Drawing Together

MrJL1

Drawing Together


.

The Artists

Elizabeth Adeline

Deborah Aguirre Jones

Lucy Austin

Susi Bancroft

Frances Bossom

Beth Carter

Kirsty Claxton

Annabelle Craven-Jones

Alice Forward

Eleanor Glover

Luci Gorell Barnes

Celia Hastie

Éilis Kirby

Nancy Murphy Spicer

Gill Nicol

Rebecca Swindell

Clare Thornton

www.elizabethadeline.co.uk

www.deborahaguirrejones.co.uk

Visual artist

Artist researcher

Artist

www.bethcarter.co.uk

Artist, researcher, facilitator

Artist

www.re-title.com/artists/alice-forward.asp

www.eleanor.glover.freeuk.com

www.lucigorellbarnes.co.uk

Therapist/teacher/facilitator

www.eakenterprises.org

www.murphyspicer.com

www.lightsgoingon.com

www.rebeccaswindellart.com

www.clare-thornton.blogspot.com

ISBN 978-0-9557079-4-0


Drawing Together

1

This project grew out of a series of creative sessions within the

Pathways Programme run by Creativity Works, for women residents

of a medium secure unit in the South West – a project which I have

coordinated since 2009. These women have invited a wide range of

artists to facilitate their regular Sunday art group over the past 2½

years, doing activities such as photography, graffiti, poetry, papiermâché,

collage, ceramics, jewellery, food sculpture and animation.

In coordinating these sessions, I was occasionally frustrated

to hear that, when asked what art form they wanted to do next,

the women’s preferred activity was often card making. My artist

sensibilities were challenged by this; sticking transfers onto blank

cards didn’t feel inventive enough.

I soon realised, however, that the card making itself was only a

detail, their means to an end. Every card was made for a particular

person; it contained a message which was part of a particular

interaction. ‘Thank you’, ‘You’re So Special!’, ‘Sorry’, ‘I Love You’.

Momentous and everyday events were marked, friendships were

created and confirmed, relationships mended and kept alive, all with

the help of the cards being made. Things were being said that may

not have been.


2

Far from being a distracting time-filler, the activity was an

important part of the women residents’ wider lives.

In devising the project for this residency I connected the

possibilities of communication and dialogue with questions that

interest me as an artist:

Does art communicate?

How might different types of art-making speak to one another?

The basic process of Drawing Together looked like this:

––

Ten drawing sessions were run with women from Teign Ward

and Eden House

––

Participants were invited to make an A5 drawing

––

Each of these drawings was taken to an interested

contemporary woman artist who had accepted the project’s

protocols and guidelines

––

They drew a reply which was returned to the participant

––

In some cases this developed into an image-based

conversation for up to 9 drawings

The project was well received by those taking part with a lot of

people wanting to be involved. As the interactions developed, there

was an easy enthusiasm on all sides. In one setting the sessions were

full of talk and laughter, with the whole group taking an interest in the

interpretation of each others’ received drawings. In the other setting,

drawings were done quietly with occasional comments, sharing and

affirmation. The contemporary artists drew alone, in their own

studios, and were not aware of how the other drawn conversations

were unfolding.


Once an exchange got under way it happened of its own volition.

There was an understanding, a straightforwardness about what

needed to be done. Someone’s sent me something, I’ll send them a reply.

I felt it was important to be attentive to people and clear about

the process whilst keeping a light touch in my role as go-between,

intermediary, artist and companion. Running sessions, delivering and

collecting drawings, and having conversations with artists along the

way, I have tried to be a catalyst and a connecting thread.

The women received their drawings with excitement and

anticipation. Seeing people open their envelopes, I watched their

careful deciphering of the drawing; they seemed to be questioning

it or puzzling it out, as if they were solving a riddle. What’s she saying

to me? There were comments about any interpretation being one

of many possible interpretations. Sometimes a woman sat quietly

looking at her drawing for a while, then I’d see a puzzled frown melt

into a grin or a nod as something in the drawing revealed itself and

a meaning fell into place. Listening and watching as the different

relationships unfolded was a joy.

There was a sense of each person being individually received

as themselves, as people; the drawing was evidence that they

were given careful, responsive attention, that they were noticed,

acknowledged and affirmed.

The artists talked with me about receiving their drawings and

choosing how to make a reply. One talked at length about the quality

of a single line in the drawing she’d received and based her reply on

that. Another described how she saw aspects of her own life in the

image that had been sent. While a drawing was often considered for

a few days, many of the artists said they chose to reply spontaneously,

acting on a gut response rather than ‘thinking too much’. A few

described to me a sense of care and responsibility, and an awareness

of the power of images.

3


4

“How responsible are you for the responses of other people to

your images?

