I had a useful session with a fellow coach at my Association for Coaching meeting last week. She helped me to get my thoughts straight on the artwork that I’m doing. I wanted to work out what this ‘childhood’ project is about – and the theme that kept being repeated was ‘memory’. I’ve written up my thoughts on this, and in the process have got loads more ideas. Here is my ‘work in progress’ artist’s statement:-
In my work, I’m exploring the way that we build and rebuild our personal memories, particularly of childhood. I’m interested in the way that memory both influences, and is influenced by, our present.
Memory is ephemeral, intangible, and impossible to grasp clearly, especially our earliest memories which may be incomplete or out of focus. We may be unsure what exactly it is that comprises a particular memory. Do we remember our actual physical sensory experience, or is our memory comprised of visual images we constructed from stories told by others, or from photographs that we have seen? Yet despite the untrustworthiness of memories, they can have a significant influence on how we view ourselves – on who we think we are, where we think we’ve come from, the type of person that we view ourselves as, and the way we relate to other people.
Our childhood is often referred to as a ‘formative’ period, but what does this mean? By revisiting, re-questioning and rebuilding our memories, can we re-form if we choose to? And can we construct or reconstruct our present in the same way as we construct our memories of the past?
In this project, I aim to reconstruct memories from my own early childhood. This is a time that I have little or no sensory memory of. It is also a time of frequent displacement, as we moved frequently with my Dad’s RAF job. I aim to use childhood photographs, stories, and actual artefacts (such as my childhood dolls and early drawings) to visually reconstruct my early memories.
I am also interested in the places that I spent my early childhood – places that I don’t remember at all, but that I can see in early photographs. How does focusing on tangible sensory detail of things and places influence memory? How does place influence our sense of who we are? By focusing on the people who shared my early years, and on my physical surroundings, I aim to put those early memories into a wider context and explore how this influences my view of the past.
I aim to explore visual ways of representing memory – fragments, colours, forming and reforming, shaping and reshaping. I hope to communicate the multi-faceted, sensory and fragmented nature of our earliest memories. I am also experimenting with the use of textiles to symbolise the construction process. This is symbolic for me, as many of my toys and clothes (visible in the photos) were handmade by my Mum. Also, the physical process of working with threads and fabrics brings back memories in itself, as I learned needlework from my Mum, Gran, Nanna and Great Aunt, and spent much of my childhood performing needlework crafts alongside them.
Other artists that I’m researching who seem to deal with memory, childhood, and identity construction include Tracey Emin, Helen Chadwick, Paula Rego, Ilya Kabakov, Emma Kay, Veronica Ryan, and Louise Bourgeois.