owl and burn for wordpress blog
since I last blogged. Picture this: I was working in the underground bunker which houses the University’s collections of organic matter (wet and dry rooms) when my father was admitted to hospital. He was given only a short time to live. We rallied round for a couple of months and then he died, at home. A short while later there was an event celebrating his life, a life filled with art and architecture, music and natural history.

His death came less than a year after my grandmother’s, a wood engraver, designer and gardener.

I haven’t been back to the underground stores. I haven’t been able to face all the dead matter. Now when I consider those collections I think of things people haven’t managed to let go of. The University has its reasons, obviously, for hanging onto them. Multiple reasons probably.

I’m trying to process what’s happened to my dad (and my gran) and my family as a whole.  I drew him as he lay ill in bed. (He agreed to it but that was so unlike him that I now feel I stole something he wouldn’t have wanted to give had he been more ‘himself’.) I seized his shirts when they were offered. The shirts, the drawing, the writing, keeping the notes I made of meetings with the local nurses, touching and re-touching his stuff: it’s all my way of holding on to something that’s gone. I’m not going to pickle it – an idea – but I have been trying to re-create with it, a bit like in the Liverpool World Museum where the stuffed lion and zebra are poised mid-chase by the watering hole. That is a re-arranging of one reality (stuffed dead animals) to create a new one. The new one is false but looks like life. We can relate more easily to it as a result.

The work I’m making now is varied. With Lol at John Moores University, I’ve burned the drawings of my father into heavy papers, combining them with a drawing of a baby owl he would have loved. (Thank you Jay at The Owl Sanctuary, Shropshire.) I cannot bring myself to frame these even, although they would be safer framed. I find them too painful to look at.

Concurrently I’ve been re-making using one grandmother’s buttons and china left by the other. These things will take on new life recorded in photo-intaglio etchings. They will look like archive material because etching has that aesthetic somehow. Since the beginning of this project I have ‘felt’ the gap between the decorative and the ‘other’ collections at the Victoria. In my life as in the lives of my father and grandmother the decorative and the natural world have always been closely linked. I’m hoping these etchings will resonate in the overlap between the two areas of study.