Happy Holidays friends,
If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, here’s where we can catch up 😉
The idea for the final design was really concreted by a trip to the Tate Britain where I saw Leon Underwood’s Totem to the Artist. The word Totem is derived from the Algonquian word Odoodem, meaning kinship group.
The idea behind this art installation is to celebrate the mutual support and sense of kinship that develops in the National Spinal Injury Centre, between the hospital staff, therapists, patients and their families through each person’s stay in the unit.
I also want to weave together themes that are integral to the work carried out here at the centre: perseverance and determination to overcome and adjust to changed lifestyle and self-identity.
In the main foyer/waiting area there’s this brickwork column, the central support, the ‘spine’ of the building, this is where the 16 portraits will hang. Each of the collaged portraits is of someone with an inspiring story of extraordinary accomplishment living with a spinal injury. The way the portraits are displayed is intended to echo the appearance of a totem pole, which in turn echoes the appearance of a spine, a central support. And a seamlessly circular metaphor. (I like that kind best).
The images are made from hand-cut layers of silk screen prints which in turn were over-painted with repeating abstract patterns to emulate the carved designs of a traditional totem pole, and also symbolise the patience and determination required for the repetition involved physio and occupational therapies.
more photos to follow…
Following on from the More Than The Sum posts. Y’know what? this week I finally completed the project! 18 months since the initial brief, the planning, the researching, the thinking and playing began. 16 collaged portraits which will be hanging in their final home tomorrow.
Almost all art has at least one metaphor. Sometimes it’s a visual message, daft or clever, subtle or blatant. And often times it’s something that shows itself in the creative process.
This piece was always going to be heavy on the metaphor. It’s to be displayed in the reception area of the National Spinal Injury Centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital, so it will be seen by hospital staff, the patients, their families, friends and dear ones. It’ll become part of the back drop to a range of emotion – shock, fear, interminable waiting, hope, intensity, perseverance, dedication, and so much more. Purpose-wise, top level: it’s bright, colourful, and a visual distraction. Close up their road-map qualities show up and the faces almost disappear. They might be a place to get lost in for a while.
But the meaning goes deeper than that.
As you know, the collages are made from intricate screen print/drawings which was the first of the metaphors – the repeating patterns, the tiny detail – the repeated exercises of physio and occupation therapies, the gradual steps toward more independence. The incredible patience and strength of character this demands from all involved. Layer on layer of print and drawing – day after week after month of incremental progress in recovery.
The metaphor that shows up in the process: How life is so contradictory sometimes.
….apart from when looking too closely at something makes it vanish. From a distance: there it is. No doubt. Get closer and it fades out of sight. WTF? Really? Yes. Something like not being able to see the wood for the trees… perhaps.
These are some of the metaphors. Tomorrow I’ll show you the completed work, and describe the rest of the message.
Did I tell you how much I love to screen print? There’s something of an alchemy in screen printing I never knew til I began to experiment. If you enjoy an unpredictable path to imagery I urge you to give this a try if the opportunity comes your way. It’s the most magical thing!
For instance: painting the screen with Procion (fabric) dye at letting it dry, then printing with white ink on white paper, you get this kinda effect of a shadow, dimensional kinda thing.
A similar process is described here by Kerr Grabowski
Then there’s the masking off areas with torn paper, and going back to doodle in the gaps. Some overprinting and joining the overprints in the same way
White on black on white; orange and blue on monochrome, semi-opaque, translucent and solid intense blockiness. Go on, let the imagination do the running! Let the ideas fly.
Oh, but wait a mo, didn’t this have something to do with self portraits? isn’t that where we began?
Did the gecko run off with the wrong end of the conversation and get lost down another rabbit hole?
Maybe, maybe not.
Check back again and we’ll see if these loose ends can be knitted back up into something resembling a thing again. (A real thing? well, maybe, yes)
If it’s all looking a bit disparate with uncongealed ideas; If you’re still following, I commend you! And I forewarn you – it’s maybe gonna seem more scattered before it starts coming together – but bear with me…
Next step was to dismember and re-member them into new shapes and surprises. Photographed and scanned, reduced to monochrome, printed, chopped, rearranged, photocopied, resized, rechopped, glued back together. Began to look like this:
It’s taking on mappy qualities, and I like the metaphor of this too. It’s a journey of loops within loops. Mapping the ineffable unmappable.
Part number next: the silk screen printing.
Next exciting installment coming up soon 😉