Ode to Shelter

September 30, 2015 § 2 Comments


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The visual poetics had me quite breathless today at the glorious Abbey at Sutton Coutenay, Oxfordshire. My assemblage, entitled Refuge has survived 11 nights sleeping rough and today in the late Summer sunshine finds echoes in it’s surroundings. What an extraordinarily beautiful place this is. Visit if you can – open 1-5pm until Saturday 3rd October for the final days of Unravelling Time.


Underneath the Fig Tree

September 28, 2015 § 4 Comments


Sometimes fate brings the virtual to life, and so it was when, Alex Forshaw of Married with Aspergers, came to visit the Unravelling Time exhibition I’m currently participating in.

We met under a fig tree, one unusually sunny Sunday in September, and over the course of three glorious hours Alex revealed herself to be exactly as she is in her blog, yet completely and utterly different. As in all my virtual to real time encounters, I found real time Alex in one sense to be the same FaceBook and Twitter Alex I had come to know, and yet so much more vividly so than her online presence could ever suggest. I suppose that this modern phenomenon of meeting online friends is something like I imagine the experience of a favourite character from a book coming to life could be. It’s quite magical and surprising. There’s a heady blend of familiarity and discovery, a rounding out of impressions. How I longed to meet Anne of Green Gables and Mrs Pepperpot as a child! Now I was meeting Alex.

Over the past two years Alex and I have developed quite a bond. She has been incredibly generous with her time in viewing and supporting  my online projects, contributing poetry and insightful comments along the way. We’ve followed each other’s neurodivergent blogs and recently cross-blogged, sparking off ideas for posts about writing and compassion. Sometimes we meet often online, but there are also silences. Respect and clear boundaries also mark our friendship.

Viewing the exhibition with Alex (it’s a group showing by twelve artists) was a wonderful opportunity to see my fellow artists’ work in greater depth. One of the frustrations of such a disparate showing over the building and grounds of the beautiful Abbey at Sutton Courtenay has been my limited ability to fully grasp the detail behind the other artists’ work. We worked quite separately on our pieces in the run up to the show, and at the private view I was largely with guests who wanted to see and hear about my work. Being with Alex was an opportunity to make sense of it all together. Detail is not my thing, but detail is something Alex excels at.

Alex is a powerfully visual person, whose mind effortlessly grasps pattern and connection familiar to her. Immediately we happened on a major difference between us. While I am a highly visual person, I am almost pattern/system blind. The carefully prepared (not by me!) booklet about the show listing each artist seemed to me to have no particular order. Alex immediately saw that it was alphabetical. Hmm.

I found it fascinating to observe how intimately connected we appeared (and felt) in our common bonds of sisterhood on the spectrum, and yet how divergent our methods of data collection and processing seem to be. I enjoyed recognising her gift (one other family members also share) and revelling in the confidence it inspires in me. I love being with people who can read systems and are willing to share their knowledge with me at my level and without judgement.

The ability to scan and process certain information is one thing, but associative thinking is another, and it was in this sweet and fertile meadow of associative thought that we were able to truly meet and play together. Alex’s brilliance crackles all around her and she brings such careful perception to the surface in conversation that it’s a deep pleasure to be in her presence.

It’s clear Alex has a vast store of knowledge to draw on, making this kind of associative play rich and insightful – we were especially drawn to some enigmatic photographs and an intricate piece about the historical figure Empress Matilda (granddaughter of William the Conqueror). We spent time with artist Kate Hammersley and, with Alex’s help in focusing on the booklet I understood it’s brilliant reference to a painting by Magritte. We sat together in an immersive sound/video installation and eventually produced some responses with the materials provided for this purpose. I observed Alex’s geometrical tracing of surface patterns created by the play of light on water in motion to be like David Hockney’s explorations on this theme.

The gorgeous location, brimming with architectural interest and beautifully kept and bountiful greenery helped to make the day exceptionally enjoyable. But, of course, it was Alex’s company which sealed it as a most memorable occasion. It’s not every day you get to meet someone with such a powerfully gentle personality, or such polite brilliance. Thank you Alex for being so generous with your time.

After the Storm

September 27, 2015 § 7 Comments


This is a super short visual blog post. Refuge, has now spent 10 nights sleeping rough in the lovely courtyard at the entrance to the Abbey. it nestles under a vine and is shaded by a fig tree, but we’ve had several days of torrential rain in England along with unseasonably sunny weather.

Last time I visited, Refuge was glistening, all wet with rain. This time Refuge was crispy dry. I’m delighted to see the basic structure of the suitcase has held, and it’s contents are similarly perky. What I like about the process so far is that the paper lining is also still intact, though it is peeling away from the sides with a definite inward sag. It’s a clean sag too, no rips or tears (yet).

What is Memory: A Brief Meditation on Sensory Research

September 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

In my post memory project about the Spanish Civil War I use deeply intuitive methods to connect with my subject. Part research, part performance this film documents a response to viewing original documentary footage of the retreat of half a million Spanish Republicans from Spain in February of 1939.

Suitcase Shrine

September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

This video was made in my studio yesterday, as was the art piece you see at the end. I was reponding to some extraordinary footage taken in February 1939 of the retreat from Spain by half a million Spanish Republican exiles. This exodus of people has become known as the Retirada, which is also the name of the film which you can see by visiting this page: Retirada

Unbelievably moving to view scenes of this moment which was lived through by my family, but never mentioned. I am, through my project slowly gathering the pieces of the narrative and enacting rituals of repair.

I Found Shelter Under the Vine

September 18, 2015 § 2 Comments





One of my pieces for Refuge at the Unravelling Time group exhibition at The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay.


September 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

Another video in a series documenting my working process. I am a neurodivergent artist, part of a community of people whose neurology is a natural variant of the human genome. My brain works in non-neurotypical ways. There is a need for neurodivergent people to become visible and demonstrate the ways in which our wiring differs, often to our advantage. Here making is showcased as thinking. A poetic logic emerges when work develops unplanned – the kind of logic I don’t think you can ever really plan for actually.  The ability to channel unconscious processes and capture and recognise spontaneous connections is a particular strength in my practice. This represents some of my video capture over a day at my studio in Oxford. You will see that I attempt to pick up my painting practice after the long Summer break and work over an unresolved painting on board.

For a full description of my process during the making of the video you can read about it on my art blog Barcelona in a Bag.

Where Am I?

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