Posted on June 1, 2015
First off, I’m sorry for the misleading title (it is about daisy chains, but there is no set of instructions I’m afraid). And whilst I’m at it, I would also like to apologise to regular readers especially for the overload of family pictures recently. I hope it’s not all too saccharine for your tastes (but you know I can do acerbic just as well as I can do sweet, I think). It has just struck me with some force, this spring holiday, how they are at such a magical age; on the cusp of knowing, discovering the world – their world – through their own eyes as they are. So many questions and misunderstandings tumbling from their tongues. At once categorically assertive and desperately unsure. I’m painfully aware also, as they bow their heads and giggle about private jokes and shared experiences which are theirs and theirs only, how much I am no longer a part of that; how every troubled thought, or stubbed toe nail no longer requires a kiss and a cuddle and soothing words as they learn to regulate their own emotions. Don’t get me wrong; I’m also glad for this. Very glad, that they are learning to forge the paths of their own world and navigate through thorny issues like fears and friendships. But along with that comes a distance. A gap. Only small just now, and still easily overcome when troubles spill over into tears and I am needed. But it is there in the closed bedroom doors and the occasional quiet withdrawal of hands from mine. In the silences to my many questions about their day. And then there are the rolled eyes, the But mummy, you wouldn’t understand, and Don’t take that tone/attitude with me! altercations which are now part of our daily patter.
But still they want the hugs, and sometimes stories at bedtime. Still they want to laugh and dance, and share silly jokes with us at dinner time, even though I’m embarrassing in front of their friends. So those precious in-between moments – the ones without the sulks and the temper tantrums and the arguments and when I’m not so tired I don’t have the energy (and then I kick myself for missing them) – I just need to reach out and snatch them, every so often, and hold them close by to my heart. I guess the camera is just the way I know how to do that.
So, last week, we were enjoying the beautiful spring weather at their great-grandfather’s house in London. His unkempt garden had a rich crop of fine looking daisys, so my seven year old asked me to help her make a daisy chain, since she didn’t know how. I thought, Oh my goodness I can’t believe you don’t know how? It seems like something every seven year old girl should *just* know how to do. And then I realised, how would she know if no-one showed her? So I did. And we had fun picking the strongest, tallest specimens. I took pictures, and then after a while on her request I put the camera away, and we carried on until the sun got too warm and we went off to find some shade.
There may be some kind of tenuous connection in all of that, between daisy chains, life, family and instructions, or lack of. But it’s a bit hazy. And I’ve never really been one for tying up the lose threads into a perfect bow. I’m happy to leave some questions unanswered, and accept that sometimes problems cannot be neatly solved, like algebra. Life is a bit like hair, really (those of you who are female and/or have daughters will appreciate this) – no matter how hard you try to create the perfect style and tie it up all neatly, after a while some tendrils will always work their way lose. And really, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.
Edited to say: I intended to post this over a month ago, just after the Easter holidays, and somehow it never made it past ‘draft’ version. So apologies for the delay! I’m so jealous of that sunshine now as I type with my thick fleecy socks on, and a hot water bottle in my lap!
© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015
Posted on April 5, 2015
Happy Easter everyone!
Oh, and WordPress tells me that today is my 3 year blogging anniversary, so happy anniversary to me! 🙂
I’m looking forward to a day of eating and relaxing with my family. This adorable photograph is an old one of Alex’s, which I turned into a greeting card last year for Easter.
Hope you’re all enjoying the bank holiday!
© image by Alex Hughes, 2012
Posted on March 11, 2015
So, I’ve been running a lot lately, which (partly) explains my sporadic posting. I’m not really a runner. I have set myself a lot of goals in my life, but never physical ones. Physical exercise is not really my thing, and it’s making me pretty exhausted a lot of the time. Still, even though it is hard, tiring, sometimes quite monotonous, and there’s the whole thing of fitting it in to your already packed schedule, there is a strange compulsion in me to run at this stage of my life. I can honestly say I never really felt like running much before. I used to be one of those people who looked on at those red-faced joggers with pity. But now, as I approach the end of my 3rd decade, I am one of them. I get it. It feels like something I absolutely must do.
I like the way it makes me feel. Aside from the health benefits, I like the way my body finds a gentle bobbing rhythm, and when you hit that sweet spot it sometimes becomes something quite effortless. I like the fact that I can pretend like I’m running away, but then I always come back home (and usually in a better mood). I like that running gives me space to listen, to think, and process. I like feeling my heart pump harder and louder. I like that it makes me sweat. I like having run; the way my legs feel tight and fizzy (and that post-run shower feels oh so good). I like that my children and husband cheerfully wave me off with pride every Sunday morning. I like my muddy, slightly battered running shoes – I feel every hard-earned mile in their soles.
