Sunday, 16 December 2012

Flip sides

I like using my Flip, the resolution is not so good but sometimes the stills reveal a great deal unseen by the 'talking eye'. (I tend to ramble into my Flip as I make short videos)
This week, I felt very unsettled, restless, nervy and over anxious, so I did what I usually do; went for a long beach walk. Freezing day, too cold to stand and make steady video images, so instead, I talked to myself as I walked and videod the beach; deserted thankfully.

I've been wanting to create something which I felt represented the changes I sense I'm undergoing just now and have been since Shetland. Impossible to put into words but maybe possible with images. So I tried, with varying degrees of success. I've spent 3 days on these images; stills from the video itself and it's not quite there yet. I'll persevere. They make sense to me at any rate.

 They embody the layers of self(ves), caught within a formal structure, some are disintegrating while others are reforming. Lines always play a part in my work, as connectors. They're here again.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Caol     cold     clear

I spent the day up here on a visit to Room 13, ( to tap into their philosophy and feel energised. This is pretty much what I wrote as I went a walk along the beach.

Familiar wanderings, asking that same question, ‘could I live here?’

Sad council houses smelling of coal. Ask a runner beside his spotless, sleek, black BMW, of his life here; an out of work gamekeeper who likes the life. I never realised gamekeepers could be out of work surrounded by mountains and lochs.
Small, untidy shops with locals rushing in; there’s a hairdresser’s almost empty, I almost go in for a shampoo and chat, but don’t in the end. Too artificial?

Old man passes me on the shoreline, ‘nice and chilly…………it’s good right enough’.
My glasses are steaming up it’s so cold. I can hear the rushing hum of traffic over the water at Fort William; clunking of old wine bottles being binned, laughter, curlews. It’s remote yet connected to that mainland ‘pulse’.

Sand/mudflats, tide far out, like my memory of Lochgilphead, but not quite. The drifting scent of seaweed, traffic noises………..I try to re-connect with home. Nostalgia, another word creeping into my vocabulary of place, I’ve begun to use it more and wish I didn’t, it’s disloyal somehow.

Walking towards Ben Nevis now, no camera, interesting that I forgot to bring it…………but remembered my little black notebook? I’ve changed.

I’m trying to re-connect with a ‘past place’, find that feeling again, the one I can’t define but know.

Beached boats rotting.

Walking along the tideline now. Every shoreline has a part like a ‘no man’s land’. I’ve crossed this one, onto grassy hummocks, like low living, crawling creatures making their timeless way towards the sea. Slimy, hard, impacted greens underneath. Lots of leaves on the shore in between the seaweed. Train in the distance. A ferry bell? Walking on the soft hummocks, nice underfoot, shades of yellow/green. It’s the textures – intermixed, jaggy, spongy, spirally – beautiful.

It’s good to just look.

Beneath Ben Nevis now; clear and not that high, not like Arran mountains. Knobbly, rounded, dusted in snow. That can’t be a chair lift? It looks all wrong beneath it; dark.

2 black and white dogs bounding up to greet me, territorial, ears flattened but tails wagging. Yells from swings, incessant traffic – surprising and incongruous. Numb fingers now. Bleak mountain, soft hummocks on the shore, leaves in seaweed, beached boats rotting, familiar smells, wrong sounds………….of people.

Reading this again, it strikes me that I keep looking for home.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