Images have an immediate ability to enter the conscious and

sub-conscious mind fast and deeply.” (SB)

This consideration was heightened where the content of a

drawing they’d received was emotionally raw.

Pleasure, optimism, openheartedness, humour and adventure

also featured strongly;

“My first drawing rendered me surprised by joy! The image …

was almost a shock because it appeared so open…” (SB)

Mirroring, contrasts, affirmation and surprise can all be seen,

particularly in the longer exchanges, as the conversations unfold

into what seems to be familiarity and understanding between one

individual and another. The drawing conversations echo how we

encounter each other; sometimes with trepidation and sometimes

with a recognition of ‘I see you’. Some of the conversations end full

of confidence and joy; others with the faltering and hesitant tone

of a gradually emerging trust.

Being able to draw (whatever that means) doesn’t really come

into it – being able to listen does.

Deborah Aguirre Jones

October 2011


Drawing Inferences

5

Talking to no one is strange,

Talking to someone is stranger

Kevin Coyne, 1971

Humans are social beings. We need to talk to each other, to share

feelings, ideas and experiences, to find common ground and build

solidarity.

Our mental health depends on interaction, which is why solitary

confinement, except for very short periods, is widely considered a

form of torture. We learn to understand ourselves, and others, by

talking things through. Without language, we’re borderline human.

And yet talking can be risky, even perilous.

You might be in danger, yeah,

If you say too much in this world

It’s so easy to say the wrong thing, to put your foot in it, to

wound someone or in turn face judgement and hurt. Even the most

assured can be tongue-tied in unfamiliar situations. Some need a


6

lifetime to find the confidence to speak; others lose it through

painful experience.

If we need to talk but are fearful of opening our mouths, we’re

cornered.

Art can help us out of that dead end, which is one reason for its

existence. It lets us say things we can’t – or won’t – put into words

precisely because they aren’t said; they’re suggested, implied, inferred

and open to interpretation.

Art is a safe place to share thoughts and feelings because

everything is deniable. ‘You see it like that? Well, how interesting, but it’s

not what I had in mind…’

We can hide behind the idea that the work speaks for itself, which

it does, of course; but what is it saying?

Whatever art is saying nowadays, it often seems to say it

very loudly. It’s true that artists invented rhetoric, and having the

confidence to broadcast oneself can be seen as part of the job:

hectoring the world with a bullhorn.

But there are other, more intimate ways of making art, and they

are sometimes more profound. They don’t shout or draw attention

to themselves. They take time, but they repay it with unfolding layers

of meaning.

All art is a dialogue between the creator – the person who makes it

– and the recreator, the person who sees, reads, hears, feels, thinks

and imagines it.

What we call art – a picture, story or song – is just a link

connecting two minds. That connection is usually limited because

the recreator cannot return anything to the creator. It is, after all,

one of art’s capacities to enable communication across space and

time between people who don’t or can’t know one another.


7

This project is different. It makes the partners in artistic dialogue

equal because each is both creator and recreator, a drawer and an

interpreter of drawing.

And it is the untrained, nonprofessional artist who starts, who

creates a space for sense and who sets its tone. The invitation made

to a professional artist, to respond to something made by another,

is already a subversion of the normal relationship between artist

and public.

But then the artist’s response requires its own answer, like a letter

from a friend. It’s not an email or text that appears – ping! – and gets

an instant message back. This drawing is on paper and like a letter it

must be physically carried from one hand to another.

That takes time and it gives time – time to reflect, to wonder,

to imagine. Time to get to know one’s correspondent through the

images they offer. Time to think through what to share and how

to share it.

But first you must decide what’s being said and, since this is a

drawing not a letter, that’s open to question. Curiously, though, the

ambiguity is not threatening: it’s liberating. No honest, open response

to a drawing is ‘wrong’: there can be no misunderstanding. So what

goes back, after careful study of each image, is a truthful reply. And

that in turn invites a reply…

The exchange of drawings, like all gifts, creates obligations. You

must give something in return, not just a picture but, in it, something

of yourself. You must give a little trust, a little truth. And so the

threads of relationship are plaited and strengthened until, like

climbers, we’re ready to trust our weight to them.

There are always people on the margins of society. The strong take

their places in the sun, uncaring or unconscious of where falls their

shade. Those who can speak, and are listened to, easily take that gift

for granted. They may believe that others, if they’re noticed at all, are

silent from weakness or choice. Things are not so simple.


8

And even if they were, everyone is still entitled to take part in the

endless human conversation: listening in is not enough. It’s a bit like

solitary confinement, with the sounds of everyday life drifting through

the bars.

