Facts are off-limits

fiction is a stand-in for the truth.

Listen via youtube HERE

Life feels really sweet and sour at the moment. The exquisite balance of gratitude and a shit storm of WTF. I haven’t written in a long, haven’t even rambled into a notebook, or dumped my brain into a video. Sure I do yoga, fortnightly therapy, and get into the studio as much as I can, I sketch regularly, but often just feel like I’m talking to myself. I haven’t done any big talking gigs for a while. It?that is mostly about what I’m not saying. Quite often, when talking live and doing Q&A I’m horrendously honest, I have to be careful, if you ask me a direct question I’m probably likely, in that setting to say the unfiltered truth, sometimes that can be unsafe and unfair on those who share my narrative.

Recently I was asked to talk at a mental health open mic night happening soon, it does well in Shoreditch, hopefully, it will do well in Norwich too. I didn’t want to talk about or present any visual work, I feel incredibly unable to talk about my lived experience of mental health, parenting and abuse at the moment, so at first, I was eager to get other creatives involved but, what the hell would I say?

 

IMG_20200203_172439_131
A poster for Mental Health Open Mic event. UNFILTERED, Norwich, Gonzo’s tearoom. 20th Feb, 6.30 sign up, 7pm start. Tickets £3.

The name of the event is UNFILTERED. I’m wearing a thick wet woollen coat of frustration. I would cherish the time and ears to be truly unfiltered, in the not too distant future I will, it’s just not safe to do so right now. There are some juicy details that effectively convey the part of my experience of mental health, the bits that connect people to understanding, I just can’t say them out loud right now. To tell the whole truth, would be so fricking validating. However, right now I’m not going to. The almost full story is enough. So a story is what I will produce. I have been working on pockets of narratives and visual meaning in painting and drawing for a long time, so this is going to be an enjoyable process.

Recently while discussing this frustration with a friend we looked at the ideas of truth, story and fiction. It made me think of the realisation I had some 4 years ago that NO ONE person will ever truly understand what has happened or how I feel. It’s a mind-bending universal truth. I could sit and discuss in detail a chain of real-life events, but I will never be able to get even one person to truly understand my truth. I had a hard time coming to terms with that at the time. It pissed me right off. I’d worked so hard to find my voice to find out it was never going to be able to do what I naively thought it would. I had changed my perspective enough to understand my own behaviour and emotions, I was able to create artwork that I actually understood, that I wasn’t asking an audience to decode for me. All of that felt useless in terms of my practice, in terms of saying anything out loud because what was the point of saying it out loud if everyone would interpret those words differently? I had grown up with this idea that words or text where facts, hidden inside thick books and paragraphs I struggled to read.  Art and image was something to interpret and guess about, something deliberately vague. Visual image and language was something I could do, so my dyslexic “slow coach” thought it had less value. (Which is total horse poop) I was the ripe age of 31 when at a zine fair a teacher friend reassured me that even if I miss read the words in a poem, the meaning gained from it was valid. Fuck the author. Nothing is really real, cheers Barthe, the author IS dead.

The interesting thing is, I can no longer tell THAT struggle in the same way, I have grown and evolved so much that that in its self is fiction. As I retell any given moment of my own truth, it becomes fiction. I could tell you about one moment or time frame and each time tell it more sympathetically to one of the key characters, in my understanding of how they might see and feel the environment and serries of events. Each one of those would be true, but also very much fiction.

For selfish and valid reasons, while I take up a little bit of space during UNFILTERED I will tell a tale of total fiction with so much emotional truth that it quenches that thirst to be heard and dries out the woolly coat of frustration.

WHY PAINT THAT?

A forgotten post, late to the show.

There have been fannies in what I do for decades, I dropped them while I ventured deeper into academic art establishment but it’s one of those things like the little kid in 6th sense, “I see genitals, all – the – time”. The vulva is in no way the everything about my practice, I mean, yawn, but there is something about the openings, or the thing on the inside, the space between, eyes, sockets, vulva, flesh, tissue, teeth and lips. these are a few of my favourite things….

Recently I went to a networking event where I was pointed out to someone as “the angry vagina lady”  which is fine for now. I’m there to build relationships to advance my knowledge about local business and shinanigans to further my general understanding of community and relationships in order to feed that back into the communities I’m involved in, art, parenting, education, LGBTQ+, trama informed, mental health, private and NHS, feminist, and all the cross overs in-between.

So being known as the angry vagina lady is an in, to a conversation starter, introductions and opportunities, but I will not get stuck with it because there is more to life than our bits.

Some of my paintings practice has vulva, white, some with teeth. It’s a fucking mess, it’s a process, it’s where I’m at with it right now. I got scared by the thought of using my own body as a reference, so I went with it, to play with that vulnerability, what it lead me to was a wave of almost irrational anger towards cis white male artists using in majority cis white female bodies in their work. THAT’S NOT YOURS! Bore off is my general reaction to those practices. Go paint your own body, your own veiny thighs and the delicate hairy curve of your buttocks. I’d be far more interested if you conveyed your emotions or thinking about the world with a detailed painting of your own razor burnt scrotum.

I have been legit scared of using POC flesh in my paintings practice because it’s not mine,  because I vilifying the cis white bodies I create because in the details of the private narratives of these are hideous fucking narcissistic monsters and even in the victim/survivor its all cyclical loop, intertwined. POC flesh isn’t mine……..

3 years ago I was scared of drawing halos because they aren’t mine, so I leaned into that because the 6 year old me who had to say a prayer at school every afternoon part of me decided I should. I love finding icons with their faces scratched out in corners of medieval churches on the various faux pilgrimages my most spiritual friend and I take to a most hold pilgrimage village in Norfolk. the defaced paintings showing the anger towards someone less idea, we drive each other to do peculiar things, particularly in the name of our chosen gods.  I love icon paintings because they are traditional and unchanged, stories about spectacular humans painted by humans. It was around this time I read FEMEN, I didn’t agree with a lot of what they did but I learned about Oksana Shackko @oksanashachko trained from a very early age in iconography, made a living from it by 12, left it alone for a while during her activist days but went back to it with new meaning before her death at the age of 32 last year. That smarted a bit.

 

originally this post was about “it’s a bit religious isn’t it?”

It’s not as simple as just popping a halo on them and they tell stories of humans made saints.

I’ve had mixed feelings about organised religion but love of stories, love of people now finding and voices of women and stories of women and people left only as someone’s wife or anon, too poor of status and money.

I’m telling stories, mine mostly, if my work doesn’t make you feel YEAH or EEW, that’s uncomfortable then it’s not for you, jog on.

I moved away from installations and into painting four years ago, I feel like it a lot of catch up so things like flesh painting flesh, my own was scary, I started with way too much pink. I was scared of religion too. But it been a few years and I have to practice a few things.

Here I am, mid baby said painting period, heading back to detached fleshy parts inside organs and the line between the inside and outside the vulnerability and bravery. fear and rage, saints and sinners, monsters and heroes. parents and children.

since writing this post, and leaving it for dead, not posting it, I have painted a lot of flesh, not just mine, but just for me. Don’t @ me.

 

.