uneasy hands

I see or rather I felt/sensed/suspected that it had been a while since I last added to my blog. Since coming back south from Shetland, I've been swamped with real life research stuff, things I've had to accomplish in a very short time, or so it's seemed to me now. Going 'round the houses', as a good friend told me, is par for the course, literally. Where have these past 2 years gone, as I disappeared into books and my own head? Am I the same? I doubt that. Does it matter? Probably not any more. Our multiples selves all morph into one, given enough time. Is it the same for men I wonder? being multiple people with lots of performances; probably their wardrobes aren't quite so crucial as ours.
Someone asked me this week if I miss making. It was like a cold blade on my skin. What could I answer without sounding trite. I smiled my reply. If, as I've been telling myself, that I think through making, always have done, then what are these recent thoughts made of? I find words difficult, not to say but to use meaningfully. I have no such issue with images. It's rather like swimming underwater; images flow and seem to belong to one another in a unified way; the continuing threads are easy to spot. Just like the seaweed floating in front of my window at The Booth. I can't feel this with words, they're like a foreign language, or being deafened by ghetto blasters, or blindfolded, my mind closes down that part of me which feels.
Why am I rambling on.......I just wanted to I've no idea who reads them but am happy to know some read them.
I miss islands in my life and have constructed my own, in a field full of sheep. Tonight I watched them all stand still, heads alert and watching, as the heavens opened and straight down rain fell. To a man, they did this, like an invisible message whispered along the grass, 'watch out'.
Maybe what I really wanted to write tonight is the knowledge that I'm not alone, for all that I feel that I am doing this research. Looking at other women artists who are also older, I see connections; Noggle, Bourgeois, Wilke; and now me. Defiant in decrepitude? no, not quite yet. We touch each other over time.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

return of the familiar

This might seem trivial, but my crow is back. I've been feeding him for many months now, enjoying his various calls, bravery and insolence as he insists on food, preferably moist bread. I wonder if he's vegetarian, as I am, for I only feed him peanuts and bread. When I was in Shetland watching the arctic tern swoop down towards the sea, in search of fish, I thought of him and wondered if he missed me as he waited for food. When I came home there was no sign of him for about a week.......then he came back. I knew it was him by the way his feathers seem patchy and white in places when the wind ruffles through them. I'm very glad to see him, it helps me to feel grounded once more.

When I first walked into my kitchen I couldn't remember where I kept the cutlery, or even the plates; I was still in Shetland in the tiny kitchen with difficult to reach shelves. I've no idea what lay at the back of some of them. It was a totally self contained space, both in the Booth and in my head, I was complete, living on the sea. It was simple being me, I was one person, inside and out. But slowly, as the weeks progressed, I began to miss the other me's, the roles I play, the clothes I wear to play these performances.

Does everyone feel this way about their lives, that it's merely a series of performances? Maybe I notice it more now, as I look at myself and wonder who I am. It's only in the last 5 years that I've started being different people, experimenting with 'looks'. A bit dangerous at my age, perhaps, but necessary none the less if I'm to discover what lies beneath. Most of all, I missed my shoes, they embody freedom, confidence and choice. When I was 16, my dad made me wear Tuff shoes for boys with knee length grey woolen socks, sensible way back then, unthinkable now. How sad, who I once was.

Is this who I am now? Quick, before it's too late.
But I still feel slightly disconnected, marginally lost and unsure of my footing. Am I here at all?

Friday, 31 August 2012

visual thinking

Still feeling 'nowhere' but possibly less so as the day goes on. While on Shetland, I did a few collages to see how my head was. Some surprises appear when I do this kind of visual thinking. Aspects of inner selves crawl to the surface saying,  'ok, now what?' Today though, I had a very strong image in my mind and wanted to get it out. Gazing at my multiple selves, welcoming them back into my head as I slowly come back down to another 'reality' of here, rather than there, when I was only one, not many. I missed my 'selves' when I was in Shetland and see that integration is coming, slowly. But will acceptance follow? This is what I did in my little book this afternoon. By tomorrow, I'll be back fully, but the clarity may have gone. Sometimes, it's very difficult to do this, like now.

poor eyesight

This is how my head feels now that I'm back home, in my own space. I didn't recognise it at first, forgetting where I keep the cups. I still haven't unpacked and I've been back almost a day already.

I can't see where I am now and miss the sea. Though the view from my windows here is good, it's mostly static, moving at a different rhythm with mainland sounds in the backgroud.

Ah well.............down to earth then? I miss my friend Mary, the star of Shetland for me :)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

4 footed walking companions

Last day. Sad but maybe it's time to go back to what I left behind so willingly? It will be difficult though, to walk along a mainland shoreline, knowing that these fellows are up here, walking along theirs. What can I say about this visit to Shetland? I know I will return. I've some lovely folk up here, nearly all women willing to share their time and stories of life on the edge. They don't see it that way, it's in the middle for them; Iceland, Faroes, Norway and Scotland with Shetland right there in the centre. It all depends on your perspective, like so many things.

