This section contains a commentary on my recent work. For more examples of my work see the galleries.
The artwork is a reflection on a year which has flagged that nature, and globally, our health is under threat, alongside political tensions. I have used my love of my immediate environment particularly trees to inform the work. Composition is an essential part of the narrative with the broken bark as the protagonists. Using palette knives, brushes and at times running my nails through the paint added to the dynamism. The many layers of textures and movement of the limited paint palette were the essential painterly journey from chaos and destruction to order and balance, mirroring the rebirth in the natural world. I have always been fascinated by water. Universally, water invites the notion of life, renewal and transformation.
So “Still We Rise” reflects my hopes, not my fears.
I am feeling so blessed! 2020 has been such a ravaged year on many levels, yet lovely things also keep happening to me.
I’ve just heard that two of my Antarctic paintings, “Melting Icecaps” and “Untameable” will be going up for auction next year to raise funds for United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. The Trust exists to care for and conserve buildings and artefacts in Antarctica so that they might be enjoyed and learned from by current and future generation.
Both artworks were inspired by my husband’s epic photographic visit to the Antarctic 10 years ago when he photographed from dawn until dusk most days on the trip. The UKAHT operates Port Lockroy, the site of an old British base, which has been restored and is open during the summer months as a living museum.
My husband has a photo of the Post office in Port Lockroy, affectionately known as the Penguin Post Office. Around 70, 000 cards are posted each year to over 100 countries.
Along with the rest of the world, the Antarctic is warming up. The polar ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a rate six times faster than that observed less than 30 years ago.
So good to be making a contribution, albeit small.
My latest contribution published by The Pandemic Lens: https://pandemiclens.com/2020/11/29/actions-have-consequences/
The UK is now counting down the days to the biggest fall out in the nation’s history. Not only are we leaving the European Union, but the threat of leaving without a deal is imminent. A “no deal” Brexit does what it says on the tin. It means the UK and the EU are unable to reach an agreement and there will be a sharp end to the transition period—effectively a fall out! Even if a limited deal is reached it will still isolate the UK from the rest of Europe. Yes, there is a valid question as to whether the sheer breadth and depth of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic suggests that the impact of Brexit will be largely irrelevant.
Why am I concerned?
It’s not just the concern about the UK having to revert to World Trade Organisation rules on trade and consumers facing increased costs of imported goods, with the country suffering the reduced competitiveness of exports to the EU as a result of tariffs and trade barriers.
It’s not just the concern that Britain loses out on some vital EU subsidies such as those from the European Regional Development Fund.
It’s not just the concern regarding the reneging on agreements for avoiding a hard border with Northern Ireland. I could go on.
So what is my concern?
It’s the arrogant lack of willingness to negotiate a future relationship that invites regional co-operation which is the prevalent political pattern developing globally.
Why am I concerned?
It’s the lack of foresight in considering the younger generation and those to come.
A personal note of June 2016 sums up my concern and will remain engraved in my memory. It was an afternoon spent with family and friends, celebrating our son’s epic four year achievement to complete a self-styled Olympic Challenge: to compete or take part in all the forty-one disciplines that would qualify for the Olympics in Rio 2016. A day that should have been a celebration of this exceptional feat turned out to be the voicing of young people’s shock and despair about an older generation disenfranchising their future. They believed that if the Brexit vote had been decided by young people, the UK would likely have stayed in the EU. Although it’s true there are no official age break downs of how people voted in the referendum, polls suggest that 72-75% of under 25s backed Remain.
Most young British people have grown up taking for granted the freedom of movement that allowed them to study and work anywhere in the EU without bureaucratic hurdles. In essence the young feel cheated by Brexit.
“Brexit Despair” is my delayed, artistic response to my concern regarding the actions taken.
The perspective of this painting was inspired by several visits to Welford Park near Newbury in Berkshire. Until this year, it has been home to the popular, annual Great British Bake Off. The estate opens its grounds to the public for about four weeks to enable visitors to see carpets of snowdrops that line the riverbanks and flow in nearby woods. Even though the weather is often cold but the sight of the wonderful white flowers peeking through the blades of grass is mind blowing.
In September I was invited to submit an article to “The Pandemiclens” blog initiated at the end of the summer by Steve Bennett, a well known, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based fine art photographer. I was asked to reflect on the current times referencing two of my paintings.
Here is the article:
People have different ways of looking at the world, and these views influence their perceptions of risks, benefits and costs and shape how they act.
