Worktable Weekend: First thoughts about Bloodsong/Soulsong

sketchbook, first trials and sticks below my window where I draw

I still don’t have nearly as much studio time as I am used to, and as I would like to. But in the time I had, I managed to work a little more on the project(s) I mentioned in my last post two weeks ago. And while I am still not sure about where this is headed, I am more willing to talk about it now. Actually, I hope that writing about it and my ideas here, will help me sort out what this book will become.

Ich habe immernoch lange nicht soviel Zeit für mich und meine Projekte, wie ich es gewohnt war, und wie ich mir wünschen würde. Deshalb habe ich leider auch nicht so viel Zeit zum Bloggen. – Und möchte mich entschuldigen, dass ich diesen Artikel wieder nur einsprachig schreibe. Ich habe schon vor, demnächst wieder mehr auf Deutsch zu schreiben!
Naja, in der wenigen Zeit, dich ich in den letzten zwei Wochen hatte, habe ich jedenfalls etwas mehr über das Konzept für mein neues Buch nachgedacht, und ein wenig mit Material und Medium experimentiert. Vielleicht kann ich ja demnächst wirklich ein neues Buch präsentieren.

sticks on the work mat

It all started with the collection of sticks that you can best see in the image above, lying on my work mat. I found them while tidying up my studio. I bought them ages ago under the label “decorative item” (no usage instructions). Probably whoever sold them felt the same as I did: They are beautiful but what could I do with them? Now, having them in my hands once more, I couldn’t resist playing with them. The first thing that came to my mind it to try weave thread into them and see whether I could make that a stable construction. I liked the result: it had a rough, primal feeling to me. Therefore it connected with my thoughts about the “blood, skin, bone” project I started before and did not finish yet (a successor of “frozen“). The first working title became bloodsong, and I thought of weaving in hair, stick it on with my blood, maybe attaching parchment strips with tracings similar to what I tried before. With these vague ideas in mind, I explored the properties of the material a little more, and tried how it would look and feel like if I attached some mull. You can see that in the picture above. This is medical mull, which I chose because I was still thinking: “flesh, blood, wounds” The specks you can see on the sample in the lower left in the picture above are red, acrylic paint finger prints. Something I thought I might do with blood for a finished piece.

While I was working on the contents, I moved away from the blood, skin, bone, flesh… trail of thought. I have been thinking a lot about identity recently, and how what we think about ourselves relates to what others think about us. So the working title changed from “bloodsong” to “soulsong”. I worked a little on wording, a little on what kind of artwork could fit to this structure, what exactly the structure could be, and so on. I am still pretty much shifting everything around, working hands-on most of the time, so that I can see things take shape. I started to apply gesso to the mull so that I can now add text and imagery more easily. Attaching pieces of paper of parchment didn’t work for me. I am not completely happy with the gesso at the moment, because it takes away this rough feeling that I liked so much about the first experiments. Also the different stick colors are hardly noticable with the gesso on top. So I started to only partly cover them. I will see how that works out.

As you can see, I was quick to give up my self-imposed rule to only use dry media in my little attic room. I really should not use acrylics there – the floor is carpeted, and I am working directly on said floor. I am not sure whether I forgot or just didn’t care at the moment. I guess a little bit of both…

As explained above, I started to work on this book while sifting through stuff during the move. Among a bunch of boxes with photos and other memorabilia there were also leftovers of started and never finished books. One of those projects is about my grandparents. The year after my grandmother’s death, I collected things that I found on walks along the river Rhine for a whole year, always with the intention to make a seasons related book about my grandparents and my relation to them, and maybe life in general. But I never finished it. That year of collection stuff, writing about them, thinking about them more or less continuously, already worked for me to aid my griefing process. I thought so much about how that book could look like, that I didn’t need to make it. Or maybe it was just that time healed the wounds their death had left me. But I keep on thinking about how my grandparents shaped my idea of who I am and who I could be. And thoughts about how relations with people in general and even objects and other surroundings (like the place where I live) change and define who I am keep popping up. So this is another trail of thoughts that surround this new book.

And then, maybe when I said that this book about my grandparents was never made is just not true: I made a couple trials and books (see here) that were not exactly what I wanted to do initially, nor were they exclusively about my grandparents, or about the seasons, but they came from thinking about that seasons project, and maybe I really made that book, it just turned out different than what I had initially in mind. If that is true, than maybe this will become another one of those books about them after all.

Christmas 1991: me and my sisters with my grandparents and my mother.

4 replies on “Worktable Weekend: First thoughts about Bloodsong/Soulsong”

  1. Again I must say how amazing your art work is, Hilke. I went to see your page about creating this project about your identity and project about your grandparents. Very touching. I can relate to it as my own grandparents – on maternal and paternal side – were very important to me. I would have a lot to express about them. I love the tangible way you express you own loss and love.

    If I may say so, I prefer the name “Soul Song” rather than “Frozen” because all you created is really Alive in your thoughts and through your inventive fingers 🙂

    In any case, I thank you for all you share so beautifully.

  2. What a lovely post, Hilke. I’m almost not sure what to say… but it’s so good to see you working again, even if it’s not as much as you’d like. I always like reading about your processes, and I look forward to seeing where this goes. It seems this move has stirred some deep feelings.

    I also like the family picture! It’s kind of shocking to think how long ago 1991 actually is.

    Btw, I have a friend who uses a carpeted room in a rented house as a studio, and she is a traditional painter who works big (that is, paint splatters!). Her solution was to lay down a large canvas drop cloth (or several), completely covering the floor from wall to wall. It actually works, and makes walking into the studio like entering a whole other kind of wild, creative space. Perhaps not ideal, but it’s not slippery and you don’t have to worry about the carpet.

    1. Hi Ellen,

      lovely to see you here again! 1991, I made the calculation only now and realize it is 22 years ago now. – fhuh, it definitely doesn’t feel like this was 22 years ago. But then I look at the pink sweatshirt I wear (and my youngest sister wearing the same), and I do believe it has been 22 years 🙂

      Thank you for mentioning canvas drop cloth. I never heard about it before, just googled it, and it looks indeed like the perfect hing! I was thinking of firm plastic sheets that are sometimes used on carpets under office chairs with rollers bit found that too uncomfortable. A dense fabric could be the perfect solution.

  3. Hi Isabelle,

    thank you very much for the compliment – I am delighted that you like my art, and apparently can connect with what I am trying to express.
    Recently I heard of many people, independently, who did not meet their grandparents or couldn’t speak with them because they spoke different languages. Although I didn’t live with my grandparents, for me they were very important indeed: They helped shape how I see the world. Good to hear that there are others who share my experience.

    Thank you for visiting, I hope to welcome you here again 🙂

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