Art can be exclusive too; it’s not immune from the forces that

shape the rest of human experience. But it doesn’t have to be. Artists

have ways of opening up to the margins, of creating a dialogue with

people on life’s riverbank. In fact, being naturally curious and working

in that safe space in which people do say all the things they can’t say,

they may be especially adept at making those bridges.

Talking to someone may be strange indeed, but it’s life, and life

is strange.

François Matarasso

13 September 11

Matarasso, F., 2011, Drawing inferences, Version 2 (9/2011). Commissioned by

Creativity Works as part of its Pathways Project, this work is licensed under the Creative

Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

You are free to copy, distribute, or display this paper on condition that: you attribute the

work to the author; the work is not used for commercial purposes; and you do not alter,

transform, or add to it. http://web.me.com/matarasso


Questions About Communication

9

The artist:

Does art communicate?

How do we communicate across divides?

How do we communicate when we’re in times of transition?

How will the drawings interact?

How will the artists be viewed, in relation to each other?

How will their artworks be viewed, in relation to each other?

What roles do notions of authenticity, professionalism and skill

play in how the drawings are received by participants or by any

wider audience?

Is it possible to bridge the two ends of a spectrum in my practice

(socially engaged arts practice on the one hand and a studio/

’fine art’ practice on the other)?


10

Are they apart from each other, at ends of a spectrum?

When I provoke others to make art, am I being an artist?

How do we safely and imaginatively explore virtual interactions?

The initial conversationalist:

Do I have anything to say?

Do I want to speak (draw)?

Do I want to speak to someone?

Do I want to speak to you?

If I say something, will you hear it?

(If I draw something will you

see it?)

Do I want to be heard?

Do I want you to hear me?

Do I have anything to say to you,

specially?

Who do you remind me of, when

I don’t know anything about you?

What words/images/marks

shall I use?

What language do you speak?

Will you understand me?

Will you misunderstand me?

Will you laugh at me?

Will you recognise me?

Do you care?

Do I care enough?

What will I reveal?

Will you hear more than I want

you to?

How do I represent myself?


11

How do I control how I

represent myself?

Will you accept me?

Will you reject me?

Do I like you?

Do I want you to like me?

Is it important to know

you’re there?

The respondent:

You’ve said something to me.

You know nothing about me but

you have spoken (drawn) to me.

You have given me something.

Do I understand what you

have said?

What do I feel like, listening

to what you’ve said?

Does it make me happy?

… or curious?

… or angry?

Does it make me feel like

laughing?

Were you telling me a joke?

Did you know I’d smile?

Did you know I’d cry?

What do I want to say to you,

in response to this?

Is what you’ve said familiar to me?

Do I feel like that?

Have you told me something

I didn’t know about before?

Do I like that?

If I reply, will you hear what I say?

What medium shall I use?

What language shall I draw in?

Will you understand what I’m saying?


12

Can I speak (draw) in the same

way as you?

Do I want to?

What happens in the space

between us?

… in the silence between what

you say (draw) and my reply?

Is there enough space?

Is there too much?

Will we know each other,

after this?

Is it possible to know someone

you don’t meet?

Both:

What have we made, between us?

Would other people hear it?

Would they understand it?

Do we want to show it to

other people?

Do we want to speak to them?

Are we proud of what we’ve

done, and how it sounds (looks)?

Could we have said this in any

other way (another language,

another activity)?

What does it say?

What does it ask?

Is it curious? …or new?

… or clever?

Is it beautiful?

Does it stand on its own,

without us?

Deborah Aguirre Jones

June 2011


A fragment from a fictional dialogue

between a drawing and John Hammersley

13

John: …so you don’t communicate across divides?

Drawing: What do you mean by divide? Do you mean the divide or

gaps between different groups or individuals? Or do you mean the

spaces or gaps between one experience of pencil being put to paper

and the next?

John: Well, you mentioned divides earlier in our conversation and

so I guess, I am trying to understand what you mean by that idea in

the context of this project?

Drawing: Oh! Maybe the divides are like pauses in my work,

pauses in conversation that allow others to reflect or have an inner

conversation. I don’t have to be there to facilitate everyone’s inner

conversation all the time. Even when I am not working with the other

person they might think about what might be said when we come

together to work again.

The artist might ask whether they understand all of the work of

this project and drawing in advance of working with me on this project.

The viewer might ask… they might ask themselves, ‘is this what I

like doing?’ or ‘would I prefer a different role in this collaboration?’

