What different ways do we care for and protect ourselves?
How do we identify when we are not?
Can we take pride in the moments we allow ourselves to reset and recharge?
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to truly rest. How to care for yourself - body, mind, wellbeing - in an age where value directly correlates to productivity and the need to constantly be 'doing'. The works on display are my articulation of this. They represent the first time in a long time that I’ve put myself, my health and my needs first and been able to create work from a place of joy and curiosity.
'Comfort as Routine' series on display at The Brick Lane Gallery, 31/08/22-11/09/22
The last few years have been intense for us all, but from this has come a shift in our conscious thinking and how we perceive productivity. For me, the last year in particular has been quite a ride. I left my office job in Spring, in order to reconnect with my creative practice after several-many years. Leaving the 9-5 setup was long overdue but I learned that if you keep ignoring the signs from your body of severe burn-out, eventually it will force your hand!
My career has always been art-adjacent, but I was struggling to find the mental capacity and motivation to explore my own creative expression outside of work. Putting my health first and taking a break has had a hugely positive impact on my quality of life. The works on display at the Brick Lane Gallery are a result of this change of pace and learning to honour my peace.
Like a lot of creatives, I attributed more value to work which took a great toll on me. In the same way that I was allowing myself to let go and be more flexible in life, I began to apply the same logic to my process. Life drawing classes reminded me how freeing it is to make large gestural charcoal drawings. I enjoyed the challenge of capturing movement without the pressure of it needing to look like anything – it was more like visual note-taking.
I started to think about activities that boosted my mood, from small acts of care to grander splurges. I had also been collecting memes and quotes about rest and self-care for quite some time ~soft life vibes~ which started to form the basis of my research. I’ve always been interested in very personal investigations through art, particularly through the lens of Black/Mixed-race women and it felt right to use this time to really dive into what I was working through.
The works in the Comfort as Routine series are based on little moments of peace in the last year, and how I started to make these routine. I partly credit the Artists Way for this and my introduction to the concept of the ‘Artist Date’. It’s basically one day a week where you do something alone, for yourself, that appeals to your creativity and/or senses. There are a lot of other elements to the course, but this one helped me the most.
The titles of the works are borrowed from song lyrics. I’ve always felt a bit rubbish at naming things so when the lyrics ‘chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, all cool’ from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air popped into my head, I took that as a sign that I was going in the right direction with the work. Each drawing represents a key moment since I resigned.
chillin’ out: fulfilling my first Etsy shop order, a small painting of a French Bulldog.
maxin’: a selfie during a gallery run, at a point where I was regaining momentum with location drawing.
relaxin’: this was actually at the digital detox cabin and we are all going to collectively ignore that I obviously would have needed to use my phone to take this.
all cool: whenever I am ill, I binge watch Desperate Housewives season 2 specifically (the best season in my humble opinion).
The remaining portraits take their names from A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Electric Relaxation’, which is one of my favourite songs. These drawings were made from a reference video I took for the charcoal animations that you can view on Vimeo, and on Instagram.
One of the main activities that I always mustered the energy for was doing my hair. Regardless of what was going on in my life, I would always carve out the time to follow this weekly ritual. I went through the same phase most Mixed-race people go through where you obliterate your curl pattern by repeatedly putting it through processes to straighten it to assimilate. I didn't think that’s what I was doing at the time but when I think back to the comments that gently encouraged me, I can see it now.
I've learned to love and embrace my hair and the stories it holds now, and through these charcoal animations I hope to shed a little light on some of the quieter routines that ground us. This series of animation tests named 'Dip, Whip and Flip' were filmed with my iPhone using the Stop Motion app. They are A3 charcoal drawings which are worked into frame by frame. The next stage of the project will be to build up to a short film.
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