Other times there is a desire to experiment, just making marks, creating marks, everything fluid, experimental, intuitive and playful.
I've always felt a bit wrong about my work's duality, exhibiting the textile pieces because they seemed like 'proper' art and stashing the numerous mark-making projects in my damp shed.
But today, writing an application for an artist residency, I realised that this duality is an essential part of my practice in the context of my discovery that I am an autistic person. Which is also something I have been wrestling with.
To get a diagnosis of Asperger's at 48 years old is quite a thing to deal with. I have always been told I was mad or weird and although those labels hurt, they were simply a part of my history. But knowing that instead of being mad I am actually autistic was a liberation for me. Other people in my family and some friends didn't seem to see it that way (I guess because it was quite a thing for them to deal with?) and so I felt a bit shameful about that diagnosis, I wrestled with whether or not I had the 'right' to call myself autistic,. I didn't want to come across as dramatic or trying to get sympathy, so I didn't know what to do with the label.
But today, today I realised that this dualistic practice is my Asperger's. I have been expressing autistic self all the time without realising that is what it is. Of course, I am an autistic person, so even if I didn't know it, I was it!
I wrote this about myself:
My experience of living is very dualistic, a hyper-sensitive sensory system in the body, a hyper-aware thinking machine in my brain.
The thinking mind revels in work that is experimental in nature, driven by a need to investigate and communicate with my environment; exploring its materiality and testing its potential to provide order out of seemingly random or chaotic happenings.
My ‘self’ is an irrelevance in this work, what drives me is the delight in unexpected happenings. I am the instigator, the experimentalist, perhaps the ringmaster; but the art is what happens when materials and processes collide.
Where ‘I’ do exist is in the textural works I make. These are deliberate constructions that aim to reflect some of my experience as a living, embodied being. Knitted, felted and quilted objects express my bodily experience. Fabric and yarn are metaphors for my skin and bones, the bitter sharp points of needles and pins a visual, tactile expression of my hyper-sensory experience.
When I started to write about my work in that context it was a revelatory, 'ah ha!' moment. It explained why I have to make ice pictures and rain paintings and why I have to make mittens and fabric constructions...
All my textile work is about the body, the experience of physicality. Marks on the fabric reflect the marks of life and time on our skin. Piecing, tearing and cutting the silk is to me an experience of great sensory delight, the resistance of fabric to point or blade, the soft, dull sound of the fabric tearing are intense sensations for me. The pierced fabric is the wounded overwhelmed body.
Discussing the ice paintings I wrote:
The ice paintings are usually tiny and I sell them with magnifying glasses so that people will hopefully focus with the same intensity as I do on marks that might be mere millimetres across.I would be eager to see the result of hundreds of these drawings exhibited together. In experiencing an overwhelming number of these works I think the neuro-typical (non-autistic) mind might begin to perceive what the autistic mind does.
Looking at my work through the knowledge of my Asperger's diagnosis I see it with fresh eyes. I see myself with fresh eyes too. What anyone else thinks about my diagnosis it is an irrelevance because it exists. I exist and have always existed an autistic person. I have been talking about that all the years I have been making art. Who knew?!