carole cluer

Art, hope and self acceptance

The Archive of Created Histories and Imagined Futures

A new direction to my practice prompted by an elective called Drawing from the Archive.

Throughout history objects have been worshipped, treasured and reviled. We use them to bring us luck and to traverse time and space to revisit the past or conjure up the presence of a loved one.  We all own an object who’s value to us far exceeds its material one.

I have talked previously about the properties of the art object but could it stand in place of the original or even to fulfil the need of an imagined object. Whether by giving a materiality to an internal longing it satisfies the original desire.

Are the only valuable artefacts authentic ones and the only precious memories true ones?

We often see the world us around as solid and material but in fact our reality is stitched together with the unproven, the believed. One of the things that makes  humans unique is our ability to believe in the unseen, to create the unbelievable and then have faith in its existence.

Our capacity to imagine and give life to those imaginings has led to our greatest moments in history but also is the source of our darkest shame.

Every scientific discovery starts with a ‘what if’, but also every war is bolstered by hollow justifications that are weaved into a false reality that perpetuate fear and hate.

Imagine an archive where they are tasked with storing and preserving all these imaginings, good and bad, responsible for protecting the most fragile and containing the most virulent fabrications of the human mind. Some like the oldest religions will have survived for thousands of years but others like a childhood ambition will soon fade away as adult concerns crowd in on that individual.

As part of the elective I created a piece of work called Finding Jonathan, the first item in my archive. It was prompted by a photo I found in The Royal Derbyshire Hospital’s archive but I am going to blog about that separately.

To report on my work I decided to continue to experiment and present in character, something I have never done before and wasn’t exactly looking forward to. Dressed in a white lab coat I became the head archivist for the  department called Individual Archive with a particular interest in Personal Longing. The items found in this section are created through hope and love and are some of the most delicate and ephemeral artefacts. I created a reception with a drawn phone, bell and in-tray, in my pocket were drawn pencils and scissors and I handed out a drawn pamphlet to my ‘induction members’. Because everything I do begins with graphite on paper it seemed right that my imaginings would be drawn, hopefully it helped to introduce a sense of ‘otherness’ and an element of fun to what might have been quite a sombre piece of work

Leaflet

Leaflet

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office equipment

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lab coat

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first entry into archive

It was just a short presentation but even though I was nervous it really helped me to test the idea, it would be wonderful to be able to expand this area of my practice further.

Lydy 2

The first year of my MA course is finished and I have started the process of catching up with my ‘real’ life, apart from the boring stuff – tidying and gardening etc. I thought I would finally update my rather sporadic blog. I am also busy working on something for an exhibition in the New Year, its really exciting and will flex my non drawing muscles! Hopefully I will have something to show for that soon too.

Anyway back to my drawings of Lydy, I posted my first completed portrait a few months ago but  have been slightly distracted from my original intention to complete a series of drawings by the requirements of my course but at last I have finished my second portrait of Lydy.

One of the modules on my course concerns drawing from archives, it took me off in a whole other direction. A complete surprise but totally wonderful, as soon as I figure out how to present it I will post up my work.

I took my first drawing back to show Lydy who fortunately was happy with my first attempt and graciously agreed to sit for me again. This time around it really did feel like I knew her better and I do think this second portrait feels different although perhaps I need time to work out exactly how,perhaps we were both more relaxed.

I hope you like it.

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New Work – Portrait of Lydy

I just wanted to show you my first work in what hopefully will become a series. As with all my pictures I want to apologise for the quality, its really tough getting a good clear photo of a 100 x 70 cm drawing, they always come out too dark without the full contrast, but I hope you can get the idea.

If you would like to see the real thing it is being displayed at Sheffield Hallam University along with some of my other work on the second floor of Cantor Building.

It is a portrait of a wonderful woman called Lydy whose
bravery, already tested beyond the experience of most of us, has extended to allowing a stranger to draw her.

I am extremely grateful for her generosity and graciousness which I hope I have begun to capture.


I will soon begin the next drawing which Lydy sat for after seeing this portrait for the first time, hopefully using the process of drawing to get to know her better and to extend my work into other media.

Any feedback would be really useful, especially if you manage to see it for real!

Thank you

A Blank Piece Of Paper

Yesterday I started my first ‘proper’ drawing since my degree show.

My summer had been filled with making photograms for a couple of exhibitions and so I hadn’t really drawn for a couple of months. Okay I had been to life drawing and doodled a little bit but not really drawn. My drawings can take a long time, somewhere along the process  I always forget to record how long but about fifty plus hours, that’s a long time to spend on something that you might be disappointed with.

I have been deciding on the subject and pose for a few weeks now, looking at photos, choosing and discarding but now that I have started my MA I felt I had to commit to actually doing something.

