The Art sticks me tangibly to the world

Intimacy

If only I could have been 53 years ago I wouldn’t have worried so much. The threshold of thinking,

‘everything is out there and there is everything to play for’ has passed.

I know now:

what I needed to know I’ve always known.

what I needed to find I’ve already found and

I already ‘have’ what I need within me to do almost anything.

Over time I seem to learn the same lessons, go over the same ground, get stuck on the same points. Metaphorically speaking I till the same furrow in the same landscape.  My tiller or plough is the creative process and the guiding force is my emotional life. The horse and the tiller are married, I invest everything in this relationship. Each art work is a manifestation of ploughing another rich and enriching field.

Being an Artist sustains me, accompanies me through my life, without it I fear a kind of existential loneliness would suck me into a void. The art sticks me tangibly to the world. It’s reliable and steadfast without it, I would be hurtling through the galaxy.

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Look for me in my Art

Look for me in my Art

In 1992 I wrote this for an exhibition catalogue, ‘With My own Face on’.

‘This is not a lie. Sometimes the truth between how I feel goes in and out of focus. The boundaries between one reality and another blur. This work is my version which has been subject to denial. It is sketchy. Often I see myself bleeding into everything and everyone around me. There is an eroded sense of self here I am trying to reclaim. Often I have felt consumed by people; consumed by their loving and their loathing.  My work is the safest container I know, since childhood I have been colouring it in. This work has been made on the floor within the radius of my arms or in my lap; rarely do I walk away from it. I need to be there. It is an intimate process, comforting to touch the surface so much, even when sad things emerge. It confirms what I know already but provides me with necessary evidence. This work is my mirror, through it I can see beyond the fog that obscures memory to a clearer picture of the truth. With my own face on.’

To give context, I had been working on a high dependency unit in a children’s hospital where there was the daily trauma of children experiencing invasive procedures and families grappling with life threatening conditions. I was the play lady, the safe benign person employed to soothe, distract and stimulate. I was completely unqualified then in counselling or therapeutic processes, without a professional veneer, literally saturated in the intensity of the environment.

I began a course in Art Therapy, counselling and personal therapy. I can see that in this writing I knew I needed to gather the parts of me together and put a protective boundary around myself.  I believe making art enables me to constantly attempt to gather parts of myself in one place and physically and psychically glue them together into an ongoing carnival of pictures and forms.

‘I need to be there’ it’s where I locate myself. If you want to find me, look for me in my art. ‘it is the safest container I know’, ‘since child hood I have been colouring it in’. The intimacy between me and my art work is  tangible, I believe I conjure my work from the depths of me. It might sound cosmic but it’s through making I experience myself in a  secure revelry.

I’ve lived 53 years, everything I have ever known or experienced is harvested through my work. I understand why Artists like Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois are/were prolific. Time speeds up as I get older, there is so much to metabolise from the life lived so far.  Some of what I make will be profound, some of it will resonate and communicate something pertinent. If only I had known what I know now and had started making with the secure knowledge that my work is purposeful when I was younger. There is no time to waste with self-doubt.  What I do, what I know is important, if only in as much as it gives me a way of existing that works.

The seams of creative potential which lay within us

Copperfields embroidery

I have started to lead a creative project for women living with dementia and for women who are carers. I notice that there is a consistent premise to my approach that runs across the board with every group I work with.  I simply believe in the seams of creative potential which lay within us, which are often unrecognised, unused or untapped. I know that we know a lot of things, so much life experience, so many occasions when we have had to be creative in finding solutions, finding ways of managing our lives and relationships. I believe that in holding a space and ‘speaking to’ those untapped areas with conviction, that creative and emotional potential can be realised.  I feel that everything we need to know we already know, we have an innate intelligence that seems to get slack like a poorly used muscle, but if stimulated, we can jump to, or cautiously peep at, the challenges presented.

I don’t underestimate the severity and voracity of dementia and have observed how it can strip away the individuality of a person, but I am also noticing, how in its physiological randomness, that there are vestibules of experience and parts of our character and body that live on, and when given the opportunity, bubble to the surface. It might only be a moment of reflection, some deeply buried truth about oneself, but it feels in the room such a relief to everyone that it’s been heard and witnessed. It’s a moment to rejoice. I notice how carefully the participants listen to each other’s reflections with sincere reverence. Perhaps it’s not until we begin to lose our capacity to recall that we realise how precious our hard won lives, with their rich tapestries of memories good and bad are to us.

