A new journey revealed itself in my work in late spring. A dream that I had when teaching in New Zealand 25 years previously re-emerged.
I am on my way to visit a wise woman, although I know that by the time I arrive she will be gone. All that is left is her cabin, a pool of water, a bottle containing a thick dark liquid and some teachings.
In my life, I try to be free – free from all that ties me to reactive rather than creative responses.
Recalling this dream and drawing on energy arising after a period of chronic fatigue, I returned to screen printing and started on a new journey. There is a long way to go.
And sometimes we just need the beauty of the sea
Recent work entitled Living shoreside, is drawn from an extended stay during spring and summer living on the shoreline on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. The work forms by absorbing impressions from the surroundings: the tide continually coming and going revealing and covering the seaweed, sand, rocks, oysters and other shell life, and through living alongside all the local residents: herons with their slow mindful fishing, oyster catchers with their incessant ‘kleep kleep’, the curious stares from the seals… The continually changing colours of the sea, the hills and the sky, as well as the brilliance of the machair flowers thrill and inspire. Work is done slowly and mindfully, letting impressions incubate and express themselves through the materials and methods. Print, stitch, fold, layer, mark, scratch or distress is used depending on what feels right. A process of experimentation, never knowing what will emerge… Initially it can feel like a struggle. But eventually something opens up, emerges: an inspiration, a theme, or a curiosity about how the materials might work together.
A place isn’t sacred in itself (well only in the sense that all space is sacred); it’s sacred because of the quality of presence we bring to it.
I am drawn to the basic elements; earth, stone, metal, water. On walks in Scotland – which I visit regularly, or wandering in London – where I live; I soak up atmosphere, inspiration and feelings, and collect fragments of materials that attract me, without knowing why.
I let these impressions and materials sit a long while. I move them around, bring things together, move them apart, perhaps take some fabric and start arranging. I let them sit for long periods, walk by again, move something slightly. Initially it can feel like a struggle. But eventually something opens up, emerges: an inspiration, a theme, or a curiosity about how the materials might work together. This is sacred presence. I might dye parts of the fabric with turmeric or tea, or paint, stitch, fold, mark, scratch or distress in some ways. I experiment, not knowing what will emerge… Working slowly, layer upon layer.
Objects that have been part of something else, objects that have been part of something living hold a resonance, which has always drawn her to pick up and hold. In the process discarded objects become sacred again. Put them together and there’s a sacred place – recreated and anew. New meanings are born.
The two collections in this show are two such sacred spaces. They remind Ashoka of the impermanence that runs through everything, and also the connections that bind us together through time and space.