How to hold you, how to let you



It began swimmingly, so relaxed and happy to be drawing, as always, after a big sculpture project. just falling back onto the page, confident, happy, playing. And then there were four. Usually there are three. This should have been a warning perhaps, as in the fairy stories, numbers are important; towers of salt, wishes, seven league boots… but I was flying. At that first stage of the drawings it is so much fun, skipping from one to another, playing with layers. We’d been writing you and I, about bodies, about other bodies which lie within us, which fight to emerge, about getting to know the hidden places in us. I felt that these things were spilling with ease onto the page, that I was making good work, real work. Always I work on more than one drawing at a time. This is a wisdom learnt through practice; that when one works with gestural, spontaneous line as a vital part of the work, it must remain feeling free, with options, with space. Narrowing it down shuts that down, makes me tight, afraid. There is always a problem with pressure and expectation for me, and I have learnt how to avoid that crippling feeling, by always reassuring myself that I am free to move on whenever I get stuck. I have learnt the fine balance and difference between that and the time to stick with it, to dig through, to be persistent. All of these things I have learnt, but sometimes, something happens, and it’s like the stories where a hero looks into the eyes of the monster and can’t look away, is locked in conflict until one must eventually win. 


I caught the eye of the drawing.


And it would not let me go.


We fell together into the blackest void, battling each other hard, falling and fighting. 


There was no end, and no relief. When I was there, I could not look at any other drawing, and I when I was not there, she plagued me. The problem lived in my body, tightening across my shoulder blades, cranking my hips tension, bringing sleep with no rest. As I battled, my energy leached, my breathing shallow, my confidence sapped. I taught my drawing class and thought, I am a fraud, I shouldn’t be teaching this class. The more I worked, the tighter she became, and the more anxious I was, the closer he came to death, to being overworked, to being lost beyond any solution. 


And still I could not let go. 


I asked him, begged her….


What do you want? I will give you anything, what is it you want? I can’t give you what you want if you won’t tell me… I’m trying everything I can think of, I’m working in the dark, just \ give me a hint.. JUST TALK TO ME




I thought a lot about how making art is so much like a relationship, how I learn so much, and how this was like when you know it is going wrong, but you can’t let go, because you hope. You see these things which tell you, it could be different, maybe if I just, I’m just not trying hard enough, she will change, we will change, I can see the light….


until there is no light, and no breath. 


And still you try.


These things, they teach me compassion in buckets. The keeping trying. Because where there is life, there is hope.   


I knew I needed to try and relax my body. I swam, I meditated, I had a massage. She said your body’s not knotted, it’s just sad. I leant my whole body against ancient trees and asked them for help, I drank, I prayed. 


And we fought. 


And then there was an earthquake. All of the tears I had kept locked up and welling up in dams behind my shoulders came out. I cried with small lights and my dog to keep me company. But still not enough. Water was stuck in every crevice, and my body, as it had been for so many weeks now, dragged itself up to meet another day. I thought perhaps the drawings might have shifted in the night. No such luck…. 


Finally I brought in the troops. I showed …. they all said the same thing. You’re battling hard, but it’s not dead yet, you have to keep going. I said if this was a painting, I could bring in the light, but I can’t, it’s too late, I can’t lift it any more. But they said, keep trying. 


I tired. I drank a beer. And thought, fuck it. Took it down off the wall and finger painted with white paint on it. I’d love to say it was wild and free but my body, my being was so exhausted, it was a poor and humble copy of remembered marks. I went home. 


The next day I came in, I’d put the drawing on the floor to finger paint on it. By putting paint on it I knew it meant it could not be part of this body of work. I’d made this deal, and that deal had clenched this drawing in its clutches. Listening to Bjork; “There’s too much… pressure.”


The paint, set her free. Finally he was set apart, something different. And there, on the floor, I saw it so clearly. This being is not part of that body of work, this creature is the bridge to the next body of work. The whole battle has been because I was trying to make her something they weren’t, something that I had pre decided upon and forgotten that the process will have its own way and decide for itself. I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking, what do you want to be (within the possible realm of what I will allow you to be) What do you want me to do? ( to make you be what I need you to be) ETCETERA!!! Like a physical lifting, and a huge gratitude, for the battle, for the learning, for the reminder; the holding leaves you dissatisifed, frustrated, annoyed… while they are not what you need them to be. You let go, you see them for just who they are, and a new rush of love floods; the compassionate joyous love at just letting another being be who they are.


Oh boi. 


This drawing is the bridge to works where I make collage drawings, where they are made of lots of pieces, where they are big with pieces, with all the fragments of themselves, of others, of everything they have collected. I have wanted to make these works for a long time, and I have tried, but they have not been born. Yet. This drawing battled me until I saw what it’s gifts were. It was so determined to show me. 



I immediately got out all these pieces from other drawings, adored fragments, chunks, encrusted layers. I played with them, layering them, piling them beside the drawing. I wanted to let him know right away that I see him, I allow him, I am grateful, so grateful, that I have, and I am listening, and I am acting on what I hear, immediately. 


Already everything looks alive, and everything sings.


And I can walk


2 Comments Add yours

  1. chris bramwell says:

    These are really beautiful Sian! xx

  2. Swanee says:

    I really love everything about this post! i will read it again and again because you describe the artistic process so amazingly well. I have something I’d love to share with you!

    i love the art. it looks like a Rorschach test made by the lilting hand of a fairy!

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