I came with a vague idea of what I hoped to achieve and will now go back down south with the beginnings of what could be a fascinating research project. There's positive support here, I just need it from down 'there' as well. It's all about sharing, isn't it?, knowledge, thoughts, fears, misconceptions.

My farewell shot.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


In the evenings here, the wind drops to a whisper, I felt as if I could have tiptoed over the sea last night. Today, the wind has shifted round and the water is quite different in surface, rhythm and tone.
It seems to be the way, shifting strengths during the day; calm, turbulent, silent.

I've been out and about meeting some really beautiful women, older, like me. Invisible, like me, but there's a difference up here in attitudes to ageing which intrigues and asks for a closer look. So that's what I'm doing now, considering how best to do this, respectfully, as I move around island womens' narratives. One, a poet, is elderly and has wisdom for us all as we age; do what gives you pleasure, what interests you and don't worry about age itself. We all have fears of this encroaching state, it glides towards us like the gentle ripples in the image above.

Yet..................we still feel like this, don't we?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

haar to see today

This is what I see today, not here exactly but the picture is clear. I find this hard to live in, I can't think today so went into Lerwick, hoping for some inspiration.

There's no wind, but there are midges. Local folk are shopping, nattering, going about their Saturdays as if the weather doesn't affect them. I suppose it would just not have to affect them. I'd find that almost impossible yet how did I survive all those winters on Arran? Those short grey days when I wanted to poke through the low sky with a stick. I would find it hard to survive here I suspect, although I do love Scalloway itself.
Yesterday my friend Mary took me out and about, the haar came down....but it gave the place a sense of seclusion, a quietness descended or maybe, rose up from the land itself. It's hard to tell where it comes from, this 'nothingness' which appears. Before it became to difficult to see, this is what I looked at;

 I went out today because I can't think; I'm trying to read and write but just find it hard to see my head at all. Is this how weather affects us? It's like the haar is inside my head, knitting my thoughts into a grey blur. I feel a growing sense of panic as I'm only here for another 11 days and still have thinking to do. On the mainland when I get restless like this, I seek diversion. It's not working here. I wonder why? Maybe tomorrow the sun will come to help me? My other world feels so far away...........

Thursday, 16 August 2012

grey light better day

I work with collage as a way of articulating the unspeakable, of seeing inside my head. I began doing this here in the Booth on the 8th, a few days after my arrival. What resulted was black, angry and downright depressing. Recurring thoughts sweep over calm exteriors and lay bare hidden elements best left alone.

Today, I wanted not to paint, as I'd done with the earlier ones, but to touch, feel and manipulate silk as a way of seeing and thinking. It's like opening a box, once open, it's out for good. Today was interesting as I see now how this place is impacting on my thinking. Little black this time, more open and hopeful.

The place itself is working into my head and deeper. This isn't the time to write about what came out, but suffice to say, it's far better than a week ago in that there is light appearing. I'm so glad I'm here. But it's left me drained today.

I also met someone I consider to be a real painter, Paul Bloomer from Shetland College, UHI, it was good to see his work and I wish him success with it. The intensity of emotional connection with the landscape was there to see. I felt it. Beautiful.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

priceless gifts

Today I was given a pricelss gift of immeasurable value. I'd arranged to go into Shetland Museum to meet with an archivist, hoping to find some resonance with Shetland women artists/poets from the past or even the present.
I was presented with the young man's thesis on Shetland literature; he was posting it off to Glasgow University today and would I like to look at it before it goes? Would I? I don't know if I'd have been brave enough to do that to a total stranger; to share something I'd been working on for the past 5 years. But he did and it was great! No academic obscurity, just good, clear research as all truly well written research should be. I felt honoured as I turned the crisp white pages and it was indeed helpful, offering an insight into Shetland poets which has in turn, led me to reflect on my own work.
This is as it should be, we share our knowledge freely, adding to the mix. He was proud of his work, I was privilaged to be one of the first to see it. I am grateful. Thanks Mark :)

This was the second gift, a curious seal outside my window, a few feet away, fishing for his tea. He swam around for about 30 mins, crossing the harbour in search of fish, ignoring the terns, seagulls, passing boats and me. Oblivious or just trusting?

