2018 - Iaspis Residency Stockholm
Appropriation: Set of three works framed; two oil paintings overlayed with oil stick and one photograph altered with graphite pencil:
The studio is already less bare. I have hung up two oil paintings that I bought from a second hand shop. One has a decorative wooden frame, the painting is signed and dated 1950 and was made by S. EDBERG, who had a loose grasp on perspective. The image depicted is straightforward, depicting little oxide-red wooden sauna or bathing huts on rocks down by the sea, most likely on the west coast of Sweden. There are a couple of boats floating around a pier that juts into the water below, where no doubt the occupants of the red houses jump from time to time. The painter was inspired by the idea of Impressionist brush strokes, quite wild and frisky up close but falling into a flattened descriptive scenery from a distance, animated by shadow and reflection.
The other painting I have hung on the opposite wall. It has a plain,wooden frame, the signature on this work is dated 1942. SPENDRUP the painter is a little more sophisticated than S. EDBERG. The style of execution is definitely leaning towards modernism, a sort of Northern impressionism. The colours are muted blues and greens animated by soft creams and pinks laid down in alternating horizontal or vertical brush strokes from top to bottom, a simplified, contemplative landscape view from the edge of a lake, looking through trees and boats across the water to some hills in the distance. In the top left hand corner there is a tiny house in pencil, the last piece of the painting that has been left unfinished. I imagine it painted in an oxide-red. I wonder why it was never finished. In 1942 Sweden was quasi-neutral in the midst of World War Two.
En svensk tiger, was a famous World War II poster reminding Swedes to be wary of spies asking questions. Svensk can mean both Swedish and Swede while tiger could be read as either the animal or keeps his mouth shut, giving the poster this double meaning: A Swedish tiger and A Swede keeps his mouth shut – comparable to Loose lips sink ships. The tiger's stripes were in the Swedish national colors.
Wikipedia: Sweden during World War 2.
Paintings in second hand shops are often only considered interesting in terms of their retro frames. The images themselves are so second hand that no one bothers to really look at them. But these images must have once been valued enough to frame. I imagine the rooms they might have once graced and the people that enjoyed them and then I imagine those who came along later perhaps after a death and took them down and sent them to the second hand shop. This thought makes me sad.
The third framed piece is a tiny oval photograph of an elderly lady. I have covered her face in graphite and given her a pair of antlers.
Astronauts: Set of 8 works. Watecolour on paper, size: between A4 and A3
The temperature has risen from 1 degree Celcius to above 20 and I am no longer an invisible, monstrously over clad astronaut floating through the cold and desolate outer spaces of an unknown city. The streets have somehow remade themselves into familiar patterns. The jigsaw puzzle is falling into place.
The first day in studio was a self conscious one. I made some desolate sketches in my smallest notebook and hand wrote a personal studio diary. The series of sketches were started on arrival at my parents’ home in Essex, England and were of a dead bumblebee I had found while walking with my mother across the village green. The bumble queen must have woken and flown out of her snug burrow just a day or two early for the nectar and pollen she needed to survive. I drew some flowers in a tiny bunch I collected: a violet, a snowdrop, a little wild English daffodil and a primrose. The flowers had been scattered down the length of the garden by my father’s parents, both long dead, their garden still blossoming each spring.
The series of drawings, continued now in Sweden, contained sketches of a lead bird that I bought from a man trading junk that he said he had found on the banks of the Thames while mud-larking. I found him and the bird in the Bermondsey market in London. The bird was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and I carried it in my coat pocket during the few days I walked around the city’s square mile. It intrigued me that something so heavy portrayed a thing that in life was made for flight. Its little lead wings were perfectly sculpted, one outstretched, the other folded into its fat, round body as though it had just alighted or was about to take off. I was not sure which.
Following sound advice I started to draw in the new space as soon as I arrived. I hoped that this would give me some focus and also be a meditation on the act of image making. I felt that I should just draw regardless of quality or image and then paste the images onto the walls so that they surrounded me. From this exercise I expected that I might find a path towards an intention. But the empty studio space filled me with ennui and I continued to draw in the tiny little notebook of rough Indian paper rather than on the hot pressed A2 Fabriano sheets I had bought for this purpose.
I had no ideas in my head to plant in this room and watch grow. The thought of drawing filled me with despair, as I could not summon the energy to start on anything larger than A6, the same size as the weird photograph that had been left behind on my studio wall.
This made me think about why I needed to make images in the first place. I asked myself what their purpose might be, both personally and for sharing. It seemed quite pointless at that moment, the pursuit of making art. I was in a vacuum, unknown and unknowing. In effect it was as if I had disappeared. To be quite honest I am not interested in drawing or painting in terms of the nuances of an intrinsic language either can possess. The painting I do is usually artless, copied directly from my own photographs. It has no style or reference in itself. It is topographical, merely describing an object or scene. It is true that the colours in these paintings often lend a touch of romance to the image as they are remembered with nostalgia perhaps, rather than strictly true to the colours captured in the photograph, which are anyway distorted by my computer screen or the printed scans I work from. The purpose of this painting therefore is very different from a drawing or painting with a style infused by the artist’s hand and referencing tradition or trying to break new ground.
