This week has been an artistic roller coaster of sorts, a juggling act of many different parts. I started the week by finishing two projects, one of which was a soft pink heart which had a charming appearance that was slightly unsettled by the fact that it was made with two bear legs. The second was a dolls head, which although enjoyable to make, the outcome was a little crude. But after the weekends reflection and the Monday group critique I was feeling unsettled by where my project was leading. Perhaps the doll image is a little too on the nose? And after all I was never really one for dolls as a child so how personal is it really?
The comment that stuck with me after the group crit was that as adults we often looks back on childhood through “rose tinted glasses”, and so far I have been embracing this. Yet if my work is really meant to explore that journey of a memory and our shifting narrative of our personality, should I not be aiming for realism rather than optimism?
While toying with these thoughts I did persist in making my memory-quilt experiment. I used red and purple tones of cotton and felt, as well as a floral fabric which reminds me of children’s sun dresses. Purple always reminds me of the flowers in our garden and my childhood party dress. Then I also incorporated more of the soft pink bear fabric using parts of the face and ear to make evident its original purpose. I have always been more of a bear person than one for dolls, and the texture of their fur is certainly comforting and nostalgic. But by cutting the bear up and flattening into this patchwork textile it does have a slight oddness to it which I appreciated more than I expected to.
I also took the time to chat to my Dad about my project this week, and perceptively he suggested that when looking at childhood “it’s not all candy-floss and bears… it’s a process… the process, growing up, is quite a painful thing.” This really struck a chord with me, that perhaps I was falling prey to the rose tinted glasses in an attempt to avoid creating work that might upset those people close to me. My childhood was certainly not a tragedy, but to say that it was perfect would also be a lie. The reality is that humanity is imperfect, parenting is imperfect, society is imperfect, and as a consequence a child’s development is bound to be imperfect.
I also went to see the Dorothea Tanning exhibition at the Tate Modern this week, considering I had recently finished a contextual studies presentation on her work, I thought it would be beneficial. Now I will refrain from tangentially raving about the excellence of this exhibition, but the fact that I had not heard the name Dorothea Tanning a year ago now astounds me. Her work ranges from surrealist and abstract paintings to soft sculpture and poetry. She accurately described her own work as “a confrontation between the forces of grown-up logic and the bottomless psyche of a child.” And I was surprised that I gravitated strongly to her abstract work rather than her soft sculpture which had been my initial interest. These colossal paintings have a dreamlike sense of fantasy and movement, the bodies almost invisible from afar, giving way to pure expression.
As a result of this visit I have decided to go back to basics with some sketching and playful experimentation. I am rejecting the idea of focusing on a final outcome because I think I am restricting it from arising organically. The next two weeks I am busy with interviews and travel, but I intend to work on the theoretical side through my contextual studies essay.