move forwards into a void, I leave behind a place of memories, of sadness and peace, insulated and isolated from the other world of grown up real people living real lives earning real money to buy real stuff.

What I want I can't buy, I can only feel..........and remember.

The studio I worked in every day and the shoreline I walked every day, knit together into an unimaginable  warmth and sense of 'rightness'.

I left them both.

The image above is one I took on Saturday. It's of my studio door; smashed in, the interior scattered in the search for....whatever a mindless brain conjures up.

Imagine a blackbird's voice at dusk, the soft whisper of waves dropping onto sand, now look again at the image above and hear the thoughts of the person who has violated my space, my memory, my studio on Arran. What sounds did they make as they kicked in the red door into an unknown world.

I am sad.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


I'm reading WG Sebald's 'The Rings of Saturn'. I wont describe it; go and read it. It was suggested to me by a dear colleague at the other end of the world.

In it, he talks of, among many other things, fishermen, 'strung out in a long line on the margin of the sea, at regular intervals'. 'They just want to be in a place where they have the world behind them, and before them is nothing but emptiness'.

I know this feeling, staring intently at the cool horizon, full of possibility, held gently by the waves' murmerings, even here, on the world's edge. Pacific,'s the same.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Poster Day at UWS

I'd like to first of all say congratulations to Rachael! Well done kid! You deserve every success! You are an inspiration, thank you. Taking part in the Poster Event has helped me to see where I might be going on this journey; one which is difficult to articulate but sometimes a glimmer appears and I am able to write what I feel. So have a read below and let me know if this resonates at all with any of you; this is what I'm trying to do achieve.

The Spaces Between

The process of transition from one stage in life to the next necessitates a state of liminality, of being on the outside, inhabiting a borderland, while still inextricably intertwined with that which has been left behind and that which is yet to come. Human nature is fundamentally social; therefore human experience cannot be understood separately from the environments in which they occur. As an integral part of creative practice, how might reflexivity offer insight into this liminal state of becomingness, of betwixt and between?
Working from a phenomenological framework, through auto-ethnographic vignettes, textual collage, research journals and creative writing, the artist-researcher seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience through creative practice in order to understand cultural experience, the inter-relatedness of the micro in the macro.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

creativity and place

Another thought continuing from yesterday's post, this was raised by a colleague when we were talking at length about this current concept of creativity promoting a sense of wellbeing.
With regard to creativity, wellbeing and place, then yes, place can indeed engender a feeling of wellbeing, this is well documented and generally understood by artists, writers, postmen and plumbers.......we all know this. It's a sunny day and just looking out the window will reinforce this idea, people are out there enjoying feeling good in the fresh air. But creativity...well....that's another thing again.  Enjoy the day!

Saturday, 23 April 2011


I'd like to say something out loud about creativity from my own experience as an artist. It quite possibly goes against the grain of current political correctness. Fine, so be it.

Jane Hirshfield, the American poet, in her book of essays exploring the mind of poetry says that:
   'artists have taken the task of exploring that part of human experienece C.G. Jung called The Shadow. They have consistantly endeavoured to look at what is difficult to see; to press into the realms of sorrow, chaos, indeterminacy, anger - to seek out the places where madness and imagination meet'. Hirshfield, J. (1953)
 Agnes Martin would agree; she regarded her life as an artist as one of solitariness, shunning much of what our Western culture has to offer, including family and friends, in her pursuit of a truth.

This is an uncomfortable place to be and most certainly does not promote a sense of wellbeing, quite the opposite. I acknowledge that in some instances, creativity can engender positive emotions and make one feel 'better', but that is something else entirely; here it is seen as a form of therapy. I have no issue with this and appreciate the benefits of being creative at a certain level. But at a much deeper level, indeed at its core, creativity is dark, lonely and relentless. But, it's why I bother to get out of bed every day.    
I welcome comments on this, so feel free........

