In the 1990s I resumed, in late life, an art education that had been carelessly discarded in my youth. This newly discovered joy of studying began with a Higher National Diploma in jewellery design followed by a B.A. Hons in Fine Art and a Masters in 'Drawing in Fine Art Practice'.
My work is usually a direct response to events and circumstances in my personal life; such as betrayal and divorce; sickness and bereavement. Then as I travelled in the Far East, my work reflected the magnificent landscape of Mongolia. I returned to this wonderful country four times, to horse ride and to spend time as 'Artist in Residence' in the Institute of Fine Art in Ulaan Bataar.
Under the heading ‘Galleries’, on the Home Page, examples from each body of work can be viewed.
I am a stranger in my own life
This is the birthplace of my invented people. ‘My people’ came to life of their own accord. Emotional damage is often hidden beneath and those who came to inhabit my twilight world exhibited a degree of bad behaviour but also an honesty and vulnerability. Here lies betrayal, jealousy, lust and anger, played out spontaneously as I put charcoal and pencil to paper. This body of work reflects a disintegrating relationship and has been my way to express the frustrations, anger and pain of a failed marriage. The pain and anxiety of my long drawn out divorce fuelled expression through a series of huge, violent drawings and savage collages.
Life as I know it
Once the shock had subsided and the full understanding of my responsibilities came into sharp focus, this actually became quite a confusing time. Feeling injured, trapped, hurt and not knowing where I quite fitted in anymore could best be expressed through ‘my people’; those people who took on and acted out my emotions and anxieties.
After my father’s stroke and during my sister’s illness which culminated in her untimely death, my research took me to the library at the Wellcome Institute in London and into their amazing library. There I discovered wonderful historical medical diagrams and drawings. I find it most interesting how one’s exterior can often look healthy and unscarred whilst inside there may be rampant disease. Also I could see a parallel with my situation, with the lies and betrayal I had experienced in my marriage. Here too there were secrets eating away inside, concealed behind layers.
Damage – this was the title of my M.A. show and seems apt to sum up so many life changing events over a period of just seven years in my life. Seven years, when my husband had left me to raise our two children whilst I was also studying for my Fine Art Degree and then my Masters. As far as producing art was concerned this was actually a very fertile time and gave me an outlet for my mixed emotions. This was to sustain me through a betrayal and divorce; my sister’s cancer and untimely death; my father’s stroke, his loss of speech and paralysis.
Much is hidden; damage and pain which we cannot see. We are misled, misguided into a false sense of security. There are also secrets eating away inside us, concealed behind layers of denial or perhaps intentional self-deceit. If I had let it, this could have been a time of breakdown; a complete falling apart. But with an inbuilt desire to create, my love of materials - ‘stuff’ - along with the necessity to continually produce work for my tutors, I was spurred on. A strange beauty can exist in destruction and decay. I suppose that I found an empathy with distressed materials, their history, a passage of time. The quiet, persistent presence.
Bound, tied down, restricted, confined. Imprisoned by my battered self esteem. Kept isolated and apart, as much by design as by shame, shock and anxiety.
My sister looked, to use that old fashioned expression, 'in rude good health' despite her body being eaten with tumours and disease. She was in fact excessively damaged. Researching for information and visuals, I was stunned by the beauty of historical drawings. From very early days man attempted to describe with pen and ink what he believed lay beneath our skin. These visual representations of the workings of the human body across many diverse cultures were often based on scant information and even guesswork. Frequently inaccurate, they are however uniquely wonderful. It is ironic how the exterior of the body can often look healthy and unscarred whilst inside there may be rampant disease and excessive damage. Similarly we can put on an act to hide the emotional pain beneath.
Years later, with my children stretching their wings I too began to look outwards. My travels in Tibet inspired me to paint large, colourful abstracts prompted by the many beautiful monasteries and temples I visited. I then ‘discovered’ Mongolia and travelled there many times, revelling in the stunning landscapes, rekindling my love horses and working alongside artists from different nations.
Emerging from a decade of much sadness and introspection to a time when my children began to stretch their wings, I too felt ready to look beyond my family home. I had the opportunity to travel and began with a tour in Tibet. I was knocked out by this beautiful land and its remarkable history; the colourful people and atmospheric monasteries and temples deeply affected me. I then ‘discovered’ Mongolia and travelled there many times. I took on the role of Artist in Residence' at the Institute of Fine Art in Ulaan Baatar and the following year took part in and Artcamp creating land art alongside artists from five different countries.
I decided to take a sabbatical from work and, rekinding my love of horses, spent a few weeks riding across the steppes and living in a ger. Following on from that I spent time volunteering at a centre concerned with reintroducing Przewalski’s Horses to their natural habitat. I lived in a ger surrounded by wild and beautiful landscape just south of Ulaan Baatar. Each day I would follow 'my' stallion and his harem, making notes from dawn to mid afternoon as the harem made its way from lush green meadows up to the cooler craggy heights. It is an experience I will never forget.
For many years my work had been about vulnerability, deceipt, damage and disease. How fragile we human beins are; how readily hurt, how easily injured. I am fascinated by the many types of layers 'beneath'. Healthy looking exteriors can hide sickness deep within; lies and fabrications will mask the truth.
But recently my work has become more positive in outlook. I have focussed on healing, recovery and a feeling of well being. My latest paintings explore imaginary places of refuge where physical and mental peace can be found; in gardens of tranquility and houses for restoration.
Traces of past lives
My fascination, my pre-occupation with the beauty I find in damage and deterioration continues as I begin a new body of work.
Derelict buildings; deserted homes. Lost spaces carrying scars of their histories and experiences, the memories held between broken boards and cracked beams. Traces of past lives. We can make up our own stories; create lives for the ghosts who inhabit these cobwebby shells. Lost opportunities. Layers of hopes and disappointments found in the neglect.
Palimpsest - a lovely word.
'A manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing. Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.'
A form of palimpsest exists in my work as I look through the partly eroded layers of a history contained within old uninhabited buildings, be they agricultural or urban spaces. To create an atmosphere; a unique space; a suggestion of the past - these things are important to me.