The exercises I am inviting the women to participate in are experiments. I sent an embroidery hoop with calico and thread and the beginnings of a dotted line around the circle, believing that there would be a somatic memory of sewing. Everyone participated and it came back to me looking like a doodle made blind folded or an incomprehensible map. It reminded me of the white noise of being unable to think, a blankness, random marks that should have a narrative but say nothing. Because I am curious and excited by what emerges from ‘not knowing’ I decided to present this same ring each week alongside the participants personal book project. Second week in and there is already a shift in the sewing on this cloth. There seems to me to be a tension between nothing and everything. I can feel a sense of, ‘don’t underestimate me’. I find this very encouraging. I like sewing because it’s using a small sharp instrument to penetrate the skin of a piece. I feel there is a primitive want to poke and scratch the surface and leave one’s mark and embellishment. It’s a little aggressive assertion saying, ‘I exist’.  It’s a meditation activity, repetitive and it’s a way of pulling disparate parts together to one place and literally ‘pinning them down’. I know this because I have used sewing to support my own well-being.

Each week I am asking the participants to choose a fragment of fabric with something figurative on it and pin it to an on-going frieze. The figuration is rich in symbolism, colourful and attractive. Everyone has taken part, selected and assembled their piece. A visual assertion of identity.  One woman tells us she was a chef on six ships, she chooses a ship and asserts, ‘I need an anchor, can you bring me an anchor next week.’ Each week they are carefully sewn on.  Perhaps they don’t make much sense yet, but I am confident that the purpose will emerge. I believe in offering the best quality materials to work with, it’s like offering a nutritious meal to the soul. It says, ‘I value you, I care what you make here, you are worth it and I believe you will make the best of this.’

It’s all a bit shambolic and uncertain at the outset, a new adventure, I liken it to holding an ocean in our arms. We have ten weeks together.

Workshops are held at ‘Copperfields’ in Ramsgate, funded by POW! And ROSA charity.

That thing you want to do – that thing you want to say

Tracie Peisley

Take yourself seriously

Listen carefully

Believe

Reach for the good stuff

Be courageous

Tolerate stupidity

Be nice when you can

Love yourself unreservedly

Love others even more

Forgive the bastards

Take action

Think about the planet

Remember all the little things are sentient

Write poetry

Send poetry

Make touch a priority

That thing you want to do

That thing you want to say

Share

Be creative it won’t kill anyone

The Marks in the Rocks

Marks in the Rocks

Scientists have studied the hands in early cave paintings in France and Spain, they discovered from the finger size and proportions that 3/4 were by women. It seems such an early and primitive urge to paint on the wall.

While in Greece I had the work of Ana Mendieta in mind. I thought of many of her art works and installations using blood. She seemed to want to evidence the existence of horrific acts and a once living person drained of their life blood. I thought also of sacred places and rituals and how these have shaped our quests, help us to focus.

At Aliki a large marble rock seemed to incite expression. Using red pigment, I mixed a paste and painted out stretched arms on the rock. I felt I was defacing the natural environment and washed it off soon after. But before I washed it I was witnessed by my group and some somewhat disgruntled tourists.

Evidence of an act, using a substitute for blood, drawing a symbol of… longing? Homage to Ana Mendieta and all the women who have experienced domestic violence? Painted then cleaned. And as I cleaned it the water was dark in the rock making the arms even more dramatic. I existed here, transgressed here. Made a mark to the foremothers of time and then moved on. And when I do these things or other women do, what message then do we send out about women?

What if I am not nothing?

Handstand in Thassos

I would like to write, ‘I used to suffer from depression’ and tell you that I have the cure for it,

but I’ve learnt over the last thirty years that ‘depression’ is never cured as such, only managed. I can speak for my experience of the range of depressive symptoms I know about. I know it serves a purpose, looking at it rationally I can see it as a period of introspective study.

‘Are you depressed?’ I might reply, ’why no, I’m just studying dark and negative aspects of my psyche until I move on to lighter subjects’.

