Having completed stitching the ‘Missded’ 4 canvas, I have now cut it up into tokens.
When one of the ‘tokens’ is put in a frame, it becomes a thing in its own right; a fragment still, but one quite divorced from the others and from that from which they were cut.
What started with this (a drawing made in seconds by me and my son):
became this (a stitched version made over several days):
and ended up as this (one of many ‘tokens’ cut from the above):
The following shows one of the tokens in a frame:
What this made me think about was how I would show these works: as individual objects such as that above or in a group? If there were several of these shown together, then their relationship to the original stitched work (and therefore the original drawn work) would be obvious. There would be a sense of the repetition of times when I’ve missed having the children. Grouping them together would therefore turn them into a work about remembering; remembering in those times when I haven’t had the children, what we did when in the times we spent together.
The original stitched work is about two things:
- the difference (in timespan) between those times when I have the children and when I have not. i.e. it’s an attempt to recreate a brief moment (the original drawing) in a form which takes many hours and days to complete
- the act of remembering and savouring those particular moments, holding onto them in times when I am on my own (the act of stitching is repetitive, akin to remembering something (or looking at a photograph) over and over again
The tokens made from this stitched piece are about the fragmenting of my time with my children. As an individual piece (such as that above) it’s about a time when I’ve said goodbye. Grouping them together therefore would show a lot of ‘goodbyes’ but also an equal number of ‘hellos’.
What I’m wondering now, as I’m about to complete the second of these stitched works, is whether when grouping a number of these fragments together (and as they are grouped together, so a wider memory is rediscovered) I should mix up the pieces, so that some from different drawings are placed alongside, after all, memory is not linear and memories often become mixed up with others. What will be palpable from seeing the grouped tokens is a sense of many goodbyes and indeed hellos; fragments of times when I’ve been without them and thinking of them, but on a positive note, a sense of many memories shared with them as well.
Following on from my last post, I’ve now completed all the tokens along with another piece comprising some of them stitched back together.
In the eighteenth century, some mothers would reclaim their children from the Foundling hospital and one supposes they might have also reclaimed the tokens left with them. Either way, the reclaiming of the tokens seemed a good way for me to articulate the time I spend with the children, as if my picking them up is a kind of reclaiming. The fact the number of days I have with them are far fewer than the number of days I don’t means I only wanted to use a small proportion of the tokens to create a new piece.
I called the new piece ‘Morning Has Broken’ after the Cat Stevens song, which my son and I were singing together.
A few months ago I visited the Foundling Hospital in London, established in 1739 to receive and care for abandoned children. It was a deeply emotional experience, not least because of the tokens left by mothers with their babies as a means of identifying them both as parent and child. More often than not, these tokens were pieces of fabric (they now comprise Britain’s largest collection of 18th century textiles amounting to over 5000 items) pinned to sheets of paper on which a few basic facts about the child were recorded.
These pieces of fabric ultimately speak of the missing mother and in such small, seemingly insignificant objects one is faced with the remnants of an overwhelming sorrow. Perhaps, somewhere, the mother would have carried a similar piece which spoke to her of her absent child?
With my latest stitched works, I wanted to convey not only the contrast between the times I have my children and when I don’t, but also the sense of absence I carry around when they’re away, and so, inspired by the tokens, I made a cut in the work I’d recently completed.
Almost at once, these smaller pieces began to articulate what I often feel; that sense of absence which comes again and again, with more and more ‘tokens’ cut from the cloth.
The stitched versions of my son’s drawings are objects which, in contrast to the quickly made drawings on which they’re based, take many hours to complete; a contrast that speaks of the difference between the relatively short times I have the children to stay and the long periods between their visits.
In those long periods, I content myself with thinking of the things we’ve done together, and as such our relationship often finds expression in the photographs I take and the various things they make when they’re here – like Eliot’s drawings. Ultimately therefore, these works are about absence and it’s that sense of absence which is starting to take this project in another direction…
The latest in a series of works entitled ‘Missded’. Photos below show original drawing, tracing and template drawn onto canvas.
Second piece showing original drawing, tracing and template drawn onto canvas.
The images below show the three stages (so far completed) of the first in a series of works entitled “Missded”. The word ‘missded’ is one my son used when he’d said he’d missed me: “I missded you daddy”.
The first image is the original drawing we made together, the second is the tracing I made of that drawing and the third, the canvas onto which I have outlined the pattern (having cut out the shapes from the tracing).
It was a difficult job, trying to cut such difficult shapes – and to remember where they were meant to go on the canvas – but that uncertainty and the lack of accuracy reflects in some ways the theme of the work itself; the remembered act, that is, me and my son drawing together.
What was interesting was the difference between the making of the drawing and the creation of the template, in that the original drawing is very much about the lines we made whereas the template is much more concerned with the spaces between – the shapes which I could cut out and draw around.
Again this somehow reflects the nature of the work’s theme; that is missing someone. The days on which I do see my children are the lines outlining the gaps when I don’t – the spaces in between. This could become a whole other area which I shall explore later.
When you’re a father, separated from your children a few days each week, the things you do with your children when you have them become especially precious. I find I take more photographs when I have them as they somehow sustain me in the days when I don’t see them. The same applies to the things they make; drawings, paintings and so on.
A few weeks ago, Eliot asked me to do some drawings with him, whereby he would draw on the page and I would follow the line he made. It was a very simple thing, but he loved it, and the images we made were lovely.
It’s drawings like these which become so important in those days when I don’t have the children, and, as I mentioned in my last post, these in particular seem to lend themselves to work I made a few years back, where I would stitch ‘images’ from sources such as GPS data (taken from walks), or old trench maps.
As a start, I began by tracing the drawings using the same felt-tips as we used in the original drawings. Given that these stitched works will, in some respects, be about memory, the fact these tracings are not entirely accurate, alludes nicely to the idea of memory itself not being an entirely accurate draughtsman.
As I drew them (the time difference between the ‘moment’ in which they were made and the length of time it took me to trace them also alludes to the idea of working to recapture a moment in the past) I piled them up and began to appreciate the aesthetic of the piles of tracings, where previous drawings would show through.
I’ve always loved drawings or paintings with scribbles and lines and these piles seemed to point to another way of using these drawings – another possible outcome. It was only when I did the same with tracings I made in pencil that another possible work began to emerge, one which was exactly in keeping with the idea of memory, family and recovering past times.