Childhood… is where it all stems from and to where, in our souls we need to return in order to nurture our creativity. It is from this wellspring that the willingness to play, to see the world afresh, and to take risks arises.
Art for me is about entering an alternative world an inner world, I call it my magic place, I can shrug off the everyday and life seems to hold a deeper colour. I need to write and make work regularly as without it life seems poorer.
The poet Rilke said:
“If your life seems poor blame not it but yourself for you are not poet enough to call forth its riches”
My Early childhood was spent wandering the fields and hedgerows and creating dens and gardens, in the sandy banks and copses of the Sussex landscape, my own little worlds.
Later in the first two years of the seventies, my family lived on an Out Island in the Bahamas. We four children did not attend school and were left to fend for and amuse ourselves. It was here that I started to make little books and to draw and paint.
Later age 13 I was sent to Paris to live with a French Family, still no school but instead was posted out of the door at 9 in the morning and told to come back in the afternoon. So I spent long hours wandering the Parisian Streets and visiting the Louvre.
Boredom despite its tedium, is possibly one of the most useful emotions and states for a child and requires of the self an ability to find solace and is the ideal environment in which to develop a healthy inner world of deep magic.
The other vital part of being an artist is to allow for the work itself to have its own life to lead us in directions we had not anticipated.
This comes in part from chance or “happy accident” but also from the subconscious a faint voice deep within that I am always listening for . Is this the right mark? The exact colour? The shape? I ask myself and there is almost always an answer yes? Or no? Thus I edge along navigating to an unknown destination.
I am a self taught painter. Grayson Perry said in his recent Reith Lectures that he did not think that you could be an artist without having been to Art School. I think the result of not having been to Art School is that I have my own set of rules!!! My paintings have to have something Living in them, usually human but sometimes just an animal, most frequently both. I am determinedly Figurative in my approach and despite trying I cannot seem to make the leap into Abstraction .
But then my work is about the ordinary. Or rather the Extraordinary that lies beneath the Ordinary. All the Paintings have little stories attached about why they exist or where they were painted and why. They are illustrations of moments when life seems to have its own magic.
I made my first sculptures once the family was reassembled in Sussex, from the iron rich ditch clay which I taught myself to fire in sawdust in an old dustbin. The Sculptures come from a more mythical place a deeper remembered place from childhood and are mostly in reference to the iconic images that have kept me company across the decades. Medieval Kings and Queens from RJ Unsteads History Book read and reread. Illustrations from Primary School, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colours, St Francis and all his Birds. These rich strong childhood remembered images visited and revisited, clung to in the face of uncertainty and instability and perhaps boredom.
I would like to say that my work is about the environment, but really it is mans relation to the natural and animal world. It is about the fragility and vulnerability of man and the environment. About the preciousness and magicality of the natural world and how once in my lifetime we were so much just, a small part of it.
Be part of the world my friend
As our Ancestors were
See that we need to hold her dear
More dearly than any other
An old world word
But a word we should hold in our hearts
Each day that we receive the Gift of Living
On this Our Dear Earth
Others often claim that to be a successful artist you must be a narcissist. Now, I’m not sure that I agree with this. What I do believe is that the narcissist can most likely write a very good Artist Bio for their website. I stand by this, having just read my Mother’s attempts to write one, they can only be compared to a cup of cold, weak tea. Hence why I (her daughter) am writing it.
In fact, if Mum was a cup of tea, she would be Mint tea. Not squished from a sorry tea bag, no. Hot Somerset water paired with Mint from the Pink Earth you find etched into the wrinkles of her hands, all then encompassed in your favourite potters mug.
To no extent am I suggesting that my old mum cannot write. She writes just as she draws, with freedom and honesty, somedays the lines feel unpredictable, they leave you wondering where exactly they will end up, only then to curl round and establish their place upon the page. Just like life, everyone’s life, Mum’s life. The lives she has created, grown and embraced. She is the rain, the rare soil you press your hands into, securing each sapling to the earth, to take on the elements. Everyone has a mother, it’s something we all share in common, and no matter our relationship they are our roots.
In her words, her work takes from ‘Man’s relationship to the natural world.’ To me, her work is about our need to play in the natural world, and people, the figurative, the shape of their nose and the lives lead. Always it comes back to this, the Extraordinary hidden within the Ordinary. Mum knows Humans. From the belle ladies of her childhood odyssey in the Bahamas, to the Parisian strangers of her adolescence, then studying the Anatomical body as a medical student and raising six wild children, to losing a brother kinder than the moon.
You see the faces through the pages of her drawing books. You see them marked into wood cuts or drawn with paint over a patchwork of papers, they grow into sculptures too big now for the green house in the garden. They become birds, taking on a whole other dimension to the fragility of life. All, emotional beings whose place in the world is considered and understood.
I think a common thread running through our family is the need to use our hands. Mum is a key in this. Her inability to let a day pass without at least placing her palms upon something and giving it the potential to continue on with it’s journey. As so many of us are aware of how we need an outlet. Well my mother has burst her banks, she has spread her arms and opened the lock gates, winding her way through the land she couldn’t explore as a younger girl. No risk of being told which path to the sea she must take.
Written by Hope (Ann’s daughter)