So, a good day then? Yup!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

stillness leads to narcissism?

Taken at about 8.30pm last night, the stillness was heavy outside my window; it's not a window really, it's a door into the blue void.
On residencies, one imagines being out and about, meeting, drawing, experiencing it in the wild and the raw. Well, I don't do that. Didn't do it in Cornwall, not doing it here either. Both places share the same 'feel' and location; perched on top of the sea, almost of the sea itself, so consequently, I sit and stare out the window, usually thrown wide open to the sounds, smells and sights of this working harbour. It's a noisy place usually; terns sqawking, boats being repaired, small ships chugging out to sea, but last night there was nothing, not a sound. Hence the sense of stillness all around me.

All this leads to deep introspection and subjective reflection, naturally, that's why I come to places like this, to be alone, to go down in my head and see who's lurking there, even confront them, if I feel brave.

I have a sense of direction now in the research, more defined and much more scary; saying it out loud, sounds narcissistic and I'm sure I'll be accused of that down the line. But, there it is, I'm looking at me, who I am, who I've become and how I'm engaging with it, as I age. I've been trying to find other women artists who are doing this or have done it, like Rembrandt; warts and all revealed. It's easier for a man? Well, perhaps. I don't really care, I'm much more concerned about me, us, as women ageing, how we feel about it all, our sexuality in particular. There, I've said it, it's out and I can't go back. I'm watching me, now, critically and sympathetically but with detachment.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

I'm right above the sea, how could I not be in heaven here :)  Arctic tern entertain me in the evening light, swooping and diving. The place is never silent, it's a working harbour with boats coming and going all day; constant movement. It reminds me of Lochranza, up to a point.
It's taken me till today, to settle down to work. Agan though, darkness bubbles up from within and overflows onto the page, in word and paint. 
I wonder what will come out from this residency? They usually give me a sense of release and direction, much needed.

This is what lies just beneath the water; another place altogether. 

We miss so much when we look.

 Just a slight shift in vision can bring a new world into view.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Scalloway and beyond

If you were a tern and just kept flying, you'd get to Iceland I think. It's far away, here. I like that and needed to feel isolated again; too many people, too much to think about, much of it needing sorting out, put in its rightful place. Shetland feels like home to me, same sense of bleakness in winter, but Arran's winter light will be stronget I suspect. I don't think I could cope well with low light for months on end. Still, it's only August :)

I like the seaweed here too, like long dreadlocks drifting in the water, just below the surface. No tv, no radio, no mobile, just myself echoing in my head. Where have I heard that before?

Wonder what I'll make? I've been digging deep in my writing today, uncomfortable revelations needing airing. That's the thing with a residency, it takes you to silent places which need the light of day to be seen properly.

I'll write more.......maybe tomorrow.....

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The deeper I get into my work, the more I neglect other things of equal importance, this blog being one of them. 'Aging' is both enfuriating and compelling, being in it and of it, I'm complicit in ageism's web of seduction as I buy age defying creams. Why do I do this? who cares? who sees? Well..............I care apparently. I've been reading a lot on the subject lately, Margaret Gullette is voluble in her plea for us all to write our narratives of aging, thereby dispelling the myths which abound, the culture which spawns inner voices of inadequacy. So, today, I did a collage to see again, 'how I feel'. This time I did write the words beforehand, in my journal, assuming that they would steer the visuals. They didn't. What came out was like black tar; heavy, depressing, negative preconceptions of times past. I want them gone! Images speak volumes.

