In recent years I've started a new collection at the beginning of January which has then developed throughout the year. I like the notion of being able to clear the decks and start something fresh, an action that wipes away any forming cobwebs - literally and mentally.
So why did it become a complete stumbling block in December??! My usual process of lists of words, quotes, images, scribbled ideas of new directions , all accumulated through the year (I’m constantly collecting) halted and just didn’t evolve. I've always had to have the concept in place before I can make, and for some reason last month I just had a block. It's been so frustrating this time.
Anyway, yesterday was the breakthrough day!
My original thought process had been triggered by a visit to Glasgow at half term with Grant and Hattie. Hats is toying with the idea of Uni in Glasgow. (It's SO far away, but that's a whole other rambling…) and from the tourist bus we travelled on, you get to see the Glasgow Necropolis - a Victorian garden Cemetery from the early to mid 1800s. It’s inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetary in Paris - this is the largest cemetery in the city - overcrowded with stark white tombs next to dramatic theatrical statues, quiet graves next to explosive monuments. Although over a smaller area, the architecture at the Glasgow Necropolis is also fantastic, the tombs are all different, the skyline of the monuments and headstones almost looks magical or festival-esque, completely belying the purpose of the site with 3000 tombs and thought to be 5000 burials.
So this started me thinking about epitaphs, and noting down names, and snippets of the lives mentioned on headstones. But I didn't want a new body of work to be completely about death or just things in the past now gone. It’s okay to have that notion, but it also needs to be contemplative with room for celebration.
I’d also been thinking about remembrance. It is always something that attracts me to other people's work and present in many guises in my own. Memories and nostalgia which help form the lives we lead now. Obviously I have Deb-ness in most of my work, she is my remembrance and definitely my celebration along with so many other influences.
Chronicles and Epitaphs was therefore one collection title I was playing with, but it isn't quite right for me. Chronicles of Remembrance, maybe, but it still wasn’t playful enough. It needs to be specific but vague, descriptive but encouraging curiosity, and able to move between various concepts of remembrance -
An awareness of the past and how it affects the future
A memory of a person, to bring them to mind
Showing respect for someone who has died
A past event
A past action that shapes how you do things now
Memorials, headstones, urns, planting trees, songs, poems, memories, photos, park benches (“I want a bench when I'm dead”, said by another exhibitor at one of the shows this year. I think I do too!)
Last night I sat with Grant and tried to explain what I was trying to find - this elusive title for a collection that would grow, that I have a vague aesthetic idea of, for which chronicle was a gorgeous word, but not quite right. I’d wondered about a circus of remembrance, but that was TOO frivolous - Grant suggested repertoire. Then Cacophony. NIce, but no, then - that was it THEATRE! A Theatre of Remembrance.
It allows drama, cabaret, over the top, niche to be combined with nostalgia, memories and recollections. I could incorporate theatrical references, there’s a Shakespeare related other project which I can also envelop with the same thinking. Also, each piece can be a Scene. Act 63, scene 2. Act 5, Scene 432 etc. It gives me scope.
Everything clicked into place. Time to start making. Excited.