For me the art-making process is an enriching place for imagination, inquiry, empowerment, and relational connection. My art practice can be described as ‘textile mark-making’ and the process of drawing in thread arose as a way to trace the cycles of grief and loss following the death of my beloved grandmother. In an attempt to exteriorise the circuitous process of memory and mourning, I used a sewing machine to trace the void left by losing this meaningful connection.
As the virus spread and our quarantines took shape, my partner and I fell into a gentle pattern swapping childcare responsibilities to take turns solo cycling. I remember vividly one March Sunday in the early days of lockdown the heat, that somehow managed to coincide so fortunately with our bewildered new world, radiated onto the deserted suburbs of my home town of Coventry in such an embrace that in a moment, all was unreal. I always cycled very slowly so to absorb as much as possible from the environments I’d never normally have the time to visit and explore. Without work and career playing out in the same ways, with the jolt of stopping everything at once, my partner and I had never carved out so much time for each other to be alone doing nothing, and with a two year old at home in a small terrace, the only way to be alone was to go outside. I would cycle for hours to places I barely knew. I’d never looked harder.
In November 2019 I started a role working at a community gallery. It was my way back into work after being a ‘stay-at-home-mum’. My son was doing a few more kindy days and I set myself hours for art making with a self-directed Artists Residency in Motherhood. I had a plan. Then the Covid-19 global pandemic stuck.
Writing for this blog has reminded me of Cyril Connolly’s famous statement, there “is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall”, and I have to say that personally I cannot disagree more. For me the metaphorical pram (for my own four children have outgrown theirs) is the source of my art, and the hall it sat in, my home, is the focus of my work, both academic and creative. The pram is however, an object to be negotiated, as I shuffle past it with my intentions held high.
When I was suddenly thrust back into full time domesticity after losing my full-time job in late February and then school closures in mid-March, I decided to start an Artist Residency in Motherhood as a way to restructure this time, this change into something productive, something I had control over. Art has always served this purpose in my life, providing a way to funnel my experiences and regain control over my perception of them.
As a single parent, I have to stay strong and be my four children’s rock. I’ve been a lighthouse in the storm many many times in the past 13 years, but this is the strangest storm so far. I have coping mechanisms not to crumble, but I dread to think what would happen if I started to fail at that.
It’s 23rd March 2020; all UK residents must now stay at home to protect the NHS amid the growing threat of coronavirus. I talk on the phone with a close friend who is pregnant and we wonder what it will be like giving birth during ‘lockdown’. She is anxious and I am longing to go to her.