Aggression and Alchemy

“In the destructive element immerse” – that is one of the quotations heading a chapter of “A Life of One’s Own”. It comes from Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim which I haven’t read. It resonates. Milner quotes often from Robinson Crusoe which I read last year – I loved the early chapters where he is alone and learning from experience to build (and re-build) his home, cultivate his food and create necessary tools and utensils.

It is odd to see my work feature in Rodney’s blog https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/art-as-therapy and how his writing picks up on the collisions between my interests and his - I have been part of an artist/art therapist peer group for the last six months and last time it was my turn to present some work. I took along some small dolls that I have been making without really knowing yet why. It is good to feel that I can go along and be uncertain and vulnerable.

My dolls are hand sewn and often heavy with sand. I have been thinking about aggression and destruction. Sand is so heavy it limits the size I can work to without bursting the fabric skin.

I mostly work in fabric and it ends up very clean. When I hand sew I often prick my finger and suddenly I notice drips of blood on the fabric that I feverishly mop away. I feel I need to find a place for mess and error and for it all to come right in spite of this or because of it. If I don’t allow it into the work it seems to attack from outside when I discard stuff before it has been finished or seen by anyone else. There was something I read by Hanna Segal about having to believe that when you “spoil” a sheet of paper with the first mark, you have to have enough trust that you can make it all right (make reparation) with the subsequent marks. The image below the remains of a doll that I put in the fire – she is char cloth. I have a few more in process.

I have also been thinking about alchemy. I attended a Jungian fairy tale reading group for a couple of years so have been aware of the metaphors of alchemy to represent stages in Individuation. I find the archetypal figures of hermaphrodite, king, and queen, divine child and all the vessels and processes weird and tantalizing. But I don’t want to illustrate them. I am just holding them in mind as potential doll figures.

I have started to make a little booklet which collects quotes and images of dolls and transitional objects that I have saved over the years. Some are my dolls and some are dolls in literature or made by other artists. It is a work in progress. The transitional object (half alive, half dead, half me, half not me) also relates to aggression/destruction. It has to survive attacks of love and hate.

survive attacks of love and hate.

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