Yesterday was the day of reckoning, I got up early and taped my paper to the board … then I took it down, it didn’t look right.  I lined my board … and took it down, it was creased. By midday I was ready to go, no, I needed to recheck my plans for another hour before I placed my pencil on the paper and made my first mark.

Why do I find a blank piece of paper so scary?

Its because I know that my work will never be as perfect as it is the moment before I actually start. In my imagination I draw with a talent that I can never replicate in reality.

I think a lot of us are afraid of failure and it can sometimes feel safer to find excuses to not try rather than risk discovering that we just aren’t good enough, but you know if we do that we will never discover that we are good enough.

It took me a long time to try at what I really wanted to do with my life, to believe I was worth the effort of trying, I am not sure yet if I have succeeded.

But you know, just like with my drawing, I can always try again.

New Exhibition, New Journey

Well I know I am never going to get an award for the most updated blog, hats off to those who manage to fit in regular updates in their busy lives!

The summer has flown by, filled with family, but now with my son back at uni and my daughter beginning a new life with her first job in Cornwall I need to focus on my own work.

My summer hasn’t been completely devoid of art however and that is my first piece of news, last Thursday air arts launched their 2012/13 season with an exhibition in The Royal Derby Hospital and I am lucky enough to be part of it.

I am showing seven of my solar photograms, the theme is light relief and so fits perfectly with this part of my practice that explores how we use objects to comfort and reassure us during difficult times and is obviously completely dependent on sunlight for its creation. Interestingly each artist was given an object from Derby Hospital’s archives that linked with their work as part of the Hidden Histories project.

This exhibition is especially important for me because ultimately it is where i want my work to be seen, by the public, in their everyday life to hopefully connect with them during times of uncertainty.

The exhibition has been beautifully curated by Antoinette Burchill with a wide variety of work by other very talented artists and will be on display in the hospital until March, if you are in the area go and have a look, you will find my work on level 1 near  maternity.

You can read more about the work of air art at http://airarts.net/  and the Hidden Histories project http://hiddenhistories.tumblr.com/

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My other news is that I am about to start my Masters in Fine Art, I am excited, scared, nervous and disbelieving, who would have thought that when I went to that small informal outreach lesson comfortingly called ‘Drawing for the Terrified’  that I could have got a degree never mind been accepted on a masters course.  I think if someone had told me then that that was a possibility I would have been too overwhelmed to continue but I have been incredibly lucky to have had really supportive tutors, each encouraging me on to the next step.

I think that is the wonderful thing about life, you never know what it holds for you, there was a time when I worried whether I would see my children grow up, I worked in an office to fit around family life and wondered if I could draw.

I am doing what I dreamed of when I was fifteen, it s a little late but perhaps sweeter for it, and shines brighter because it is a consequence of the darkest time of my life.

I know now that no one has any guarantees in life but also that if you look there are always new and wonderful things to see and experience, although sometimes these may be small and fleeting they are precious and glorious.

Exhibition

I am currently exhibiting in a gallery in the village Stoke Mandeville at Obsidian Art.

The theme is the Four Seasons and when I first read the invite to apply it felt like the ideal opportunity for me, close enough to one arm of my current practice using photograms to feel relevant but with enough movement to allow me to create new work.  As I think I have said before I have been experimenting with a new method to save my photograms that preserves the original colours and have begun to digital manipulate them to intensify the image. This is the first time that I have  inverted and changed them in order to hopefully better portray the mood of the image.

I hope you like them

http://www.obsidianart.co.uk/exhibitions/seasons.html

Waiting and working and news

Life is odd at the moment, I have that feeling I have forgotten something or left the iron on, a kind of out of sorts feeling that you can’t quite catch to consider.

I am waiting for my degree results, after three years of pressure and stress my life is weirdly empty, real life has rushed in to fill the void, how did I ever manage to clean the house, shop, cook, meet people before when it takes all day now? My mind is full of what will be my next step, the MA, teacher training, life as an artist, I will have to make a decision very soon, up until now I have been nudged along step by step without really thinking of what I will do in the future. The future has arrived and I need to decide.

I am forever searching for opportunities and that is my news.

I have been accepted for an exhibtion at Royal Derby Hospital in September, the theme is light and I will be showing some photograms. I have 7.3 m of wall by the maternity ward, it thrills me to think that my work might be seen by people who are going through such a momentous time in their lives.

I have developed my process so that they are more vibrant than previously and am experimenting with digital inversion. I have put a few of my experiments below. I am pretty pleased with them and very excited about showing in a ‘proper’ (non university) show.

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UnBroken – Contemporary Kintsugi

I have written before about my love of the Japan craft of repair called kintsugi, if anyone is interested I have a page dedicated to it here.

For me it is the perfect combination of skill and endeavour, the search for perfection and the acceptance of imperfection.

