Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Songs without words, trees without leaves

OK how to start, this has been one of the most difficult pieces I've made in a long time, not technically but because of its personal significance, I got a little obsessed over it. It's finished and on the gallery wall but it's still bothering me and I feel in needs a full explanation, so here goes.
The work is for Inkygoodness 4 with the theme and title of play; i had an idea for this show and had kind of started on it when I received the terrible news a very lovely friend, Arina who had tragically been in a coma from a road accident the week before, passed away, absolutely heartbreaking, words cannot describe how to react to something like that and somehow it seemed fitting to make this piece a sort of tribute to her and to honour her memory.
So this then lends a huge weight to the work to make something worthy and tasteful and not self indulgent, over sentimental or cliche, finding the right subtle and tasteful signifiers and symbols, my concern is that I'm not using this to give my work gravitas but make the piece a heartfelt sign of respect.
My initial idea around the theme was based loosely on the music I love to play, a folk art piece about traditional folk song, traditional instruments and the history of this music.
So being that Arina was from Latvia, a country i visited in 2003 and was made to feel very warmly welcome by it's lovely inhabitants, I began to explore and research it's musical and folk heritage, as a tribute to her, her friends and family and her beautiful homeland.
I discovered a wonderful bit of Latvian cultural history and the remarkable work of Krišjānis Barons, father of the Dainu Skapis - Cabinet of Folksongs, he collected and collated traditional Latvian folk songs, written up on tiny slips of paper, preserving a rich cultural and national heritage , previously unrecorded to any significant scale.
So I created my own mini "cabinet of folksongs", using found objects, weathered wood, images and relics that related to my thoughts, emotions, ideas and memories.
To make mine relevant I used snippets of lyrics that I related to, most i was listening to whilst making it and things just jumped out, bits of contemporary song, 60's hippyfolk and old traditional songs. I used some American folksongs some of which are believed to have routes in Europe, being that America is founded on a settled immigrant population. I liked the significance of this, old traveling tales brought from the homeland and the mixing of folklore and heritage.
I took elements of Latvian culture, the national bird, the White Wagtail, which again has links to Latvian folksongs, my quoted take on this being "little birdie", some embroidery designs, badges, buttons, photos of the frozen Baltic sea in spring, trinkets and treasures, things that reminded me of my Latvian friends, past, present and missed.
A lot of my work is about nostalgia and i suppose none more than this, it's a cabinet of memories as much as songs, to be passed on like all those folk tales, I guess my idea is that to honour someone is to remember them and pass on there stories. This is my attempt to remember a lost friend and pass on her story, so many people I've spoken to are saddened by the tragedy but i hope you can take this and use it to cherish what you have and realise how fragile we all are.

All proceeds from the sale this work will be going to Arina's family, and i would also like to dedicate this to Ieva.