Julie Murphy, Ceri Owen Jones, Michael Harvey and an eager audience all arrived at the same time this morning. It takes me 15 minutes or so to get set up so everyone else sorted themselves out with drinks and looking at the rest of the show until I was ready.
This wasn’t meant to be a performance for Julie and Ceri – more an informal space to try out their new work together. However, Julie casts a spell over her audiences with her magical voice and there were many moments of intense focus, listening and exchange. It seemed that a loop of listening gained its own momentum as the morning unfolded. The musicians listened to each other and the audience, while the audiences quality of listening played back into the music. It affected both the music and the drawing and I could tell the audience were moved. The combination of drawing, music and listening deepened everyone’s experience not only of the performance but also of each other.
When Julie first sat at the piano she remarked on how the set up reminded her of her grandfather and his piano. He used to play for silent movies – the projector and the piano. The angle of the projector on Julie at the piano meant I had to peep around the corner of the easel to see her. The position Ceri sat in meant the harp threw a shadow over his face. This made drawing in the projection impossible and I noticed that switching between projection drawing and sight drawing was disorientating. I asked him to move for the second drawing to give me a better angle to draw into.
Their music was wonderful and their CD will be out in the New Year – check Julie’s website for details.
Michael Harvey and I have worked together off and on for over 15 years but not recently. In the short time before lunch we had time to try out a few ideas with each other. Michael stepped into the space and we focused on allowing a story to emerge. It gave Michael the opportunity to see how working in and with the projection could inspire, distract and develop. Sarah, a recent Art School graduate sat in the space with us and drew.
After lunch a group from Ysgol Penweddig arrived for a short workshop. I split the group in half. One half went to look at the exhibition while the rest came into the demonstration space to draw Michael telling the Branwen story in Welsh. Later they swapped over.
I gave a brief talk and demonstration about the work, the task of drawing movement and the projection technique then handed over to the students. They coped very well and although there was some reticence about standing up at the easel, the students who were brave made very good drawings. They confirmed that it was easier to use the projection for the task of drawing a subject in movement than to draw from pure observation. The students that did use the projection technique appeared to sink deeply into the experience and I felt torn when I had to stop them in order to offer others in the group an opportunity. There is no escape at the easel and in the projection – you can see (as can everyone else) when you are ‘on’ the movement and when you are not.
Once the students left Michael and I had a quiet space in which to work more experimentally. Michael wondered about storytelling without words. He raided my stone, bone, feather and skin collection and set his ‘stage’. He silently internalized responses to the objects and began to move and interact with them intuitively. I drew. The awareness of each others activities and focus heightened our attention. Small interactions between the drawing and the silent stories intensified. I became aware of stories forming in my mind as I drew – not as a linear narrative or evocative of stories I knew, but as snippets, ideas and connections. The energy generated in the space between us reached a peak before tailing off as the connections and conversation lessened, until we reached The End.
I call this working with the energy arc. It is a bit like conjuring. I notice it when I work this way alone as well as in collaboration. It is to do with a quality of listening that you cannot fake, you really have to be there. It also has a time span – perhaps because of the intense focus required. Meditative and generative, it brings me into the present moment and requires that I remain there for the duration.
However, the coda to this particular End is another story. I rewound the tape that had recorded my drawing of Micheal’s wordless storytelling then switched it to another camera. Next I projected the video, mixed it with the easel camera and invited Michael to draw into his own movements. My recorded drawing hand danced a duet with his live projected drawing hand as Michael re-viewed his performance. He drew into himself to draw another aspect of himself and another performance out.