I like to borrow people and places from photographic images and work them into a project that has a specific context. I also like to juxtapose these images with images taken from other specific contexts. It is the context and the juxtaposition that animates the images I make and gives them voice. In this way I hope that my work can animate histories and give them new meaning. Therefore drawing and painting in them selves cannot help me in this state of arrival in a new studio.
I am in a foreign country both physically and metaphorically, where I must think about my practice as a visual artist. I am an astronaut floating in outer-space.
An artist in an adjacent studio is listening to music...
There are nine of us in residence. A curator from Mexico is also here, currently visiting the chosen few, but I have been told in no uncertain terms:
“She is not interested in you only in the Swedish artists!”
Of which there are four:
Annie, Anna-Karin, Jonas and Santiago.
The four International artists are:
Ann Mary-Botswana, Sorawit-New Zealand, Luiza-Brazil, Dale-Australia. Mary Ellen Carroll-USA replaced Luiza a month after I arrived!
Someone like you
Someone like you: A series of 15 water colour paintings on paper, size: A4
I googled Karl von Linnaeus on Wikipedia. He did not illustrate his collections himself but hired help from professional artists. And the artists were sent all around the world and came back to Europe with portfolios filled with vivid images that richly illustrated the ‘other’ new worlds filled with flora and fauna just waiting for the taking. The taking started with naming, a giant water lily in the Amazon became the Victoria regia and still is.
I lie on my studio couch and begin to fall asleep to the sound of children playing in the schoolyard below, their calls floating up and into my studio through the open window. Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for the film ‘The Piano’, is playing on my laptop. It makes me think of New Zealand and that colonisation. Would it have been anymore or less cruel if it had been the other way round, the Maoris sweeping through the British Isles in their war canoes to take over Westminster?
Terra Incognito: A series of three artworks, oil stick on raw linen, size: 2 metres x 1.5 metres.
Maps made in the year two thousand and eighteen AD between the months of APRIL, MAY and JUNE.
IASPIS grant holder: the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International programme for Visual and Applied Artists.”
Where do we go when we sleep?
At the end of each day my over thinking mind runs round and round like a caged hamster on a treadmill. But after sleeping through the night, ideas float up with me into a world awake and complicated things have often become simpler.
“Maps of the unknown-Terra Incognito”.
The word ‘territory’ immediately brings to mind the sense of current and future ownership. I want to make maps of the ‘Terra Incognito’, the unknown, that thing on the edge of consciousness, a fading memory, a forgotten dream, vanishing as it is almost remembered, unavailable for division or settlement.
The form of these ‘Terra incognito’ maps was inspired by a visit to the Royal Swedish Scientific Society archives where I was able to look at maps made in the 19th century by the British explorer David Livingstone and the Swedish Explorer Carl Johan Andersson on behalf of the Royal Geographic Society in London. The maps where made of small sections of paper that had been glued to a linen backing that could be folded into a small package like a contemporary city A to Z and carried around on expedition and edited by hand when necessary. They were like shopping catalogues as desire overcame morality and whole peoples were divided up into territories along with land both literally and spiritually. And the colours I chose to use in the making of these maps were inspired by Karl von Linnaeus’ classification of humans as part of the animal kingdom, separating the human race into four groups: White Europeans, Red Indians, Brown Asians, Black Africans. The size of the maps was made to fit my body print as I decided the best place to start a search for the unknown was in myself.
I was born in Mabaruma on the 27th of July 1960.
My Mother was from Hosororo Hill just a few miles walk from the hospital.
My father was from Great Bentley, a small village in Essex, England.
You still have to fly into the Barima-Waini district or travel by boat. There is no road.
I left Guyana with my Mother when I was two years old, and joined my father who had left us there the previous year. I returned to Guyana when I was 4 and then when I was 6. I did not return again until I was 16 and after that visit I did not return for 36 years.
Amerindian woman, Warao-Arawak, born to survive the poison of the cassava root, born to the intricate weave of basket and hammock and the music of the hollow bone.
English woman, daughter of tillers of the soil, brick-layers and map makers who drew borders on distant lands with blunt pencils sharpened by the steel of Empire.
I imagine that I was made with love in a jungle of wet leaves, scented by sweet blossoms and sour politics. A thousand kindnesses worn around the neck cannot protect us from the greed and power that is ground into powder and inhaled.
is on a border
and is at a border
and is a border
going nowhere but everywhere
leaving and staying
to and fro
all my life
like the sea and its restless tides
nothing can begin and therefore can never end.
I am Guyana
a small piece of South America
mostly belonging to everywhere
Akawaio, Arawak, Arecuna, Atorada, Auake, Carib, Kalina, Makushi, Mapidan, Mawayana, Nepuyo, Patamona,Wai Wai, Wapishana, Warao, Yao,
Bengal, Uttar Pradesh,
Congo, Ghana, Togo, Botswana
Canton, Southern China and the Pearl River,
Madeira, Amsterdam, London.
I am part of the Caribbean drifting into myth, in and out of ruin.
A lost world adrift in the imagination like Eldorado, disappearing into the mainland rivers, swamps and mountains and great grassy plains of another continent.