Monday, 20 January 2014

Helen Sargeant - Dana and Dexter can you please show me the way back to painting? ♥

Helen Sargeant is a visual artist I met through the Desperate Artwives project. Close but yet so far apart (Helen lives in West Yorkshire), we have now become friends; communicating regularly and exchanging ideas and visions of our common worlds. We share a passion for combining art and our family lives. 

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of taking part in Helen's blog with my "Egg surprise" work and today she is featuring in mine! Thank you Helen!

Dana and Dexter can you please show me the way back to painting? 
By Helen Sargeant

Both kids at school. PHEW. A mad morning, they always are, but this one was especially bonkers as Sydney my eldest son forgot his cooking ingredients so probably too nice mum made a mad dash to high school for him to drop off his ingredients, so he didn’t get a formal warning. Kettle on the boil, washing up still piled up in the sink, hair still wet and in a tangle, front room looking like world war three has hit it. Friday has arrived.

Yesterday evening, led by the fullness of the moon, with the rush hour against me, alone, I drove  to The Hepworth in Wakefield to listen to Dana Shutz in conversation with Dexter Dalwood. Her exhibition currently on at The Hepworth is her first in the UK. Dana is an amazingly cool american painter, one who I have always admired. I enjoy the humour and naughtiness in her work, how she combines figuration and painterly gesture. I loved this painting in the exhibition of a woman shaving her pubic hair the marks in the work are beautifully crafted, I can see how she has rehearsed the marks, how it has been orchestrated.

Dana Shutz, Shaving
The conversation between the two painters about their shared practice and experiences of painting was joyous. Their words, looking at her paintings, being in the gallery, was so inspiring, and it whisked me back to a world of turpentine and canvas. I have a burning desire, a yearning to get back to being a painter. My old canvases lie like sleeping beauty under my bed gathering dust waiting to be woken up and unravelled.  Will I ever get back there ? I have my studio, my canvas, my paint, tons of drawings, ideas, collages to work from, but I can't afford stretcher bars yet, not until I get a new job, some funding, a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Its always a money and time thing. A chicken and an egg situation. I thought that I might just staple the canvas to the walls of the studio then move it onto stretchers when I am able, but really I need the bounce and resistance of the canvas. I want to be professional. When I begin, I want everything to be in place, planning is part of it, part of the process of making. 

So why has it taking me so so long to simply paint? How many excuses have I made to myself, the drawing cannot go on for ever, there has to be some resolution, some transformation. Its what I feel passionate about, what really drives my thinking, my desire to make. I need to smell the turpentine, mix the colours, feel the alchemic qualities of the media, play with paint.

Dexter Dalwood said “Paint doesn’t care how you feel”. This really struck a cord with me. I have been allowing feelings to get the better of me, to sabotage what needs to be done. Creating art work is a critical, intellectual activity that requires perseverance, passion and hard graft. Thing is being a mum is very very  physically and emotionally draining and it too is just as demanding as arts practice, you can't just clock off. It's a challenge to compartmentalise, to order, to find space and time to be creative. But have I used becoming a mother as an excuse ? 

I am interested in what is possible, how creative processes and ways of making change on becoming a mother. How being a mother effects and affects my practice. I am interested in working towards finding ways to incorporate my children, being with them, caring for them into the work that I make. Trying not to get frustrated with the interruptions, learning to be with my children in the moment, to learn from them. I love watching Naoise draw, at four he is especially uninhibited and just loves to move marks around a piece of paper, sometimes they become cars sometimes people. I want to make childish paintings about an adult world. About the world that me and my sons inhabit. I want to reinvestigate ideas around the body the body of the woman the body of the mother, the body of the child.

Helen Sargeant, Grinding your teeth, Digital Collage, 25cmx25cm, January 2014
When I was a student in my final year of the painting programme at Winchester School of Art, I made a terrible and hilariously naïve painting. It was of a woman giving birth. The birth comprised of a ginger bread baby dropping out into the space of the canvas from grossly enlarged fleshy pink labia opening wide like shopping mall doors. Sacha Craddock kindly pointed out to me that the image that I had depicted was nothing at all what birth is like. She was spot on, it was awful. I was trying to paint about a subject that I had no direct experience of. At the time I was interested in the body, identity, sexuality, transgression. Yes the painting was rubbish, but the fact that I wanted to investigate a universally important subject, was ambitious, it was heartfelt.

This is where I want to go back to. I want to pick up the paints from where I left off  together with the experiences that I now hold as an artist who is a mother of two boys muddling through life, making it up as I go along.

Helen Sargeant, Bird Woman, oil painting on canvas, 180x150cm, 1994

I paint, I draw, I make, I write, I mother, I am.

Helen Sargeant

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