Thank you to the Laing Art Gallery staff for their enthusiasm and help while I experimented with events and installation. It's been an emotional ride.
Thank you to those of you who spent time with the work. Be it for 4 seconds, 4 minutes, or 4 hours (apologies to the one that travelled 2.5 hours that they'll never get back, however.) Thank you to those that left messages of profound emotional moments, and thank you for feeling safe enough to leave them in the comments book. Thank you to those that met with me in person and shared stories of loved ones lost, I cannot even begin to describe what a privilege it is for me.
This was never supposed to be resolved. I don't think grief can be resolved. The nature of my work and the nature of the installation weren't ever supposed to be a clear indication of what grief was, but rather a place to experiment with the profound emotions and memories that grief is unable to reconcile. I think that if I thought that I had answers, this would have never been a thing and I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing right now.
I remember the way my mother's brow furrowed when she concentrated, but I can't remember the shade of brown her eyes were. However, I remember my father's deep set blue eyes, but not what his hands looked like. I can still hear their voices, but only certain phrases. My mother beckons, "Lee?" and my father sings. "Don't worry, be happy." (How I hated that, then.)
If I've learnt anything about grief, it's that it's fussy and it's messy. It doesn't package up nicely in a neat bow ready to be placed with all the other packages with neat little bows that line the curio cabinet of my mind ("Alysia learns Santa Claus doesn't exist", "Alysia's first kiss", ..."Alysia's first death"?). I suppose that's what makes death and bereavement so truly complicated, regardless of of circumstance. Someone very important to you is no longer there. Someone who shaped your reality is missing. It's a profound shift into a new existence and whether you're dragged kicking and screaming (like I was) or march resolutely forward (like I most certainly did not), it's universally the same: we've shifted. This move has taken place without my consent and whether or not I like it, this is how things are now.
It's sticky and crumbly. Shift wasn't an expression of answers, it was a series of conflicted questions, some asked timidly while others loudly, and made room enough to try to understand the unfocussed and often blurry and misplaced memories. The ones that fling far then suddenly snap back in front of you. The ones that nick you when you're at a café and Janis Joplin starts playing over the loudspeaker. The ones that inhabit the sun glinting off the window on the Metro car, tricking your eyes into seeing your father.
After my father died we were called to the hospital bed where he lay dead. We mourned him quietly and awkwardly.
I was given a moment alone. Distressed, I sat beside him and put my hand on his forearm.
It was still warm.
Thank you to Elizabeth Black for the lovely write-up in the Crack's Postmortem section of their March magazine.
Alysia Anne: Shift
Laing Art Gallery
Among the oil paintings and tapestries typical of a museum gallery, the Laing Art Gallery reserves space for corresponding exhibitions of contemporary art. Set in contrast to the backdrop of historically relevant artefacts, the contemporary art comes with a sense of responsibility, and possesses the same sense of reverence.
I was particularly taken by Shift, an exhibition by Alysia Anne. This quiet exhibition invites viewers into a room that acts as a place of respect and contemplation. Ambiguous photographic works are arranged on the wall, light and tone representing oblique and obscured sentiments. The hollowness of the floor space, with limited seating, seems to suggest that the best reading for the work is an intimate encounter.
Despite suffering bereavement myself, it seemed evident that the artist was not enforcing her own estimations of grief on the viewer, but rather dispelling the notion that grief can be defined. Each image meticulously displayed on the wall felt like a portrait of some momentary emotion, rather than a photograph.
There was something here for anyone who wanted to take a moment to think about the fleetingness of life.
Black, E. (2016) "Postmortem: Alysia Anne: Shift". The Crack Magazine. Issue 332, Mar '16. p. 60.
I’ve had some really lovely reviews pop up online that I thought I’d highlight here:
From NARC. magazine:
“It might not be the easiest of subject matters, but Alysia Anne’s emotive and powerful works will move you like no other.”
From The Courier Online:
“This installation is modest and unassuming; a beautiful, unfocused spectrum. The subtly [sic] in colour, tone and mood can be easily passed by altogether (as I very nearly did) if you don’t take a moment to look, and to really see. Fragmented transitions with each polaroid are severe, ghostlike yet interrupted with block solid dark shapes.”
and finally, from Morning Star:
“It gently but insistently involves the viewer in its contemplation of loss and sadness and the way we deal with “complicated grief” through strategies of emotional blurring and avoidance.”
I’m overwhelmed by the positivity, not only from the above, but through the conversations that I’ve had and the stories people have shared with me. I’m moved by how willing people have been to invest in the installation and reflect on their experiences.
Before I begin, I have to start off by thanking the Laing staff and my friends for all their help during the install week. If it weren't for them, I would have never been able to finish the installation in time for the opening. Also thank you to everyone who came to the private view on Friday evening, it was nice to see so many friendly faces. The exhibition is now open until 28 February.
There are two scheduled events so far for the exhibition:
Wednesday, 21 October, 12:30 - Artist Talk
where I will talk about my exhibition and answer and questions and comments.
Wednesday, 2 December, 12:30 - Grief in Conversation with Catherine Gatt
where Catherine and I will start a dialogue about grief and invite the public to take part in the conversation.
Both events are free and take place in the exhibition space at the Laing. Please come along if you can!
The lighting plays an enormous factor on what you can and cannot see within the :spectre series. It's never been more noticeable than it is when they're still wet.
It's been awhile, no? It's just been more of the same through June and July, which is why I haven't really updated with any studio shots. I combined :spectre with the rest of the instant series last month and have been slowly building it into an installation. Looks a bit like a glitch, I think. Once poised on Laing's wall and allowed to breathe, I think there'll be little doubt what it's representative of. Anyway, since I finally made it over to the second wall, I thought now would be a good time as any to update my journal.
The close-up of the four photographs is really to focus on the bottom right -- I've been creating these for about four years now, and the method still leaves me pleasantly surprised.
I’ve stopped transferring the developer to tissue and started using it with hot-press watercolour to make prints. They don’t really translate well to digital media, so I have no examples as of yet. But perhaps when they’re framed they’ll be a bit more photogenic. In the meanwhile, they’ll sit patiently in the background.
RESEARCH & STUDIO DIARY
Here you will find essays, texts, experiments, and information about my research and studio development.