stardust

 

stardust

‘stardust’ 2016

He stared up at the stars: and it seemed to him then that they were dancers, stately and graceful, performing a dance almost infinite in its complexity. He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale, they were, and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the centre of the world, as each of us does.

from Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

 

I have been playing around with this one for a while now and posted the original not long ago with some other medium format pictures of seed heads. I came back to it recently because I started reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and the thought of falling stars and magical faerie worlds brought it to mind. Anyway, here it is again, slightly re-worked.

A very happy New Year and thank you to all of my readers. Here’s hoping 2016 brings you much magic and serendipity!

 

 

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2016

black and white

black and white 1 (1 of 1) black and white 2 (1 of 1)

 

I’m trying to work on a new black and white image, so I’ve been playing around with a few ideas.

 

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

reaching for star dust

I love photographing seed heads. It’s a mild obsession of mine. They are a popular subject these days, it seems, appearing on everything from kitchenware to lino prints. I’m a big fan of Angie Lewin’s lino cuts especially. I think it is a bold simplicty in their structural form, and  an unassuming elegance which makes them so enticing and lends itself so well to so many different media. I have always felt like they are beseeching in some way; offering up their fragile form to the wide open sky. To me, they have become a symbol of the infinite, innocent generosity of nature’s gentle rhythm.

 

Usually, I would reach for the macro lens and get in close (as I did hereherehere, and here again!), but I decided to try out my rollei with some black and white medium format shots for a different perspective, still keeping the aperture as wide as I could. Unfortunately I had a bit of a light leaking incident, which is why the last image has a flecked, slightly grainy appearance (the film was fine grain), but I decided not to correct this. I quite like the otherworldly effect. It’s a bit like a meteor shower, or some other celestial phenomenon. As if their willowy limbs are tentatively reaching out to greet a scatter of star dust.

 

seed heads 1 seed heads 2 seed heads 3 seed heads 4

 

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

onwards

 

Onwards

 

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

 

 

the dreamer

interrupted by a daydream

‘interrupted by a daydream’, 2014

The Dreamer

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 …

This is the latest image in my in defense of daydreaming series, which is taking me in interesting directions. You can read more about it and find all the images in my artfinder shop.

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

serious play

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 sky2

 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

 

on being

Being is the most universal concept… but it is the darkest of all

Heidegger

 

on being 1

on being 2
on being 4 on being 5

on being 6

on being 8

on being 9

 

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

In defense of daydreaming

We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is nothing but an expression of poetry that was lost.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

 

in defense of daydreaming1

 shelter me from the storm

In defense of daydreaming2

lose me in the mists of time

Who gives a truer account of history? The poet, or the historian?

Thank you to Chris Bronsk and his excellent post repercussions for reminding me about and bringing me back to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which I have always read and savoured as an unreserved celebration of the pure joy of intimate poetic expression. The power of the poetic image is something which transcends history, time and even language. It is able to speak directly to our consciousness without the need for translation or interpretation. Through poetry, we can connect with our past, and with our imagination. Bachelard believed that “for a simple poetic image there is no project; a flicker of the soul is all that is needed.”

I have always been a fierce defender of daydreaming, and make time for it every day. I believe it is more than ‘escapism’; daydreaming makes us more open to the possibility of poetry – both receiving it and expressing it. It gives us the opportunity to indulge our dreams, create and practice the possibility of alternative realities; to reflect, be brave and honest with ourselves, and speak directly to our weary souls which are generally neglected, bruised and battered by the necessary drudgery of the day-to-day. Indeed, Bachelard has also been linked with the surrealist project which advocated the practice of (day)dreaming, or dislocation from reality, as a deliberate political act. Ultimately though, daydreaming (the ‘irrational’ primitive realm of dreams, poetry and imagination) provides us with a counterpoint to rational thought, and can actually help us to live happier, more fulfilled lives.

Let us then safeguard reverie, as our rich inner lives provide a vital antidote to reality, and I hope that today you are able to carve out a little chink in your busy schedule for daydreaming.

 

 

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

horizon

horizons 1horizons 2

The line between the sea and the sky is

the end, and then the beginning of something

new. A promise

to Future’s wings which

fan the fire of juvenile desire

and go! Flee! Don’t turn back your eyes

must face forwards now and new things will be yours

to mould in your cupped hands like a smooth,

ripe mango. Many a journey lingers in your

laughter and foamy fingers cling to your stern,

but don’t look back on your wistful daydream

it stays there still on the shore and looks on,

upon the horizon.

Sure and sheer it cuts

a straight line clear as the deftness of your serious eyes

which gently tug the sky back to the earth

and yes, a neat line is a satisfying thing nestling

in the smudges of drab grey space which surround us.

Some things can be wonky and charming like

teeth, or fringes.

But not a horizon.

 

© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013

find me

find me 1 find me 2 find me 3

find me unravelling the forest floor

find me hugging the crest of a sandy shore

find me wrapped in a gauze of Spring, when Autumn comes

that’s where you’ll find me

© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013

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