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Hinterland Preview & Reflections

It’s been a while since the installation and preview of HINTERLAND at Black Swan Arts gallery, and I still feel a little shell shocked from the extraordinary response the exhibition has received so far.

According to gallery records, some 150+ people came to the preview over the course of the evening, no mean feat for a small market town in Somerset! The preview was a whirlwind of emotions for me: relief to have pulled it off in time, exhaustion from the many hours of physical and emotional work, exhilaration to finally be sharing the fruits of my labour, vulnerability for exposing such personal inner processes to the world, and huge love from feeling the support and appreciation in the room. It was a deeply touching and truly memorable evening and weekend for me.

Installing the work at Black Swan Arts

Pre-preview talk to the gallery stewards, explaining the background to the work

Perhaps the most special and unexpected aspect of the preview was the atmosphere, which was celebratory but intense at the same time. Many people were visibly moved by the work and accompanying text, and I had more than a few tearful exchanges with people. Some visitors even had to leave as they found the experience too intense, needing a quieter moment to absorb and reflect.

Since the preview I have been approached in the street and have received emails and messages from people moved to share intimate and touching stories from their own family history, often accompanied by tears; either choked back or freely flowing. I feel truly humbled by this response, and I feel privileged to be allowed to witness these very human of emotions. I had not anticipated such a strong reaction, and it has left me wondering how to hold that energy and how to be with it.

A great turn-out for the preview, with some 150+ people attending over the course of the evening

Perhaps it is the general concept behind the work, this shared nature of our human suffering, the recognition deep inside of the impact that it has on us, as well as the lack of any formal rituals of healing around it, that seems to have caught the imagination of those who have responded so strongly to my work. At times the nature of this work has seemed very self-indulgent. But judging from the response I have had to the show so far, there is a real need to engage with this subject matter. We all have a place to take in a long line of ancestors. It is what connects us all.

With HINTERLAND curator Hans Borgonjon (top left)

HINTERLAND has been, and still is, a very personal and emotional journey for me. Just because the work is ‘out there’, doesn’t mean the work has finished. It has been interesting for me to observe how my relationship with the work is constantly changing, and how, now that it is out of my hands, it is leading a life of its own.
My studio is small, and it has been a logistical challenge to create some of the larger pieces in the show. Each time a piece was made, I had to put it aside in a corner, or store it in boxes, so I didn’t see all the work together in one space until I took it to the gallery. Throughout the year, I had carried ideas about the way these pieces should be installed, and where they should be in relation to each other. But as soon as I unpacked them in the gallery, they chose their own position.

I have come to realise that as well as the conscious choices made during the making process, many subconscious ones were happening on a deeper level. Now the work is in the public domain and people are asking me questions and sharing their observations with me, I am beginning to pick up on a whole new layer of meanings hidden within the work.

But this work is not over yet. There are still many stories to be told. I always intended to work with the ancestors on both sides of my family, and I haven’t managed to get around to that yet. Extraordinary events have taken place on my mother’s side of the family too, weaving in and out of the story (and country) of my father’s side of the family. It is also the side of the family that my artistic gene comes from, with many generations of talented artists and crafts people and I want to pay homage to them. I am figuring out ways in which I can carry on with this work, coupled with the reality of earning a living to support my family. What shape it is going to take I am not sure yet, but my Patreon page will remain open for the time being and I will write more about this in future posts soon.


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