A Winter Garden is a text/art project with people in Blackpool dealing with depression and isolation. The project is led by writer Philip Davenport (from arthur+martha) and book artist Emily Speed.
Last week we followed on from poetry the group had written the previous week and used some of the words and thoughts from these texts to inspire pierced paper works. Stemming from Blackpool's illuminations have been various ideas about light and Phil had an especially nice idea he called constellations; mapping yourself in a diagram as a personal solar system.
For these works on black paper we used needles, awls, knives and pins to cut and pierce the paper, deciding where light would shine through. The beauty of these will probably only be fully clear when I photograph them with a lightbox, but even passed in front of the huge skylights they twinkled curiously, giving hints of the imagery.
Some of the words and images included fountains, eyes, lights, stars, hearts and words. Each person produced something very different.
As is sometimes the case, the short warm up exercise we did produces really exciting and often hilarious results. We passed paper round playing Exquisite Corpse, or Consequences - each person drawing part of a body and passing it along, hiding their drawing from the next. At the end the drawing are unfolded to reveal curious and impossible bodies. Next we did the same exercise with buildings and these were just amazing - soaring, curving, impossible precarious structures were built that seemed to suggest so much possibility. Perhaps we will return to these in a more sculptural form in the next few weeks....
The thing that sticks is not the session itself but the little after-gathering in the cafe. (Anon) told us that he'd got through a big emotional barrier. He'd started to talk a little about his family's lack of emotional openess in last week's meet up. It was the way he spoke that hooked my attention, his eyes were tearing up with the intensity of these little words. He said he'd taken up the thread of last week's conversation and by following it, came through the labyrinth.
“Since the last group meeting we had, I've started talking about stuff to my counsellor. Things I've not spoke about before. Not for thirty years. There's been some big things come up for me and some other issues underneath that. The weight's starting to come off me. I feel like I'm finally coming out of a tunnel. It's been a relief, a HUGE relief, to talk and this group is what started it.”
His face, his whole demeanour was visibly changed. A weight had gone from him.
I don't buy the idea that creativity is automatically 'good'. I think that these things are processes that run deep and unbeknownst, like dream-life stringing out on the ocean floor. I also think that the act of making can foster delusion, selfishness, and a forensic distance from our own hearts. But it also offers connection and catharsis – maybe one downside is the price of the other side's up.
I'm delighted that he could take something from our little creative expedition and use it to make changes in his own life. However, the aftershock of these big conversations can be unsettling. I told him to be kind to himself this week, if he possibly could. I told him that he deserved a medal. Some of the biggest, brightest acts of courage I've witnessed are almost invisible to the greater world.
“I prefer this sort of activity to the pure drawing or craft. It's more intellectual, more satisfying to me. It gets you going on more levels.” D
“I'm finding this two hour session is a welcome respite from my own head, my own thoughts. I wish it could go on for longer than two hours. It takes a while for my thoughts to subside and for me to start being creative. I never thought I'd got an ability for writing 'til I did this – and I didn't expect the good reaction people have given it. The wordy stuff, as my son calls it. There's a lot of talent in this group but people's issues hold them back. Mental health issues aren't always obvious, actually they're often well hidden. You can't tell from the outside of someone what's going on inside. What sufferings they're going through and what gifts they can offer other people.” M