Grandma Made Me

thimbles

These things leap out at you later in life, and, you feel a fool for not fully understand the glaringly obvious. All the things I loved, all the things that fascinated me, as a child, are the sum of all my parts. Not only the sum, but all of the parts.

Above is a blurry photo of my grandmother’s old study. Below are two photos of just one of my many Collected Items, a repository for everything and everyone I have known and/or loved.

Taking the Egg out of Easter

“The present was an egg, laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
– Zora Neale Hurston

I was a college dropout, ergo my dazzling University educated brain doesn’t exist. However, with intuition on my side, I tend to feel around for the answers and check to see if I’m right, later. So what I’m about to say, regarding the mighty egg, might not be correct in a historical folklore context, yet rings true for my own experiences of egg symbolism.

The eggs came to me. The first egg, from my grandmother, also an artist, an Italian immigrant, born in the 1920’s, is filled with superstition and magick. Grandma decorated duck eggs when I was a child, usually with scenes of countryside life, often adorned with some reference to the holy trinity. When grandma’s eggs weren’t on display at the local garden centre, and, once, very proudly at the Cecil Higgins Museum, she sat them on cheap, gilt-covered thrones, placed in her Edwardian wunderkammer.

IMG_6644I wasn’t allowed to handle the eggs until I stopped playing with muddy worms, sticky-fingered from rotten garden apples. On my eighteenth birthday, I was given my very own duck egg, decorated with fuchsia and bumblebees. Different from the ones she usually painted, more occult, more meaningful somehow. It became a powerful object.

Around the same time, my great uncle, Kazik, arch enemy of my grandmother, gave me a child sized decorated enamel egg from a visit to Poland – certainly a coincidence. It was his first time abroad since coming to England after taking part in the liberation of Dachau. The eggs turned heavy then, both literally, compared to the hand-painted duck egg, this weighed a tonne, but also heavy in the sense of their potency. Not only the symbol of new beginnings, eggs held it all: secrets, birth and rebirth, nostalgia, the past, present and future, to act as a celebration and also a warning, to remind you to live, and that you will die.

Behold, this revelation set me on another trajectory. I was in my early twenties, with no ability to naturally astrally project, I dabbled in the engineered cosmic, purchased from a true hippy burn-out, a market trader in a market town. Egg visions became a common visual hallucination for me. The world took on a different likeness, I saw it in another unrecognisable form. Ever revolving doors, forever looping escalators, and eggs, coming steadily into my vision – before the first one had passed me by, the next began to take shape. It was a constant theme, regeneration of time, place and sense of self.

IMG_6642Into adulthood I purchased decorative eggs when I saw them. I didn’t seek them out, they always came to me. My collection is small but that’s what was intended. Ukranian pysankas, the Polish enamel egg, my grandmothers duck egg. I started to paint eggs into my art work, both in a figurative and abstract sense, to symbolise life and death, strength and fragility, and protection. Eggs in nests, eggs as body shapes, egg shaped wombs and coffins.

I’ve got a sneaking feeling that the eggs are to blame for the ‘l’appel du vide‘ type feelings which permeate my entire being – in this particular case, the destruction of fragile objects, but, in general, the compulsion to do the exact opposite of what I should be doing. It has a special place in the formation of Who I Am, both in a negative and positive sense. I’m obsessed with the ‘moment before’ and ‘moment after’, for example the fine line that defines fucking up or not fucking up a piece of art, or the bombshell that you’re about to drop to your closest friends or family, that might see them fleeing out of your life for good.

These days, my special duck egg resides in a drawer, safely away from my destructive temptation, as it always has done since it was given to me, while the other eggs sit in a little collection for people to look at, pick up and touch…hopefully to feel the magick.

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One Bare Foot Square

 

‘ONE BARE FOOT SQUARE’
Exhibition Dates: 30 July – 13 August 2016
Opening Event: Saturday 30 July 2016, 3 – 5pm.
Curator: Chutima Kerdpitak (NOK)
Outsider Art Gallery in The Hermitage museum Amsterdam
Address: Outsider Art Ateliers in de Hermitage,
Neerlandia Plein 1, 1018 DR, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Hermitage: http://www.hermitage.nl
Outsider Art Gallery Amsterdam: http://www.amsterdam-outsider-art.nl

That thing, above, is three panels of illustrated calico. I’ve done this piece of work for a travelling exhibition, One Bare Foot Square, the creation of Nok, and Uncooked Culture.

