What anchors us when we doubt the beauty that we are making?
My anchor of choice for the session this month was this, which we loosely clung to throughout. It’s slippery and it sometimes made us laugh, but laughing is good. The other anchor was dance – partly as I know it deeply and partly as I wanted to see how questions in our own work might be answered through another artform.
Ruth Batham [ruthbatham.com] began by sharing her small and vivid paintings. We were all drawn to the striking expressions and “presence” of the pieces. This is where a thread of “more” began to weave among us. She asked us which version of a work we liked. We liked them all. We wanted all the versions…more more more. Working in different paints and on different surfaces her work has an archeological feel, a gentle peeling away to reveal. Because of her interest in diverse bodies, as well as how we present ourselves as “artists” we watched this.
We mused about being able to “sing” our biographies.
Shizuyo Seki shared videos of the intimate gallery spaces she creates, the intimacy of which were evident through the way the film was shot and edited. She reflected that some people had commented that the layers were too dense, but we disagreed – again, we believed in the “more” of her work. It created space to inhabit, to crawl inside, spaces like windows to look into, walls of balloons creating tense enclosures. We noticed the balance of textures and dynamics that were tangible through her videos. Because her work softly directs the audience, we watched this.
We took a welcome stroll downstairs to see recent paintings by Miguel Sopena [miguelsopenaarts.com]. The use of light and shade in his work creates figures you want to reach out and touch. It’s a rare treat to see so much work in one space, to see the repetitions and trying out, so we were able to compare how the lens of his brush focuses onto different parts of the body in each piece. We asked where he might go next and offered up opinions on how much control an artist might have over the model posing. Because of light and shade and bodies in motion we watched this.
We had some tea while reading poems by Judith Kingston [instagram.com/judith_kingston] (and then I reflected later that it’s perhaps rude to drink tea while reading poetry for critique. Or is it the best way?) We went microscopic on a poem about death – about being frozen to your office desk when loss and tragedy suddenly puncture a normal day. Judith asked us about words and tenses that had confused others. We wondered at what point do we stop asking? When do we throw down our own anchor of certainty in our work? Because her collection of work is about the glimmers of hope within the everyday, we watched this.
Video from Mandisa Apena was another gut-punching study in fear. We watched spiders crawl and waves rise and rise and rise in unflinching scenes that built a visceral tension in the body that I feel growing again in my chest as I write this. Words and imagery were beautifully and violently mixed and although we didn’t have time to watch, it reminds me of the inevitable feeling of dread growing in this.
In work by Mehreen Lodhi we looked for narratives to connect two distinct works. We came full circle back to discussion of the diverse body, the asymmetric body. We explored stories of how a woman might inhabit a landscape. We wanted more again…more about her and of her. I recall the colours of the earth and how the shapes clambered into mountains and then up into delicate tendrils of paint evaporating into the sky. Because of the colours, the desolate earth and the woman we watched a short clip of this.
So we chatted and watched and drank tea and all the time we gently dropped down anchors for each other, with insights also added from Holly Graham, Zoe Denning and Mia Wiggins-Knight.
These anchors hold us steady, but also still. So another emerging theme to keep us moving was
We all wanted more.
So we keep on making.
Many thanks to artist & Turf studio member Anita Wadsworth for leading the crit and for this writeup! Turf’s next free crit will be on 28 July, led by ‘Shonisaurus Popularis’ artist Hazel Brill.