Hannah Gadsby at the fringe

The fringe is in full flow at Edinburgh. Every year I look at the size of the programme, flip through the pages and put it down. The sheer volume and variety of acts is like an assault. I do not know how people choose what to go to. I rely on family and friends suggestions. Jon always chooses a few things and I tag along. He is writing a book about how comedy and counselling are similar, so we tend to go to see people who have interesting things to say about life.

The visual assault of the city starts the last few weeks of July. The usual grey tenements and railings are decorated with large billboards. It feels like a never ending array of Faces , colours, and text – as I walk up the hill I think I must exude a scary ‘fuck of vibe ‘ because the young people have stopped offering me flyers.

Last night Jon and I went to see Hannah Gadsby – before we went I knew she was gay, Australian and thinking of giving up comedy.

I was not prepared for the physical onslaught. She is a large presence on stage. Her face grimaces, eyes pop, nudge , nudge , wink wink. Innuendo , it’s a joke.

She is very funny, but there is an unease, it’s a joke , it’s a joke

There is something about her physicality that reminds me of Trump. The throw aways don’t ring true. Am I perceiving this in hindsight?

There is back story about 10 yrs in comedy, being a lesbian, in Tasmania, where it was illegal to be gay until 1997. She is self depreciating about being large and not fitting in.

She has a degree in art history which added an interesting layer for me. She lets her anger slip out around privileged dead white males, particularly Picasso and his misogyny…..

The first 30 minutes is hilarious, but increasingly uncomfortable as she explores why she is thinking of giving up comedy.

I don’t want to give too much of her act away. I am up at 4 am writing this. I woke at 3am with a tightness in my stomach and my head ringing.

I had a need to get up and explore how I was feeling. I felt like I had been run over by a large lorry. Hannah talks about playing a room, making tension and controlling the atmosphere. The raw emotion and anger that she holds is palpable. On the bus back to outlet flat, I could hardly stay awake. I was physically exhausted. We had to catch the bus because I couldn’t face another assault by the crowds and visuals all the way home.

Her anger – it’s a joke, it’s a joke

I started doing one of my circles of bodies. I made Hannah into an ancient Venus figure and wrote in tight neat handwriting around the shapes on the page. I needed to let stuff out so I reread the Guardian article about the show and picked out words ‘lesbian’ ‘comedy’ Tasmania’ ‘1997’ ‘anger’ stood out. Writing Hannah’s reported words made it possible to step away from how I was thinking and feeling.

It’s not finished yet, I want the figures to be more 3D

But you get the idea.

I wanted the feeling of a tight female figure screaming. She has no arms to represent the tension and rage on the stage. She was magnificent in her fury and it was a powerful set – I have been thinking about white privilege and the need to find ways of of being newly accountable – may be blogging and incorporating stuff into my art is a way forward.

http://hannahgadsby.com.au

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/stage/2017/aug/16/standups-quit-comedy-edinburgh-hannah-gadbsy

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Migraine mandalas

I get hemiplegic migraines ( which I am sure I must have mentioned in an earlier post) they are exacerbated by flashing lights and hormones. Most of the time they are under control with a very small dose of antidepressants. However, menopause and my irritable bowel has been fun!!! Sometimes, the migraines are brought on by flashing lights – sometimes food (if I am being sensitive). This latest episode was self inflicted really – reading a book and drawing mandalas in 4 hrs of flickering light on a car journey -was asking for trouble. 

I decided to have a go at working through my frustration and anger at my self , after several  reared their ugly heads , consecutive evenings. 

I am staying at my Dad’s house in the south of France with only my travel kit. I painted  loose ovals on lots of sheets of heavy duty cartridge paper with  very diluted acrylic. Then added swirls of neocolours, oil pastels and more paint- it’s warm and arrid here so everything dries very quickly. 


I wanted to continue working with my paper dolls. I tried a design where a female shape is curled up in painholding her head but it ended up looking like white splodges in some sort of fiery constellation. 

A head screaming (below) just looked weird( lol) and didn’t convey what I wanted to express- I like the colours , textures and patterns , so they became backgrounds. 


I needed some figures that worked in circles so I searched on line and came up with an ancient artifact from Mexico 


Practicing blind contour faces in pain ( really getting into the details 😂😂😂😂) 


The above design uses an African figurine as motif but even though it made a lovely mandala in the centre with its arms and legs I didn’t like the proportions of the head and neck. 


Nice uncomfortable screaming baby type figures are amusing me now my head is better and I like the nightmarish qualities – there is an other worldly feeling and out of body experience that I seem to have captured too , which sums up my aura stage quite nicely. Though if I think about it -I don’t experience all that colour 

Mandala teaching 

I had fun teaching some of the other people on the retreat how to draw mandalas. Everybody did very well. It was interesting seeing who wanted to follow my examples exactly and who felt confident enough to start innovating from the beginning 

I prepared a sheet which had examples of suggested shapes to use and how start building mandalas. I had a brain wave to do it on stickers so that everybody could take them away or stick them in their journals 


Here are the finished designs. This is only my second go at teaching my style so it was interesting seeing the other people’s designs develop. The first drawing is probably the nearest copy of the design I drew with them 




The design with the lavender on is my tutorial – I was very amused by how difficult it is to draw , teach and talk – my design looks very wonky 😂😂😂

Collage mandala continued 

I worked on my mandala some more today – adding more layers – I didn’t like how prominent  the central mandala was 

Soo drew lots more  pairs of scissors – though I am not sure what concept this is adding – Jon’s mum once gave me a very pretty pair if embroidery scissors that belonged to someone in their family that look very like these. Most of the paper in this had been ripped , my go to method of destroying things, so there is a tension achieved by adding the scissors . I found  the scissor template and was drawn to the shape and the ease you can use it to make mandalas……..