First stop for the panels is Amsterdam Outsider Art Gallery, at the Hermitage Museum, The Netherlands. All three pieces are for sale. After the stop-off in Amsterdam, comes London. That will be in November. I’ll update you nearer the time.


‘Re-entry’
© 2016, Marie-Louise Plum


‘Journey’
© 2016, Marie-Louise Plum


‘The Approach’
© 2016, Marie-Louise Plum

Raw Vision

I recently took part in the Mental Spaghetti group exhibition, ‘Mind Machine’, at Menier Gallery.

A few of us were mentioned as highlights of the exhibition. Here’s the word on me, by Judith McNicol, in good company with Yvonne Mabs Francis, Terence Wilde and Jan Arden.

“Having spent most of her early life around her Italian artist grandmother, a woman immersed in myths, superstition and legend, Marie-Louise Plum has become a painter of magical realism. Within her bold paintings of heaving, tortured, intertwining bodies and nightmare scenarios imposed on fairy tale images, are Marie’s ‘secret messages’ that remind us ‘not is all as it seems’.

That’s a nice thing to say. Thank you.

Birthday Letters, Illustrated

Along with approximately 250 thousand other firm intentions and ideas, a promise to illustrate all the female characters from Ted Hughes prose poem, Gaudete, using clothes-off life models only, to exhibit at the Ted Hughes Festival, alongside a ballet performance, has toppled into the ‘Haven’t Done It Because Life’ chamber.

In the ‘Putting Off Because Insecurity and Need for Reassurance’ corner, my paid-for commissions and responsibilities languish, while I distract myself with another Ted Hughes side project, using the excuse of potentially career-furthering, future book illustration employment as reason.

I’ve started illustrating poems from Birthday Letters, Hughes’s parting salvo – released a few months before his death in 1998, after 35 years of silence on the subject – a softener and/or fan flamer to the ‘Ted or Sylvia?’ lead teamsters, lifting the rocks from his chest.

About Sylvia, about Ted, of Sylvia, of Ted, addressed to Sylvia, from Ted.

Here are the first two illustrations, more will follow, sporadically, no doubt. The poems, below each image.

Black Coat

I remember going out there,
The tide far out, the North Shore ice-wind
Cutting me back
To the quick of the blood – that outer-edge nostalgia,
The good feeling. My sole memory
Of my black overcoat. Padding the wet sandspit.
I was staring at the sea, I suppose.
Trying to feel thoroughly alone,
Simply myself, with sharp edges –
Me and the sea one big tubula rasa,
As if my returning footprints
Out of that scrim of gleam, that horizon-wide wipe,
Might be a whole new start.

My shoe-sole shapes
My only sign.
My minimal but satisfying discussion
With the sea.
Putting my remarks down, for the thin tongue
Of the sea to interpret. Inaudibly.
A therapy,
Instructions too complicated for me
A the moment, but stowed in my black box for later.
Like feeding a wild deer
With potato crisps
As you do in that snapshot where you exclaim
Back towards me and my camera.

So I had no idea I had stepped
Into the telescopic sights
Of the paparazzo sniper
Nested in your brown iris.
Perhaps you had no idea either,
So far off, half a mile maybe,
Looking towards me. Watching me
Pin the sea’s edge down.
No idea
How that double image,
Your eye’s inbuilt double exposure
Which was the projection
Of your two-way heart’s diplopic error,
The body of the ghost and me the blurred see-through
Came into single focus,
Sharp-edged, stark as a target,
Set up like a decoy
Against that freezing sea
From which your dead father had just crawled.

I did not feel
How, as your lenses tightened,
He slid into me.

© Ted Hughes. All Rights Reserved.