Being able to imagine doing the work of others sometimes helps


14

when people work with me. But othertimes I guess, people may

not even realise they are having this inner conversation about our

work because they are also busy with their day-to-day lives – but of

course, that can always be brought into our conversation. It is not

like our work (drawing) and everyday life are separate, divided. No

I wouldn’t say that. Quite the opposite sometimes but you asked

about the communication aspect of my work. I am not sure I see

communication as the most important aspect of the divide. Maybe

the divide is kind of like the surface of this work. Does that sound

odd? I am not sure I am putting it very well, maybe I function or

work in that gap between, and I draw people together in a sort of

interaction, or multiple interactions. Communication may just be

a small part of it.

John: Can I ask about you about how you interact with others?

Drawing: Do you mean artists and viewers or other drawings?

John: Well, both I guess.

Drawing: Well, it is never the same twice, so I would have to

look at some of our drawings to answer that.

John Hammersley

September 2011


Creativity Works

15

Creativity Works is a charity specialising in delivering creative

projects with communities.

We believe creative activities encourage individuals and groups

to explore, develop and grow.

Creativity Works:

––

ensures that wellbeing and health agendas run through

our programme of activity.

––

specialist skills and knowledge enable us to work with

participants and artists to ensure development and

progression.

––

encourages vibrant community engagement by bringing

people together.

––

leads and sustains active conversations that are

dynamic, effective on both professional and community levels.

www.creativityworksforeveryone.co.uk


The Pathways Programme

16

2009 – 2011

Funded by Lankelly Chase and Avon and

Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

An ongoing 3 year project run by Creativity Works, The Pathways

Programme provides recreational art for women experiencing

challenging situations and times of transition in their lives. Initially

the programme worked with women in a medium secure unit in the

South West in partnership with AWP NHS Trust. Women residents

participate in weekend art sessions and take part in running the

programme which provides a creative, reflective space for women in

transition and supports decision-making. Pilot projects are taken to

settings which provide support for women who are (or may be at risk

of becoming) involved with the criminal justice system, mental health

or probation services such as Eastwood Park Prison, Eden House

and One25.


Teign Ward, Fromeside, Avon and Wiltshire

Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

17

Teign Ward is a 12 bedded ward within Fromeside medium secure

unit, the service is dedicated to women from the West of England

and Peninsula. Women are admitted to the service based on clinical

need, under the Mental Health Act 1983 therefore the philosophy

of the service is to provide a therapeutic environment to empower

hope and recovery. All women receive individually planned, patient

centred and holistic treatment based upon the Model of Care

which has been specifically developed in line with the Attachment

Model. Freedom to engage with and experience art through varied

mediums has enabled the women to explore their roles, values and

core beliefs without judgement or inhibition.


Eden House

18

Day and Outreach Services provided for women involved in the

criminal justice system, offering a one-stop service that engages

women in making positive changes to their lives – reducing their

propensity to offend and increasing their access to mainstream

services and opportunities. Eden House is run locally and managed

in partnership with Avon and Somerset Probation Area (ASPA).

A steering group to develop and support the project comprises

Safer Bristol, Avon & Somerset Police, Avon and Somerset

Probation Area, Bristol Magistrates, HMP Eastwood Park Prison

and the National Offender Management Service South West

It has been good for service users involved in the Drawing Together

project to see it through from start to finish. It has enhanced their

communication skills and improved their self esteem and confidence

to see their work published alongside professional artists.


With Thanks to…

19

The artists and the women who have been so creative.

Francois Matarasso who shared his insight and knowledge.

John Hammersley for his supporting perspective and context.

Gill Nicol, joint curator of the show with Deborah Aguirre Jones.

Philippa Forsey, who has held and overseen the whole project.

Lesley Featherstone for enabling the work to happen.

Marie-Anne McQuay for generosity with her time in talking with us.

City Edition Studio for patience and commitment to designing the project.

All made possible by artist Deborah Aguirre Jones as catalyst, mediator

and glue.


Conversationalists:

Eden House

1. Hayley B & Rebecca Swindell

2. Jackee B & Alice Forward

3. Louise C & Luci Gorell Barnes

4. Rhian C & Nancy Murphy Spicer

5. Michelle H & Celia Hastie

6. Delaine J & Elizabeth Adeline

7. Rachel L & Frances Bossom

8. Sam L & Eleanor Glover

9. Lea M & Éilis Kirby

10. Sarah M & Annabelle Craven-Jones

11. Becky P & Deborah Aguirre Jones

12. Jean R & Kirsty Claxton

13. Zoe R & Luci Gorell Barnes

14. Marcia S & Susi Bancroft

15. Teresa S & Beth Carter

16. Debra T & Kirsty Claxton

17. Priscilla T & Lucy Austin

18. Tracie T & Deborah Aguirre Jones

Teign

19. Alex & Elizabeth Adeline

20. Amy & Lucy Austin

21. Becky & Frances Bossom

22. Frankie & Clare Thornton

23. Kate & Gill Nicol

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines