Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Above: posing with my drawing in 2011 at Park Street College.
I've been labouring over a drawing for a few weeks, battling valiantly against my failing body. My skin is falling off, especially on my palms, and I'm having to run to the loo every half hour. I feel like the walking dead and thinking and drawing is difficult. Just holding a pen hurts! But it's all making for an intense experience. I feel like I'm time travelling. Around this time 11 years ago I was finishing my first year of art school. I felt inspired and hopeful for the first time in many years. I had begun a foundation course in 1990 aged 20 but had to drop out after suffering some kind of breakdown. But now it was 2011, I'd turned 40 and I was feeling grounded and ready to create some seriously groovy shit. It was at this time of year, spring 2011, that I finished my first work--a large pencil drawing of the tenfoot (a Hull term for back alley) that ran behind my childhood home on Fairfax Avenue here in Hull. I set a series of prehistoric monoliths outside of the main image and I was really happy with it. But the drawing has been damaged over the years and this month I decided to make another one, this time in ink and on decent cartridge paper (the original was on wallpaper). So that's what I'm doing at the moment. I'm literally burning the midnight oil as it has to be finished in a few days to be framed in time for entry into the Ropewalk gallery's open exhibition.
Above: the state of my hands over the past couple of weeks!
There's a little insect that seems to appear on my paper each night, keeping me company and enjoying the warmth of the lamp. It sounds ridiculous but I keep imagining there's a connection between us. Maybe it's the spirit of one of my ancestors come to say hi. It feels strange to be working on this same piece 11 years later. Has my work really progressed in these past 11 years? What have I achieved? Is it a case of "back to square one"? That's difficult to quantify. I do feel older, more battered and slightly less hopeful. But the drawing is rooted in so many decades-old ideas and interests of mine that it doesn't matter. At this point in my life nothing really matters. It all feels like someone else's dream. I'm not quite sure what the work was about but there's definitely a bit of nostalgia there for a distant golden age. I even feel nostalgic now for that period 11 years ago when I was working on the original drawing.
In the art world nostalgia is deeply uncool--all the more reason to use it. But there's a lot more to this piece. The stones represent a time completely lost to us, and their purpose will always remain a mystery. We understand the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, the Elizabethans. Hell, they might have made tenfoots to facilitate rear access to their properties. But the monoliths defy reason--they serve no practical purpose. Their purpose stands outside of both time and reason, the same way they're represented in my drawing.
Above: my drawing from 2011