Red

Red was your colour.
If not red, then white. But red
Was what you wrapped around you.
Blood-red. Was it blood?
Was it red-ochre, for warming the dead?
Haematite to make immortal
The precious heirloom bones, the family bones.

When you had your way finally
Our room was red. A judgement chamber.
Shut casket for gems. The carpet of blood
Patterned with darkenings, congealments.
The curtains — ruby corduroy blood,
Sheer blood-falls from ceiling to floor.
The cushions the same. The same
Raw carmine along the window-seat.
A throbbing cell. Aztec altar — temple.

Only the bookshelves escaped into whiteness.

And outside the window
Poppies thin and wrinkle-frail
As the skin on blood,
Salvias, that your father named you after,
Like blood lobbing from the gash,
And roses, the heart’s last gouts,
Catastrophic, arterial, doomed.

Your velvet long full skirt, a swathe of blood,
A lavish burgandy.
Your lips a dipped, deep crimson.

You revelled in red.
I felt it raw — like crisp gauze edges
Of a stiffening wound. I could touch
The open vein in it, the crusted gleam.

Everything you painted you painted white
Then splashed it with roses, defeated it,
Leaned over it, dripping roses,
Weeping roses, and more roses,
Then sometimes, among them, a little blue
bird.

Blue was better for you. Blue was wings.
Kingfisher blue silks from San Francisco
Folded your pregnancy
In crucible caresses.
Blue was your kindly spirit — not a ghoul
But electrified, a guardian, thoughtful.

In the pit of red
You hid from the bone-clinic whiteness.

But the jewel you lost was blue.

© Ted Hughes. All Rights Reserved.

Meditation on a Disastrous Painting Experience

“Did Cecilia Giménez burst in and finish that while you were out of the room?”

It’s actually quite useful to be living with the ghost of Brian Sewell, even if I don’t act like it all the time, and I only really lap up the criticism when it’s not really criticism at all.

But my dear partner was right, of course. I had somehow taken a mysterious, sylph-like creature into a bog-dwelling Jenny Greenteeth, in but three or four brush strokes.

“It’s okay, I’ll pull it back. You can be crap if you’re good.”

Saying something like this is just like turning to a crowd of your mates and saying “Hey, watch this!” before you prepare to jump the Grand Canyon on a pair of Argos roller skates. It got worse, yes it did.

Cecilia Giménez, if you remember, is the Helpful Lady of Borja, Spain, who decided to give Elías García Martínez a helping hand with his fresco, ‘Ecce Homo’. Now it seemed she had come to live with us, in North London, England.

This is a tale I can only really tell with the aid of photographic evidence, so I will share the horrors, whilst guiding you through my torturous three day, but felt like years, relationship with a disobedient painting.

Day 1, AM: Fondly recalled as the ‘good times’. A lot of flirting, ridiculous infatuation, in some part god-like complex that felt I could in fact walk on water, surely, as I was already walking on air with this gorgeous being. I loved the way she looked at me. She was keen on how I built her up. Everything was working out.

Day 1, PM (left image): Things took a sour turn very quickly. As much as we loved being in each others company, we’d rushed into things far too fast, had no idea of each others’ horrid peccadilloes which would ultimately lead to a long stretch at Her Majesties pleasure.

We could barely look at each other for more than ten minutes before wanting to punch our fists through each others faces. Me for her brain-draining inability to do anything she was asked, she for my ruining her entire being.

Day 1, PM (right image): CECILIA HAD ARRIVED.

FOR COMPARISON…

Day 2, AM (left image): Having slept on it, I was brimming with misplaced self-confidence which seemed to allow me to take The Girl from the clutches of Giminez to something that resembled almost humanoid form. I probably should have stopped here. But no, no. I carried on, slicing and stitching and shoving the implements in, until my simple procedure of a neat stomach staple was actually a gut full of wrenches and spanners.

Day 2, PM (right image):
We weren’t speaking at all. Fuck her. That’s how I left her to sleep that night. With that face on. Perhaps I could foist this off as an outsider folk effort?

