Studio Visit 1, April 14
First studio visit Thursday 14th April 2022 in T24b with Simon Morris and Sonya Withers.
This was the first time I had seen the scroll unrolled to show all the drawings. These are my feelings and observations -
A delight in seeing the drawings from both sides of the mulberry paper thanks to its transparency - the drawings on the back of the paper were softer and held less of the intense yellow light of the drawings on the front side.
Surprised by how much white paper was still there and a concern the drawings didn't link up
I could see lots of variation in style... that I'd started drawing light and colour by capturing one block of colour, then the colour beside it and so forth. This was very time consuming and seemed only to happen when I was up close to the forest and could establish swathes of light and colour. As the forest moved further away from me I instinctively began drawing colour and form, morphing into representational drawings that recorded what I was seeing rather than feeling. I began by establishing the darker tones of the forest then laying over the lighter tones. This was a quicker approach and enabled me to more accurately draw the contours and forms of a forest further away but I realised later this traditional approach to painting/portraiture lost the sense of abstracted impressions of feelings I had hoped for. Ultimately, the drawings felt like they were a true record of the gradual process of embodiment between me and the forest canopy.
I was disturbed by the absence of the mountain range's distinctive reassuring profile. I had expected it to unconsciously present itself through the amalgamation and progression of the drawings. After some reflection it occurred to me that for each drawing I had begun instinctively by positioning the pencil on the paper given the angle of my arm in relation to the tilt of my head as I gazed upon the mountain forests in front of me. This relationship between arm-angle and head-tilt seemed consistent whether the mountains were near or far away - such is embodiment!!
I was intrigued by the intimate interiority created by hanging the scroll in the room - it seemed to ask what I might place there?
Really helpful feedback - Sonya spoke of the importance of drawing as a way to see and understand, and said they encouraged all textile students to practice drawing. She felt there was lots of detailed observation in each of the drawings which grounded her and drew her attention to the forests outside. She suggested the drawings felt isolated and unconnected (hope to resolve this when I add dwellings, roads, sea and land formations) and expressed concern about maps and their colonial references. Other suggestions were to shape the installation as circular rather than square as more organic; position the installation in the same compass direction as the forest (loved this as it would reflect the direction of my own movement around the forest); read Braiding Sweetgrass, written by an American Indian scientist whose attitude towards nature is one of deep respect and gratitude informed by her indigenous beliefs (have done so and will discuss in another blog); and look to William Morris and his patterns of nature as I strive to understand why humans want to bring the wilderness into their homes.
Simon felt the installation used the spatial and light qualities of the room thoughtfully and when I mentioned how difficult I found abstracting the landscape he explained a lack of a horizon line was a good place to start. His questions asked me to reflect on the process of my embodiment with the forest e.g. what does it mean to draw within the confines of a bus stop while the forest is bathing in sunshine and the natural elements? why am I asking others to share their experiences of embodiment in the forest when my thesis is of my own embodiment? what is the significance of the 3 different writing styles I had posted on the wall (a haiku, a map, and a letter to Ropu Tiaki)? These are important questions to ask myself as I consider the very nature of embodiment as a sensual sensory experience. I am toying with the idea of renaming my thesis to Between the forest, the trees, and us as this captures the generosity of the forest to all things. Simon described the treatment of the last bits of paper as theatrical and asked what it was adding to the installation, and he suggested I research other artists operating in the same field of embodiment with nature and read more about socially-engaged practices to learn the terminology of this art form.
All really helpful constructive and supportive advice to move forwards with.