I will never understand though, why some days it feels like I’m wafting along on a gentle breeze, admiring the scenery and smiling serenely at dog walkers, whilst on others my face is a scowl of concentration, I can’t smile for puffing, and my feet seem to jar with the pavement. On those days every single kilometre I chase is a hard slog. I have been surprised too about how many emotions are stirred up when I run. Sometimes I find myself crying.
In April I shall be attempting to run the London Marathon. A thought which fills me with terror and excitement in equal measure. I hope I shall continue to run after that, if I feel the need.
But for now, onwards, and forwards feels like a good direction to be going in.
Edited to say: I shall be running in support of The Lily Foundation, a charity which funds research into mitochondrial disease; a metabolic disorder for which there is no cure. If you are interested to learn more about mitochondrial disease and how mitochondria affect our body please watch this informative video.
© words and images Emily Hughes, 2015
Posted on January 3, 2015
A one-off commission I created for a special surf-loving couple of the Welsh coastline near Bridgend. I overlaid textures from the rocks and cliffs nearby to give a feel of the local landscape.
© images and words Emily Hughes, 2015
Posted on December 28, 2014
There is a quiet sort of grace in the gentle ebb and flow of the world around us; the sparse, sinewed kink of flowers against a stone wall; the comforting swell of a hilltop on a mountain walk; the twist of the dying roses’ sepal artfully languishing in an old glass beer bottle of a busy café. Even the merest ripple in a lake on a still day; the dense, deft weave of wild forest grasses, or the willowy elegence of noiseless pine trees [how many years have they stood, poised and calm as the wisest of shaman, hushed, mighty and knowing as we rush around like crazed ants at their feet, lost in the dark. They watch us bump into each other beneath them and curse and move on as they sigh and shake their noble emerald heads above in the clouds]. These are the things which quicken my heart and steady my breath. When so many big things are happening. Things I don’t understand; things which cannot be understood. I look for the quiet things.
I wrote this post a few months ago, before I lost my way with blogging, and life [temporarily – it’s good to be back. I’ve missed it more than I can say]. I still find it relevant now; perhaps even more so given I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on
[in relation to my life, and my practice]
[a word which emerged from these thoughts]
It’s heartening to know, coming back to my blog now to find this post, that I might have been on the right track.
Time to get back to it.
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014
Posted on October 16, 2014
‘interrupted by a daydream’, 2014
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Dreams: as vivid in my eyes as orchids.
Like them brilliant and opulent,
like them drawing through the giant stem
of living sap the juices of their strength,
like them flaunting an absorbed life-blood,
revelling in the fleetness of the minute,
then, in the next, pallid as the dead.
And when, softly, worlds pass overhead,
do you not feel their winds, flower-scented?
Dreams: as vivid in my eyes as orchids.
Yep, still here, still daydreaming …
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014
Posted on July 24, 2014
The work you do as an artist is really play, but in the most serious sense […] Like when a two year old discovers how to make a tower out of blocks. It is no half-hearted thing. You are materialising – taking something from the inside and putting it out into the world so you can be relieved of it.
Quote by Leslie Dick, from Seven days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton
Haiku of grass and sky, 2014
As I try to move forward with my practice, I find myself reflecting more and more on what it is I am doing, and to what purpose. I read the book Seven days in the Art World last year (kindly sent to me as a gift by a fellow blogger). In an attempt to unravel the elusive workings of the art world, Thornton tries to engage various academics with the question: “What is an artist?”, to which she receives a range of answers, mostly disparaging and dismissive, as she records, presumably because many found the question naive, distasteful or even irrelevant. An obvious question it may be, but it is a pertinent one, and one to which it seems to me someone involved in any way in the discourse of art and art practice, whether as scholar, producer, seller or critic, should have an intelligent sounding answer.
The writer Leslie Dick, however, does have an answer, and one which is somehow obvious and clever and thoughtful and disarmingly simple all at the same time. I have a terrible memory for quotes (and most things), so when I do remember things other people have said, or written, it usually means that it was something which resonated deeply with me and was apposite to me or my situation. Indeed, I was, at the time, spending a lot of time pondering this creative impetus and the overwhelming necessity which I was feeling to express it.