Day 3, AM: Collateral damage mode. Thoughts: She can keep the car, I’ll take the house. Maybe this will be okay. Maybe it can go in the outsider folk art box. Things had reached stalemate, both of us still refusing to have anything to do with each other. I spent some time wondering how long it would take to dig a canvas sized hole in the garden, deep enough for the horror beast never to emerge in heavy ground-rearranging rain. We decided that whilst we weren’t entirely happy with each other, we could make do and mend, and this is how our relationship would end. We’ll chalk it up to experience.

Day 3, PM: Having stared at her teeth-like-a-bag-of-chips mouth for a few hours, wishing I’d never ever seen her face, I felt an empathetic awakening. I couldn’t leave the poor girl like this. I would have to be a real woman, step up to the mark, and put things right as best I could.

Anyway, here she is now. And this is how she is going to stay. I was a little unsure, but having received such heartwarming feedback as “Those eyes! Stuff of nightmares”, I know my work with this girl is done. And let that be a lesson to me.

Come and see me perform ’12 Months’

HELLO TINKERS.

I’m doing a performance. A proper one that I won’t be able to run away from, or hide my face with a mask. I might zone out a bit. It’s about dissociation so that’ll work, I think.

SO…

’12 Months’ is a sound and live painting performance. I’m painting in response to the words I am saying, prose and journal entries I have carefully selected from 33 years of being a morose tart.

I’ll be doing the performance at the opening reception (yes, there will be alcohol), Thursday 23rd October 18.00 – 21.00, then the two following weekends from midday until 5pm, and finally on Saturday 8th November for our closing reception, again from 18:00-21:00.

Here’s the official word from the curators, Mark Scott-Wood and Hayley Hare, and more information about the other artists taking part (they are GOOD).

“The Lights Are On… is a group exhibition relating to and exploring issues of mental health, well-being and the quirks of human existence and takes it’s title from the saying ‘the lights are on but no one is home’ which alludes to the idea of someone being preoccupied, be it by an outside distraction or something more subconscious.

Artists taking part:

Siobhan Barr
Alex Dipple
Charlie Tuesday Gates
Mikey Georgeson
Hayley Hare
Liberty Hodes
Paul Kindersley
Matthew Lee Knowles
Gemma Murray
Kayleigh O’Keefe
Marie-Louise Plum
Josh Redman
Christina Violet Sabberton
Mark Scott-Wood

Address: Fox Court, 14 Grays Inn Rd, London WC1X 8HN, UK

Opening reception: Thursday 23rd October 18.00 – 21.00

Exhibition opening times:
Weekends 11.00 – 17.00
And by appointment during the week.

Closing reception: Saturday 8th November 18.00 – 21.00

The lights are on… is hosted in Fox Court a Uthink PDP venue.”

Stow Brothers Vinyl Display

As part of the #ArtOnHoeStreet public gallery initiative by Build, I’ve got some work up at Stow Brothers, 236 Hoe Street, Walthamstow. I think the work is up until the end of May, and I hope to work with both Build and Stow Brothers again in the future, as the public gallery is a long-term project.

Here is an image of the work featured. Shop image credit goes to Build/Stow Brothers.

New Folk Visionaries

My new exhibition, New Folk Visionaries, will be on show in the private function room at The Bell, as part of the E17 Art Trail, from May 31 – June 15. The show is open whenever the pub is – usually 12pm til late. I will put a link to the Art Trail listing and times as soon as their site is up (01/05/14).

As part of The Pack of Wolves collective, we take it in turns to curate shows, put on performances, facilitate workshops…and the rest. This gig is my doing.

We’ll be turning the private function room at the back of The Bell pub into a contemporary ‘hunting room’ full of folk, collected items, cabinet displays, skulls and horns, the uncanny and unsettling.

If you’re a fan of stitching, drawing, puppetry, film, sculpture, painted skulls and bone magic you’re most welcome at our show. If you’re not, you should still come. Don’t be scared. We don’t bite.

Featuring work from all the ‘Alpha Wolves’, Marie-Louise Plum, Spike Dennis, Layla RR Holzer and Faye Scott-Farrington, plus honorary wolf, Mark Scott-Wood.