Belonging & Memory

I’ve always used moving as a mental escape, as a way to make the present better. The series of paintings I worked on last Autumn are part of this. The act of painting from memory involves accessing memories, delving into a world in my mind of visceral feelings from my past, and portraying them on the canvas. The memories go from loose things in my head to a recorded, reliable, materialised object.

The moment A Lesson In Moving’ came together I was taken aback. Something in the painting clicked and looking at the painting suddenly brought back my time on the island. Standing in front of it I was confronted with mess – the good and bad and everything in between. It’s funny, I was painting memories to escape, but when the painting came together, I could not escape into it, because the painting describes the sticky, tangled experience rather than a pristine, rose-tinted ideal. 

I have painted something true, and therefore pulled it out of being escapism. 

It’s painful to look at. I’m looking directly at my memory, I’m taken back there when I look at it, I don’t like the memory, I don’t like the reminder. 

This painting seems to contain a lesson: the past can’t hold salvation from the present. This painting has taught me something.

Writing about the past often places one at risk of evoking a nostalgia that simply looks back with longing and idealizes. Locating a space of genuineness, of integrity, as I recall the past and endeavor to connect it to the ideals and yearnings of the present has been crucial to my process.

Belonging: A Culture of Place by Bell Hooks

In questioning why I am painting memory I am learning about ‘the ideals and yearnings’ of my present. I feel ‘A Lesson In Moving’ is closer to being ‘a space of genuineness’ only when I admit the longing and ideals it was made with.

I have always thought my work was concerned with belonging. As an undergrad it was general, academic – British identity, finding a connection to a distant past. As I have gotten older and my practice matured with it, it has become more personal. To the point now where I am questioning my approaches and attitude to life through my practice. I am learning about myself and my habits! I feel I am peering at myself through my work like never before.

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