I was asking myself a lot of questions, and the internal monologue went something like this: Is this normal, to feel the need for space to just ‘be creative’? If so, why don’t other people around me get that? Is it selfish to want time away from my friends and family to satisfy this craving? Why do I find it awkward to talk about? What is it I am trying to achieve, though? Is it art? Is it a hobby? Or is it something else entirely? How do I know? How do I find out? Does it really matter?
So you see, when I read these words, they just seemed to slot so perfectly into my thinking, like missing pieces of a jigsaw which had previously brought nothing but sheer confusion and frustration – it suddenly all transposed neatly together to make a perfectly whole picture of where I was at. Which made perfect sense. Because here is the ‘guilty’ stuff which was also going through my brain:
1 – I am being indulgent (there are so many other useful things I could be doing – like the ironing, or sorting the cupboards, or baking nice treats for the family, or volunteering my time for a charity… I could be so much more organised! And charitable!)
2 – I am wasting my time (just playing around – who cares about my pictures and my confused ramblings anyhow? Why bother?)
3 – I just need to do this.
And with that efficiently eloquent turn of phrase I was able to, if not exactly answer my questions, place them, settle them, and realise that the questioning in itself was a perfectly normal, even essential part of the process. Because it does feel like being a toddler at play, in the sense that you are gifting yourself the luxury of time (and we all know how precious that is) and sometimes money also, to play. It does feel indulgent. But no-one would ever dream of accusing a toddler of wasting her time building a tower of blocks, because we also all know that play is an essential part of a toddler’s development. What is one day a tower may the next day become a bridge, then a castle, and then, when the necessary motor skills are in place, only the child’s imagination and opportunity to practice is its limit. And her mother’s (or father’s) little squeals of joy and rain showers of kisses are all the feedback and encouragement that child needs to know that she is on the right track and should continue in her modest endeavours, which will eventually become greater ones.
It’s a bit more complicated as an adult. We tend to seek recognition from a wider audience for one thing, and that toddler’s world is yet reassuringly simple and primitive, in the sense that the meeting of basic human needs and impulses are of primary concern over social ones. We cannot always seek to satisfy our desires so freely. But why do we as a society tend to advocate that play should be ring-fenced for childhood? Adults need play too, and they need it in the most serious and fundamental sense. Just like the toddler, they need time and space to explore and experiment; to practice and develop ideas and processes; to put them ‘out there’ so that they may then have the opportunity to evolve into achievements for which they can be recognised and of which they can be proud, however small or big they may be. Inside every adult is a little toddler desperate for a high five or thumbs up for good effort, or even a small squeal of joy.
Soon after I wrote the first draft of this post, I went away to a music festival with (husband) Alex for the weekend. We try to get away and do this every year, just the two of us and our tent, to indulge our shared love of music and escape (just for a while) from the trappings of a terribly bourgeois existence. There was a young unsigned American band who were all over the festival and generally working really hard, but having a great time. We saw them play a couple of times, and on one occasion the lead singer introduced a song called “Innocent” saying that as people get older they often feel the need to get all serious and tortured about creativity, but that really, well, it should just be about having a whole lot of fun. Yup. And that “fuck it, let’s just have fun” vibe of a festival is just generally the best kind of atmosphere to spawn creativity. Even tonight, I start to reprimand my children for blowing bubbles in their milk and making a mess all over the tablecloth, but whilst launching into the familiar rhythm of weary chastisement, I suddenly stop and check myself. Because I realised they knew. They were already getting the cloth to clear up the mess they had made (even if they made a terrible job of it). Play is good. Play is experimenting. Play is learning. But like anything good, it must have its limits, and as adults and educators, that is our job, in our wisdom and experience, to gently and sensitively educate our children in the seriousness of play, and thus instil a sense of individual responsibility for any mess they may make in the process. And maybe next time they will know exactly how hard they need to blow to get maximum bubble fun without spilling the milk over the edge of the cup (here’s hoping at least).
Answers to my questions? I haven’t really found them. What I have found, I think, is some reassurance that what I experience when I need to ‘create’ is derived from a most basic and natural human instinct. Whilst other people may feel the need to pigeon-hole my outward self as one thing or another and may find this confusing, really it is OK for me to be ‘just me’ on the inside and to continue to play with serious focus, energy and passion and a self-reflexive approach in order to push my practice forwards. All the rest is just a fine balancing act (and that, of course, is a little more complicated).
This image is part of a new investigation into photography and poetic expression, in which I am exploring the relationship between photograph as both surface-object and subject-referent. I don’t really know if it’s art, or if it’s any good, but I’m definitely having lots of fun playing.
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014