Thursday, 31 March 2011

drowning in March

Anyone else out there found this past month almost unbearably long, depressing, heavy and overwhelming?
 Today is the last day of it and I've decided to take drastic action;
I'm drowning in words, good words, wise words, possibly helpful words..........but I can't think anymore and what's worse, I can't see. I've surrounded myself with the safety blanket of books, an immediately recognisable identity which I needed at the outset of this journey but now, I'm being slowly smothered.
So......................they're going back to the library to wait until I actually need them as opposed to want them. Acquisition is not quite the same as being.
 I have a tendency to buy outrageous shoes in the mistaken belief that owning them is the same as living that life; I buy into a pigeonhole then turn out the light and walk away.

I'm reading Kathleen Jamie today and I now understand why :)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

parallel pathways

  • creating alongside reading
  • the one informs the other
  • blurring the edges
  • merging
  • reflection in action
  • reflection on action
  • becoming..............................
I see now how I think; it's how I see, how I engage, how I learn.
Anyone else feel this way too?

Not knowing, not caring.

 I'd like to talk a little about not knowing...that place we go to as we create; not knowing quite why we feel compelled to make a certain gesture, or mark or stitch or word...we just know we have to.

 I was given this beautiful handmade lace collar by a friend. It had a special place on my wall, waiting....then, recently, I just knew what to do with it. I didn't need to know why, I don't need to know why. The reason was like a fleeting shadow in my mind, then it was gone. No matter.

  I love handmade paper; irregular, smooth, receptive, responsive to my touch.

I'm reading Agnes Martin's Writings with great pleasure and resonance.

I like linen thread. I like words. I like stitching through soft, thick paper. It's slow, rhythmic, peaceful, stitching this lace onto the paper.

I wrote my words, I wrote Martin's words; an act of homage and of connection.

I don't mind that I don't know the cognitive rationale behind my doing this act over several days, it felt right.

I'm glad.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

life world

Much reading and thinking since my last post, primarily about these dark spaces between, where thought, image and experience meet, briefly, before we force ourselves awake.

Sometimes however, the need to make overides the quest to learn and this image above is what happens.
After creating it, intuitively, I completely forgot what it was that inspired me to puncture, rip, tear, paint and stitch some handmade paper. So, reflection on action didn't work this time.
Later though, I did see the connection between the text and the work; Husserl felt that as technology hurls us headlong into the seductive future, we tend to miss those very dimensions of experience so essential for our continuing existence.

This work is about 18 ins long, stands non too steadily on my table yet speaks to me more forcefully than any words. Maybe I just need to read more?

Friday, 21 January 2011

sketchbook conference

I keep a large sketchbook where I record my creative journey, visually but with an ever increasing desire to write carefully chosen words which add extra meaning to the images. I use these sketchbooks as teaching tools as well as for me; I forget things and at times need to remind myself who I am. I'm finding now that this sketchbook and my research journal, have met and crossed paths, at last. I've been waiting since November for this to happen of its own accord.
Now, I feel ready to start. I'm enjoying creating my own bus ticket for this journey of a lifetime. Below is an image which today appears in both books.
Silk/rock. Fragile/strong. Hard/soft. Resisting/yielding.

I'm a practitioner who thinks. There are lots of us out there with all kinds of tacit knowledge which we want to share. If we don't share, when we pop our clogs, that knowledge pops off as well, sadly. This need not happen if we value and respect where each of us as practitioners, comes from. The link below looks interesting and worth considering, if you're nearby or even if you're not. It's about sketchbooks; all kinds.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New beginnings

I've been struggling for weeks with issues of my research and finally feel a sense of another aha moment coming on. Timely, first day of a new decade. The following words expess it very eloquently;

'the search for time, for place and for a life - is necessarily a search that arises only as a consequence of the inevitable experience of loss, and, if it achieves any resolution of the distress induced by that experience, it is a resolution that is brought about through coming to better understand the densely woven unity of life as lived'. 'Only thus - in the concreteness of an embodied, bounded existence - can we come to understand that in which the value and significance of a life is to be found'.  Malpas. J. E. Place and Experience.