I'm about to set off for Shetland for a whole month of quiet reflection, huge seas, wind, rain and gentle light......................much like my own island home but bigger in every sense, I can't wait. My restlessness is annoying even myself today; case laid out, materials sorted, books selected, I hate being organised but need to see myself as such. I might add bits and pieces to the blog while I'm there. My mind is blank in that I have no idea what I'll feel, make, think. I hope that I'm able to leave but sense that it will be difficult to walk away, to come back down. We'll see.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

It's been a while since I last wrote anything here, but maybe it's time again.
I think I know what I'm doing; it feels right, finally, so far.

Autoethnographic inquiry through creative practice: gender, identity and place.

Sounds familiar? well, I suspect we all do it all the time, one way or another.
What's changed for me is that I'm no longer looking back, quite so much, but looking at my feet and at the horizon; I'm here, not there, this is now, not then. This is more about 'becoming' I think, rather than the one sided act of relinquishing, so something is on the move in my head. I want to make my multiple 'selves'.

How a place informs our sense of self, how an audience views us within that place, how we view the audience, who we 'become' for them and for ourselves, is any of it a tangible reality worth pursuing?

Friday, 20 April 2012

age defines

You know how when you disappear down a rabbit hole you don't see that the lights have just gone out till much later?'s taken me quite a while to find the light swtich. 50's have been and gone and now it's the 60's; my 60's that is, not yours!

As a way of trying to see inside my head (yes, I want to!) I've chosen collage as a way of visual thinking, of articulating what I can't say out loud........and it works, I think, for me, at any rate.

I spent my dreaded birthday week in the studio 'doing' collage; making, writing, reflecting, more writing, more get the idea. I created 5 'visual' insights that week and then began to untangle the mesh of what I thought I was seeing. Several weeks down the line, I'm still unravelling. Therapy might be less tortuous but this is what I've chosen to do, I'm not complaining.

 I devised various strategies or 'voices' of interpretation, not all of them worked in that I seemed to be writing the same things but in a slightly different way, over and over. I tried interviewing myself, making videos of myself, I even wrote a 12 ft long scroll as part of my self analysis. This is what happens when you try to be too clever, to outsmart yourself. Your hair curls.

And then I began to make, rather than to write, to think through my fingers, literally:

Much better!

Sometimes we forget who we are are we struggle to look for ourselves.
There's a line by Jane Hirschfield as she watches herself from a distance, wondering what she would say to herself, now, would she be angry, reproachful, compassionate?:

                                       'I whose choices made her what she will be'.

I'm doing that now with these collages, it's driving me nuts but I can't stop.
So what am I saying here, what's the point of this ramble?
Well, maybe nothing more than to remind myself that I'm still here, despite it all. I'll keep going.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

book making

This weekend I made a little Blurb book from some of the images created during my residency at the Maclaurin Galleries, Ayr, last December. It was a good week, I rediscovered my interest in simple digital photography; it's such a versatile medium, allowing all manner of perspectives to surface just by a click of the mouse. I veered away from it some years ago, finding its seduction irritating. I know that sounds contradictory, but as an artist, I like to touch what I'm creating, I like to encounter serendipity, surprises, mistakes; the human stuff that software can't do. But, during the residency I found the digital tools to be just what I needed to express the my response to the whole place; the silence, the shadows, the light, the all slotted into place in my PC. I used 3 different digital cameras, of varying resolutions, from 72 dpi up to 300 dpi; each presented a subtle viewpoint, revealing surprisingly varied results.
Here are a few to give a flavour of what I mean.

I put a link on my Facebook page if anyone would like a preview of the book.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

thinking through collage

It was a difficult year; 2011, glad it's over and a new direction is emerging out of the mist. I spent most of the Xmas break doing collage; as a way of thinking through 'making'. It's fascinating what it reveals, relatively painlessly though very thoroughly, once you start to unravel it all.
Usually I work with my own small creations within a collage but this time I decided to go with 'ready made' images from the web, wanting to see the possible differences in what eventually developed on the page. I'm still reflecting on all of this, there's so much to think about. here are some of the visual thoughts which I'm still working on:

The ambiguity of metaphor is comforting, it distances me from an inner truth which is difficult to look at, thus allowing for multiple interpretations over time. I've been avoiding gender in all of this but now see that it's here, now and demanding my attention through its insistent 'voice'.