I’m driving up the motorway and I’m a bit lost. My radio has stopped working and I’m worried I’ve forgotten the Blu-Tack.
The familiar anxiety before a show diverted into the minutiae of shopping lists, a million Post-it notes littering the A-Z, parking dilemmas and did I wash my pyjamas – anything except confront the fear of exposing a new body of work.
Drawings I’ve lived with and had conversations with in the studio, clay things that have almost made themselves – will they survive the real world?
Tall Tales started at three London venues and I was invited to invade the Freud Museum – an unmissable but terrifying opportunity to inhabit his and his daughter Anna’s home. Heavily loaded with Freudianism and a hefty curatorial history, would the work survive such an overwhelming venue?
For Tall Tales, I am showing three double page spreads from Flann’s Architectural Digest – a series of 18 hand cut stencil drawings sprayed onto dense black paper, which emulates analogue film. Each line cut out of tracing paper and sprayed individually. Slow growing work that allows the images to unravel themselves undisturbed.
Absurd cartoon-like amulets play musical statues with Freud’s collection of artefacts
Pogoing off Freud’s theory of screen memories and my mis-memories of a childhood summer on the set of John Huston’s Freud: The Secret Passion, cocktail shaken with my love of Flann O’Brien’s badly behaved language, the drawings are in conversation with a tribe of clay things.
A “choir of potatoes” infiltrated Freud’s desk,”toes ‘n’ toast” tried to camouflage themselves into his antique collection of Egyptian sculptures, “Jerry’s lunch” hid amongst the bookshelves – absurd cartoon-like amulets playing musical statues with Freud’s collection of artefacts.
The best bits are the practical bits – the amazing new friendships with the gallery staff, the installers, cleaners, curators, the other artists. How to get in early, negotiate transport, and where to get the best coffee.
Each venue has unknown problems of how and where, with Touchstones in Rochdale and the Freud Museum offering totally different solutions for display. I go into an initial meltdown panic and I’m in the installer’s hands so an amazing bond of trust develops instantly.
At the Freud Museum I just opened the crates and my artworks jumped into place. Touchstones is huge and amazing – no intimate spaces but an enormous wall ready painted in anticipation! My natural reaction is to run away on the pretext of needing more work or instant escape.
OK – I place the works on the floor and I am soon immersed in watching them form new relationships.
Ask a second opinion.
Wish I hadn’t.
Just DO it.
Paul, the chief installer, clicks his fingers and they magically appear on the wall and I breathe an amazed sigh of relief.
This is the first time all the works selected for Tall Tales have been in the same venue so I am interested in how they get on together.
I usually try to spend time with an exhibition throughout the show – for exhibition Chapter Two I hosted poitin Sundays. For my show Stop Bugging Me I held clay crab races. At the the Freud Museum I held John Huston’s film set Sundays. I made a facsimile of the original film script for Huston’s biopic, Freud: The Secret Passion and asked Nick James, editor of Sight & Sound, to write a review as if it was a new release, both displayed with a reproduction of the poster.
I loved the unexpected conversations with invited artists, visiting psychoanalysts, tourists and school children, kind of pinging off the work but not aimed at it directly.
In Touchstones the works will have to fend for themselves – they feel pretty at home here.
I’m back on the motorway and – joy, oh joy – the man in Halfords has mended my car radio for free!
Tall Tales, at Touchstones Rochdale, until 3 September, is a national touring programme bringing together the work of 17 international women artists who employ the playful use of storytelling techniques in the making of their work