still no time for blogging when each hour is worth a whole blog, we get breakfast at 7.45, head to studio 8.30 ( our bus has tiger-skin pattern velour curtains, driver wears Hawaiian shirt and sailors cap- it makes sense here ! ), return from studios 8.30pm. I made notes today, but it was an emotional day, I always get emotional when i get in the painting ‘zone’ but this is crazy, I simply can’t believe I am allowed to paint what I want, i don’t even know where to start, but I have and the flood gates are opened, impatiently I want to get the pictures out no questions why, what next, whats the point?, done one small one, about the journey I guess. started a pen drawing, and two circular canvases, they are very watery- trying to bring a little of the sea to so far inland. one is about submerged cities, princesses living underwater, selkies ( seal people ); the other is a parade of animal symbols.
At times It felt lonely today, all the artists here are making work which would normally inspire me for months, yet I cannot talk to them about this work, about art, culture, stories, myths, symbol, it was like being trapped in a bubble. But I know the painting process brings every emotion to the surface so I just wait, next it was wonderful, I collared our translator for today, the enchanting and lovely Anna Pavlova- she communicate for me, with a couple of artists we swopped stories about what our paintings mean, what the symbols represent in different cultures, swopped folk stories of swans and seal folk, it was magical!
heres some thoughts earlier;
Life death birth
Human evolution, personal evolution, social evolution
Branches on a tree
Tree of life
Tree reaching to heaven
The pastures of heaven
The stories of our people
Strange lands familiar emotions
The human tide
I’m questioning home, questioning the freedom of the West, the free market which enslaves us. We are so sure that we are free and safe – freedom and liberty, that even those of us who question everything still become enchanted by the western dream, or delusion of freedom and living the dream. UK makes a lot of noise for a small country, UK plays with the big boys and thinks it is so safe and so free. But here 2000 miles from the land of the free, in Russia, I am confused by the freedom, the layers we are wrapped in at home suffocate, the fear the rules the social constraints, we walk about town here, “ that wouldn’t be allowed” at every turn, yet the streets are clean and safe, no-one complains about children playing, pedestrians on the road, dogs loose, loud music, car alarms, smoke, workers, cars parked, no police interfere or question, no-one seems to notice, they stop to pick up litter, they stare at us looking so strange, yet it is a non-judgmental curiosity, questioning, happy to communicate. I was so worried about what the different social rules would be, I never expected that the rules are simple, human, honest. There are formalities here, respect and dignity, but as artists, free to paint what I want ? This has completely thrown me, I don’t have to justify? Explain? It won’t be judged, pigeon holed, dismissed as ‘other’ “ artists are a gift from god “…. at home , now, it feels like we are treated like simple fools to be tolerated, understood as something different “ arty farty- airy fairy “…I’m questioning what they told me at home, in the land where freedom is the dream we are sold, where I feel like a rat in the maze, cog in the machine. I think we are a lot less free than they have told us. I am pretty angry about this, all the time the whole world was waiting beyond tightly held borders, a whole wide giant vibrant world full of live, love, beauty, happy, vibrant free people.
The studios are idyllic, I feel like an art student from a bygone era sent away on a grand tour of the world, set up in some stunning studio in an alien land, like the things you day dream about as a young student or imagine in films or when reading the biography of artists from hundreds of years ago. Alex described Yelabuga as like Mecca for artists. It is a unique city, not that I have any other Russian city experience to compare it to. Not only is it really beautiful architecturally, but to be surrounded by so many artists, to be welcome with such hospitality . But to be given the space the time, the materials the freedom to create is incredible. I don’t get nervous or excited about things before they happen, I don’t get scared when bad things happen, I stay focused, but now that I am here, settled in, I am becoming very emotional it is just so wonderful! I am painting next to large open windows looking across to the tower & cathederal, a breeze wafts in. the canvas behaves differently to the ones I’m used to and the paint dries very fast, now I am getting used to this I can let it wash watery layers, trying to bring some of the sea into land locked Yelabuga.