It doesn’t feel like that though, it feels like a fatty soup of dirty water in a hole that has sucking depths and no hand rail. Key life events have triggered it, beyond early history… a traumatic birth experience, acute illness in the family, relationship break down, selling my home, menopause, losing my job and a lack of financial security. Enough to unsettle anyone.

I was drowning in a cocktail of these experiences, I was lost in the labyrinth being chased by self-denigration and bitterness.  I had something of an epiphany, myself.

 

‘What if I am not nothing? what then?’

I think I had been reduced to nothing, losing my job and career stripped me of my identity (for a while) feeling ‘not good enough’ as a mother, I felt I ‘failed’ at this also (at the time).

I knew I was still an Artist, this is a bed rock so cemented in I don’t think anything could budge this, but I felt hardly recognised for my achievements, (what was a measuring them by?) so this was a tenuous form of comfort, a secret place I retreated to rather than a platform I could comfortably stand upon.

Going back to my question… ’if I am not nothing, then I must be something and if I am something then I must exist and if I exist I surely have some more existing to do. What then shall I exist as?’.

 

‘What will be the evidence that I am indeed existing?’

This was like a new level playing field and offered an opportunity to cast out the now defunct perceptions of myself and be self-defining.

 

Here I am existing, and I’m going to define myself.

Suddenly a chasm of responsibility gapes open and my introspective research project is forced to look outwards at the possibilities, rather than inwards.  I find I have a quest of sorts to find the unvarnished truth about who I really am which includes owning up to all the evidence of my existence.

This was a starting point of getting to the core of me, that wasn’t as decayed and rotten as I imagined, getting my ‘depression’ into a manageable portable drama and finding the force that comes from feeling newly alive was now a kind of obligation to a self of worth and a responsibility I wanted to give time to.

LIFEFORCE Creative Enrichment Course in Thassos, Greece

Lifeforce Creative Enrichment with Tracie Peisley

Tracie Peisley has over 30 years’ experience as an Artist, therapist and teacher. She first went to Greece in 1993 where she had a formative wilderness experience living an elemental life on a mountain on Lesvos. Finding her core strengths and growing exponentially through her relationship with Art, nature, and the Greek community she has since developed a programme of creative activities and experiences, informed by her training as a teacher and an Art Therapist, facilitating well-being and community groups in Greece and the UK for adults and children. She creates a responsive programme which  aims to soothe the body and soul, support the creative process, negotiate blocks to playful engagement with materials and celebrate one’s strengths and qualities.

“Thank you Tracie, thank you, thank you… you made us feel in our element, leading us gently through ourselves, making, sharing, loving… it really was fantastic, inspiring, positive, creative, reassuring… I had the most wonderful time and would like to go again next year please!” Nathalie Banaigs, Kent Creative Arts

“One of the best weeks of my life! A totally magical time with the very best of friends, sharing a place that now has a place in my heart.” Max Kimber, Artist

 

 

One can expect:

Opportunities for reflection on the unconscious fears and desires through a daily ritual of making mandalas.

To Develop confidence in drawing, painting and sculpting through traditional guided lessons in looking and making.

Facilitated opportunities to play with materials, to be experimental and find confidence in using what emerges.

To hear something of Tracie’s knowledge and awareness of the full range of making from studying universal symbolism, Artists and sculptors from the earliest mark makers to the present day.

To have experiences that feed the senses, go to locations and interact creatively with the self and the elements available. These can include using words, gathering and making and expression with the body and voice.

People leave one place to encounter another, there is the opportunity of seeing everything afresh.

To discover some places we can immerse ourselves in and feel we are wholly present in a new place, this is part of the experience Tracie aims to give.

A home owner in Lesvos and Thassos and speaking Greek Tracie delights in sharing her personal connection.

 

Dates

September 6th – September 13th 2019

 

Accommodation

On Thassos Tracie works with

George Kapsalis

Harmony Deluxe Villas in Theologos.

www.thassosestate.com/harmony

 

Costs

Earlybird price £650 per person for the art programme (including materials), accommodation and breakfast of local produce. This price available until 1st January 2019.

Full price from 2nd January 2019 – £750.

£200 deposit secures your place.

Contact Tracie at the email address below for payment details and advice about flights.

 

Contact

traciepeisley@traciepeisley.com

traciepeisley.com