I am currently showing with Tatha Gallery in a group exhibition called ‘Courting the Muse’. Rebecca Sharp is writer in residence with Tatha Gallery and responds to each new exhibition with a piece of writing – poetry and/or prose. Rebecca has written this piece for the exhibition. –
April 2018 : Birch.
Courting the Muse : 31st March – 12th May
Dominique Cameron, Kim Canale, David Cass, Matthew Draper, Henry Kondracki.
I already knew and loved Dominique Cameron’s work, and enjoyed reading her statement for this exhibition about the Muse. She writes about being a teenager, drawn to walking around the edges of her rural environment to find meaning and adventure; which still informs her practice of walking and making work. You can see all kinds of edgelands in her work – road closures; boards, railings and fences; boundaries, slipways. The point of view poised at a fork in the road. Where we’re shown a path in a forest – a route through – the eye is drawn to the black tangle of trees and shrubbery at the sides. Light in the distance, but we haven’t emerged yet.
I think we share that inner teenage voice – our own versions of course. Though my experience was of growing up in Glasgow, my adventures still took me to the in-between places: climbing through holes in fences, finding the playgrounds and gardens I wasn’t supposed to use; stairways and lampposts on corners. They seemed like good places to hide, but in fact they were places of revelation.
My prose writing to date has been preoccupied with this childhood or teenage interest in risk and of seeking adventure and identity in peripheral spaces – especially in ‘Little Forks’(2012 ). I loved reading Dominique’s description of herself as still being ‘curious, and awkward and persistent‘ – which I certainly recognise in myself, and as a driving force behind my own work.
Seeing these connections, I remembered a piece of prose I had been playing around with – ‘Birch’. Something I’d often tinkered with and then left; revisited, but which hadn’t yet found a home. Recently, I’ve been starting to gather ideas for a novel, which itself feels like standing on the edge of a deep dark forest, taking that first step into the unknown. Reading Dominique’s own words and seeing her work again felt like an invitation to finish this extract, to bring it out to the light and into the beginnings of a story. I think ‘Birch’ ( and whatever it might become ) shares this same feeling of being on an adventure both outward and inward, not quite sure what’s going on, but being at home with uncertainty. Feeling compelled to go to places real and imagined, without needing to know what you might find there – giving yourself over to that inner voice.
I never knew there were two of you.
That you are completely incomplete. That you are what I think with.
You’re the sting across my face, the sudden underscore.
The sound of silver dug out from the leaves.
Imagine that I found you there, leaves veined with silver, seeping silver, branches swooping low to silver-tip the soil. To lead us underground to the tiny lit pools of what we might have thought was missing. And that we were glistening.
This could be a letter to your unsolved selves.
The one that still kneels under tables; with sounds of adults talking underwater through palms pressed tight against your ears. Keep pressing; find the point where the membrane is thinnest. Where time diminishes and the voices shrink back inside the speakers. The voices that once leant deadly against the hush of your blood, the crack as those hands pressed too tight.
And I know this isn’t real but that it could be, in the scatter of twigs in the cold air that drives you and the rain; the tread of that hillside and the one that’s inside you, that’s there when you open your eyes.
It’s as natural as any other kind of difference in the world.
It makes itself known; indicates its presence in the soil.
Wintergreen is the air you breathe.
Desire lines lead you between the pages, branches. Places you might have been before.
Blank, unplanned, alive in the cold.
This shouldn’t be happening.
The cold gets colder.
You never said whose hands they were.
Like deforestation it strips you clear; the sudden introduction of air to shadow.
You are the stark white timber: feel the stricture in your throat.
Something narrows at your ribs and something else is unearthed.
Now indicate your presence in the soil.
Rebecca Sharp 2018.