We’ve seen this in alarming degrees with the current pandemic. Historically, we, as global citizens, have woven a spiral of silence over climate and race issues. The term “spiral of silence” was coined by researchers to explain why Germans did not talk about the rise of Hitler and the subsequent atrocities associated with him. They echoed the silence, and indeed denial, around them.
I read an article on climate change recently which referenced wild fires that have occurred globally, here in the UK, Australia and in the US, where there has been a shift in engagement. The shift seems to be driven less by politicians’ positions than the recent disastrous heat fueled fires and the increasing concern of experts about changing climate conditions across the globe. I recalled “Strength in Silence,” which I had painted a few years previously and which encapsulates the apocalyptic danger that the current climate scenario signals. Yet, it evokes the strength needed, in isolation, to work towards a better future and not slip into complicit silence.
During lockdown, like many artists, I had the space and time to reflect on my art practice, and, being without the normal social and time scheduled distractions, I produced more art and experimented more than I had before.
Then came the killing of George Floyd. His death combined with a history of systemic racism and police brutality towards people of colour created a global collective response. The impact on me was Covidian. As a black woman married to a Caucasian man, I found myself revisiting my own relationship with myself and my position in the world. I felt very, very numb and suddenly all the creativity I was enjoying, locked down. It has taken four months of what Michelle Obama describes as a form of PTSD and a visit to the inspiring Toyin Ojin Odutola’s “Countervailing Theory” art exhibition at The Barbican in London to reboot. “What Cometh” is my first springboard in moving on.
Both paintings convey different traumas: they overlay political and psychological layers on to the physical reality. As individuals, we have to be persistent and continue these uncomfortable conversations, open that dialogue and ensure we are doing our part to enforce change and keep highlighting those urgent issues … because they’re not going to go away.
Time will tell.
Like many amateur artists, I occasionally suffer from imposter syndrome or become frustrated when an artwork is not going in the direction I want it to travel. When I’m in this lockdown frame of mind I need to tell myself to trust and enjoy the process. As the Black writer, Alice Walker once said: “We should learn to accept that change is truly the only thing that’s going on always, and learn to ride with it and enjoy it”.
This is the first of two calm landscapes in blue. Both serve as a symbol of hope, love, strength and friendship. Landscapes invite a natural connection which enables people to engage, regroup and relax.
You might have seen or heard about dead trees in the countryside being given a ‘blue’ lease on life with a message for a great cause. It originated in Western Australia, when a family painted a dead tree blue in the middle of their farm in commemoration of their son who committed suicide. After posting a photo of the tree on Facebook, it soon went viral which prompted the Blue Tree Project to help raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention.
Navigating self care is hard and it is not being selfish. During challenging times, it may seem as though we don’t have enough time to practice self-care and it can slide down our priorities list. But even five minutes of focusing on our breath or stretching can help us, or even going for a walk, even for a short time. For me today, it’s walking in the rain and remembering to smile even if I don’t feel like it. These small moments of self-care build up to produce a more resilient version of ourselves over time and they help to strengthen our coping mechanisms.
Small changes can help you find a sense of balance as we move through different phases of the pandemic. Remember that action comes before motivation. So find time occasionally to press the pause button and switch off your mobile. Above all be kind to yourself!
My painting embraces this colourful autumn time but as Robert Frost wrote in one of his most famous poems, “Nothing gold can stay.”
I was walking in our nearby woodland this week where the yellow light of autumn was sifting all I saw. As the UK slides into a second lockdown, and we all hold our breath for a healing result of next week’s US election, I keep asking myself, “What cometh?”
I mentioned that post George Floyd I continue to try to reboot my artwork.
It’s what Michelle Obama describes as a form of PTSD coupled with the lingering stealth threat of Covid19 Nevertheless, with all the uncertainty and tensions that 2020 has brought, I do remain positive. I continue to push through…. We all have to push through.
“I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure in the landscape: the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it………..the whole story doesn’t show.”
― Andrew Wyeth
Having a break from drawing to paint yet another tree landscape idea! How I love trees through the changing seasons!
This is largely experimental to create luminous effects needed for a future project.
A series of pictures inspired by the yellow rapeseed fields.
One of the areas the poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke liked to explore was how our memories make us who we are. I’ve used a few old photographic contact sheets to embrace the theme.
I like a good title and had initially focused on the blue-green pairing. In doing so, I found it interesting to learn that when black and white films were originally made, filmmakers struggled with the sensitivities of blue and green.
Abstracts can be such a challenge and resolving this one has taken three months. For once, I can say I’m satisfied with the results. About to get it covered in clear resin. So watch this space….