It has a beauty that is dependent on the very faults it seeks to repair, not by hiding those cracks but by celebrating them as part of the life of the bowl.

The question was how to make such an ancient craft my own.

It has been such an influence in the whole of my practice it seemed important to include it in my final exhibition, the question was how. I had been experimenting with throwing bowls that I then scarred myself but they lacked the history of a repaired object.

I wanted an object that everyone could identify with and inspired by British artist Lubaina Himid’s  use of  blue and white china I decided to use it. I am sure we have all eaten off of a blue and white plate, if not at home then at our grandparents or in a quaint tea room. They may not be to our taste but they are part of our lives so I hoped we could all identify with them. Also we all have had experience of breaking a cup or a plate and throwing it away without a second thought.

My plates are not joined perfectly, the cracks have been widened, placing them under stress before repair.

They are healed but altered.

Finally rather than gold I gilded them with graphite pencil after all it has been pencil rather than gold that has healed me.

I placed them alongside my self portrait at scar level to draw your eye along towards the book where the plates echo the round ink dots, each of which represent a broken and altered life.

The title, Unbroken, draws from the definition of maintaining spirit and resilience, of surviving, and a more playful, and grammatically incorrect!, un broken as in repaired.

“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”         

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Degree Show Open!

Last Friday evening, our degree show opened for its private view, after three years of hard work, soul searching and challenges it was over. Looking back at the fifteen year old who was persuaded to give up on her dreams of art college it seems at once like yesterday and a life time ago. I can’t quite believe I have finally done it. There is a saying that trying one new thing a day keeps you young, well it feels like I have been doing that for the last five years, ever since I stepped into my first class, aptly named ‘Drawing for the Terrified’ determined to see ‘if I could draw’ and petrified that I would find that I couldn’t. Thanks to some great tutors I have been encouraged  and nudged on to each new step right up to now when hopefully I will soon graduate.

One of the best things about being on the course has been the other students, I am not sure what they think about having older colleagues but they have always been supportive and encouraging and they have opened up my world and made me feel just like another student. At a time when my views could have narrowed and hardened they have made me see things through younger eyes, they are funny, clever and inspiring.

Anyway, Friday night was great, I talked to lots of interesting people,saw great art, drank a little too much and got an award!  The award for lifelong learning, a complete surprise and I am thrilled because if nothing else (and there is loads more) the course has taught it is never too late to start and you should always keep trying – and learning.

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I will write a post about my plates and book over the next couple of days

Our exhibition is part of Sheffield Hallam’s Creative Sparks 2012 and runs between 6-23  June, 10-4, Mon to Sat.

I am exhibiting at the S1 Artspace Gallery, 120 Trafalar Street, Sheffield,S1 4JT.

If you are nearby please pop in.

http://www.shu.ac.uk/creativespark/visit.html


Self Portrait

For the last eighteen months I have been drawing portraits of people with scars. I have wanted them to be a celebration of imperfection and a counter to what sometimes gets mistaken for society, you know the magazines and films where the already surgically perfected get airbrushed into impossible proportions. There is a unique and geniune beauty about someone who has lived a life and who has come to accept what that life has made them, who accepts all the physical and emotional scars that life has drawn across their body and soul as proof of a journey taken.  I have always known that I am interested in this because of the many scars I have and how difficult I find applying this philosophy personally – I find I am always less tolerant with myself than others.

Anyway, I soon began to realise that each portrait I drew had an element of self portrait in it, I was circling around something I was too scared to execute.  All those wonderful people who agreed to let me draw them were so much braver than me.

At Christmas I drew my first self portrait, it was for my Jan assessment so when it came to having to display it I chose a dark corner in the basement of our studios and hoped no one would notice it. It made me feel physically sick to show it.  I  soon realised it was a pretty bad drawing, I was so scared of  actually looking at myself Ihad rushed it so when it came to deciding what to do for my final degree show I knew I had to redraw it – properly this time.

I have taken twice as long to draw this picture than I usually do, really focusing on each centimetre. In the next few days I have got to hang it in the gallery, that is going to be the toughest bit and I am  not sure how late I will leave it.  A scar isn’t just a mark  on your skin it is the story of a moment in your life. For me, my scar represents what I hate the most about myself, the fear that keeps me awake at night and is the thing that somehow makes me feel ashamed, I can’t quite believe I am going to stick it on a wall and let people see it – let people judge me.  I have to remind myself that it also represents what I feel most proud about myself, what I have endured and survived and the example I want to show my daughter and son.

If I feel like this it might seem weird to you that I am posting this, but I am just sitting in my study typing, alone, this is me just dipping my toe into the water, any reactions are distant and removed. Real life begins on the 1st of June when the exhibition opens.

Its not the best photo but I hope you can see it well enough,it’s a little over life sized and I have framed it with glass so that the viewer can see their reflection over the drawing