Saturday, 3 August 2013

my odd children

During a troubled adolescence, I made the decision never to have children, convinced that I would not be able to bring them safely to adulthood. Over the years, I have seen no reason to revoke that decision; rather events have persuaded me that my offspring were best left unborn, although I admit to something of a fleeting feeling of regret when I have occasion to touch the fine, shining hair of the very young, or become aware of a small, vulnerable hand steeling into mine.

As I noted in a much earlier post, I once read that Werner Herzog likes to think of the films that he makes as  children, bestowing the greatest love upon those which are perhaps disabled in some way. As for my own work, having destroyed all but a relatively small number of drawings, I come close to regarding the more eccentric drawings of tree, mountain and rainbow remaining, as my odd children; drawings which are decidedly quirky, and which sprang from a powerful imperative, the greater number of them coming into being whilst I was struggling to recover from an episode of depressive illness.

The last three years have been barren. There have been no offspring, no images clamouring for release. It is as though I had suddenly been rendered infertile. Perhaps illness was the motivating force behind that series of drawings, at least in part, for the tree and mountain drawings were begun before my breathless descent into the abyss. At a remove of almost five years from that devastating period, I find myself only partially recovered, still prey to an agonising sense of worthlessness  and an all encompassing terror of committing myself to the creation of a drawing which may fail my intentions.

I have a binding connection to my odd children, and, for the present at least, cannot bear to be parted from them; I cannot let them take their place in any other world but my own. In that sense, I am an extremely possessive mother; it is my instinct to protect these unusual drawings from harm, from the critical gaze of the viewer. I harbour a desperate need for them to be liked,  to be understood, to elicit a positively evaluative response, whilst yet knowing that I cannot, or should not try to dictate the terms of their reception, although perhaps it is true that without my communicating the circumstances of their coming into being, they would be difficult to comprehend, or appreciate. It is my feeling that they exist in the liminal space between art and art therapy. They were not made, strictly speaking, within the context of a therapeutic consultation, but they were born of a profound need to communicate that which I found impossible to to express by any other means, and their birth was occasioned by an overwhelming personal calamity. I made them, not only as the artist I then felt myself to be, but as a being consumed by forces that I was unable to withstand without psychiatric intervention, and a committment to drawing. Thus it may be said that the making of them was of therapeutic value to me; they afforded me the opportunity of releasing and exploring difficult material visually, and that perhaps they would not have existed but for the particular circumstances of their creation.

Therefore, I surround myself with my odd children, still puzzled by them, although I know them intimately, still learning from them, and as yet unable to surrender them, for they offer me hope and the reassurance that I will become able to draw again, that the well spring from which they emerged is not irrevocably drained dry despite my lack of self confidence with regard to making further drawings.  I remain convinced that two paths lie ahead of me, in terms of the creation of new drawings, one being the resumption of cloud formation drawings, this time with the particular skilled attention granted to one with the benefit of hindsight, and the other the making of a suite of images informed in their method and character, their qualities, by the series of drawings of tree, volcanic mountain and rainbow which preceded them.

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