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.....