Mothering Mother by Nikki Davidson-Bowman

Nikki Davidson-Bowman, " Tension Relief ", Collage and digital drawing, April 2020
Nikki Davidson-Bowman, ” Tension Relief “, Collage and digital drawing, April 2020

It started off so well. Lockdown mark one. My daughter was furloughed from her job in London and decided to come back home, and within a few days my husband was also furloughed. For the first time ever, we all lived under one roof, all at home, all supporting each other, for weeks on end; planning quiz nights, gourmet food evenings and starting and even finishing projects in the garden, as the sun shone and the birds’ tweeting got louder and louder. We shared domestic roles, fears and fun times and despite good intentions in the first weeks, I realised that I was not going to be shedding 3 stones and getting fitter. But what did happen was that I had time to play in my studio and focus on developing a new body of work for an upcoming exhibition in October. I could get totally absorbed and know that someone would be sorting out dinner or walking the dog. The house was used and abused and expanded to accommodate us all. I nurtured my youngest child, watched streamed female feminist plays with her, listened to her podcasts, she introduced us to new foods and we taught her about scrubbing patios and making a veggie garden. I never imagined she would be back living with us again and whilst we all had our ups and downs, it was 12 weeks of joyful and precious moments.

Nikki Davidson-Bowman, “I do not…….”, vintage grater, chord and found text, April 2020

By Mid June my daughter had secured a new and better job and decided to return to London, hubs went back to work and I got my house back. My quiet space. My thinking time. I met a few friends for walks and arty chats. I had 5 full days of my new normal. I delighted in the luxury of silence, that my hyperacusis prefers and space to spread out. On day 6 a phone call changed all that. My mum’s health had been deteriorating over the last year & I had been supporting and encouraging her to get to appointments – reduced mobility, poor balance, falls, increased fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. She had fallen again and this time fractured her wrist. To cut to the chase, she had to move in with us temporarily while her wrist healed but as the lock down eased, more appointments & tests confirmed my fear. Motor Neurone Disease. Her deteriorating mobility and increasing care needs meant that literally over night I had become her full time carer. My life is no longer my own. A roller coaster ride around neurology services, dietetics, respiratory, adult social care. Unknown people have started to come and go in the house and fun zoom quizzes have been replaced with meetings about occupational therapy and end of life care. Within all this my exhibition got postponed for a year.

Nikki Davidson-Bowman, The making of “My Imperfections”, Battle Great Woods, July 2020

It’s hard to write and not sound like I’m not caring. That I don’t dearly love my mother. It has felt like the final straw of what has already been the strangest of years. Forced confinement has left me feeling claustrophobic, contained and imbalanced, with the freedom to engage in the landscape and my choice of human interactions removed or reduced. My art practice and mental health has suffered; sinking into dark tunnels I did not want to revisit, dealing with anticipatory grief and experiencing anxiety about my anxiety. I’ve lost count of the people that have said things like ‘be strong’, ‘look after yourself’, ‘you’re doing an amazing job’. When you suffer with anxiety and irrational thinking, it’s hard to not fall down rabbit holes of gloom and not over worry.

Nikki Davidson Bowman – “Slipping Away” (work in progress) , December 2020, Concertina book. Paper, coffee, potato print, pen, collage.

I have been here before. I know the signs. I know it will pass but that I need to practice self-care. I started taking a form of antidepressant again. On some days it feels like a backwards step but it has brought some emotional stability but not so much that I stop feeling and responding. Instead of thinking about everyone else, on the very odd occasion when someone steps in to give me respite care, I have stepped in to my studio (which luckily is at home). I’ve decided, that when I feel like it, to make a visual diary about what’s going on. I’m only a few pages in but it’s already been a huge release. It might be something that becomes something or feeds into future work, or it might just be a place to create in response to the unknown territory I am scrambling through. It has released my stagnant creative self from within and I have found time to make. Grabbed moments mean needing to work quickly; so out in the woodland whilst walking the dog, or working on something that I can add to. This has been a great way to work – working on creating small paper sculptures as and when I have even just 5 minutes means I’m gradually adding to something that will be greater than the sum of it’s parts or working into a continuous scroll book – I have a few on the go – if I need more space I can add to – they involve drawing and collage and using materials that are readily to hand – drawing pens, ink, collage materials and coffee.

The repetitiveness of the tasks means I have a rhythm I can quickly fit back in to and lose myself. It’s not about the end results but the cathartic release of being absorbed in process. This and regular walks in deserted woodlands where nature reminds me that nothing is permanent and this time will pass.

About Nikki Davidson-Bowman

Nikki is a multimedia artist & curator, inspired by found ephemera, objects, words and natural things. Entwining documentary and reimagined versions of the truth, Nikki develops hybrid artworks about female identity, memory and rites of passage. The works, playful with a sinister undertone, provide fragmentary clues to stories of a life lived, where the artist has become the custodian of a story.

To find out more about Nikki’s work see her artists website and IG account.