Secretly I’ve been doing this week what I have been longing to do in art school- have contemplative funsewing, gluing and sticking, just like they do at primary school. And all the while in silence, just observing and spending time in a quiet frame of mind re-creating through my imagination. This process I call ‘thinking through my hands’, my physical approach to making.
Having fun ‘just doing’ without concerns of my studio work looking ‘professional’ or ‘finished’ or ‘for exhibition’. The cack-handedness is quite deliberate and spontaneous. Speed and a rawness are concerns, though let it not be regarded as just junk. Not at all. Each juxtaposition, each element has been carefully considered, and decided upon with sharp eye. A shopping list of alternatives including, should I?, shouldn’t I?, a little to the left, a little bolder, a little higher, glue or screw, string or wire, head slumped, less paint detail in facial features, does it matter?
Illustrated is little Mary Franklin’s head (less bonnet) and her hands hung clasped in front of her cheek apron in the uniform of Millbank Prison. I have been painstakingly true to my research findings. The result is inevitably creepy, it’s been an organic process, looking not too serious but still required much decision-making.
While in the studio hand-stitching into the evening with windows blackened, I am listening to corridor noises of students and security officials (the art school ‘wardens’), chatting inane conversation, coughing, laughing, shrieking, sneezing. I cannot help but transport myself back in time, but with feet firmly rooted to the spot. I am in Pentagon 3,just across the parade ground -in the women prisoners’s wing. Like 10 year old Mary,incarcerated for stealing, I am sewing away in my cell in silence, with my every move being tracked by surveillance, and my behaviour is self-controlled, thank you, Mr Bentham. Your general model for institutions has spread in this place through the centuries;up from the prison system (for which it was originally intended), through the military hospital and beyond into art school and every other institution wishing to control the masses. Annabel Ludovici Gray