I like the look of the piece as a small photo , but it is very large and dynamic in my living room , so I am not sure if it is liveable with – I might draw in sharpie all over it. I am vascilating between a flower mandala and one of my more recent succulents ….

I struggle with making large art, it seems so invasive, you can’t getaway from it and it can’t be put away in a drawer when it’s finished. The flat is too small to put it in another room and for get about it for a bit lol 

Large collage mandala -a training course – breaking free 

I attended a fab training course at SafeSpace in Dunfermline at the weekend – the course was mainly aimed at counsellors, but was very interesting and the more work I do in this area the more I want to know about it. 

http://www.safe-space.co.uk/

I have been feeling quite tight and restricted recently. My doodling has reflected this with my mandala type images getting more and more detailed and layered. 



This was particularly noticeable  during my visit to the US. You would think international travel would be an opening / stretching of consciousness type experience. I think this time since Joe’s accident has been one of  of huge anxiety for me – very inward looking and diminishing 

The course felt very liberating,  learning about how emotions are affected during child development. How empathy in counselling can liberate stuck patterns, was liberating 

Being with a group of people in an intense learning situation again was exhausting and fabulous all at the same time. 

Jon has been trying to push me towards working on a large scale again. Yesterday after work,coffee with a friend and a snooze this happened……


I have a couple of large canvases in my store room from last year- they were cheap and didn’t respond well to layers and layers of wet collage and paint. However, the size appealed to me. 

It’s funny in my head I had a pile of mandalas waiting to be used in a box somewhere – I forget they are under collages in my journals or ripped up and added to other art all the time. I think one of my favourite things to do so far in this process is to rip up my mandalas and work very quickly with great big brush strokes as I paint on the glue , lol.

I had 6 as a starting point about 6″x10″- in black and blue ink , mostly on the insides of security envelopes and a few photocopies 

Not enough to fill this – but I think that is quite a good thing – I will have something to work on over the next few weeks.

Writing this I am enjoying looking at the piece, drying. 

I like the fact that I work in my kitchen. It is a pain to be always surrounded by mess- but I like to be able to get on with house hold jobs in small spurts. 

I think the course was a bit of a break through, physically I feel as if I have been to see the osteopath and had a right bashing – I can feel clear tingling pathways through out my body. Something has definitely shifted – it’s a good job we have a couple of weeks before the next couple of sessions. So that I have time to digest and recover before the next bout. 

My mandala so far – that blue section in the middle needs disrupting a bit,  other wise I quite like what is happening 



I am not sure if I will cover up all the white or not – because I have used a couple of photocopies – the ink has run in several places ….

Mandalas and Doodling 

When I doodle – I draw flower based mandalas – I am not  sure that what I draw can technically be called ‘scribbling absent mindedly’ – the drawings are not perfect designs that use accurate concentric circles or realistic flowers. I started drawing them when I moved up to Edinburgh . I was a bit bored , lonely and wanted to improve my hand eye co-ordination. 

I have included examples of my circle obsession below in the form of doodles and photographs 


That was three years ago – I have been doing some research because I wanted to be more reflective about my rather excessive output. I tend to draw my ‘doodles’ on trains and planes – during stressful family situations and watching thrillers and suspense programs on the TV. In fact I have had to restrict my out put because I was getting repetitive stress pains in my hands 


Below are my research notes : 

Mandalas were first used in therapy by Carl Jung, who found that the act of drawing mandalas had a calming effect on patients while at the same time facilitating psychic integration. 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148

Powerful and centring expression 

Fascination with a circle 

Instrument of self reflection 

Spontaneity with which we create circles 

Drawing a mandala takes you through a multi sensory path of processing 

Colours that you use important and shapes can have meaning 

Personal growth as a cycle 

Analysing patterns in your life as a way to tap into my unconscious self 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148


 use of circular forms for meditation and self-exploration are found in several cultures and religions, such as Native American, Celtic, Aboriginal, and Christian (Olsen & Avital, 1992). 

Mandalas can represent spiritual wholeness and the equilibrium of all cosmic and life forces of our world, symbolizing the totality, including the outer as well as the inner forces 

Students who participated in drawing their own mandalas reported higher self- awareness, unbiased processing, and personal development, supporting the premisethat the mandala can be an effective tool for helping people facilitate greater self- awareness, and moving toward a higher level of psychological well-being.

http://jsc.montana.edu/articles/v14n6.pdf


These results demonstrate that the circular shape of the mandala serves as an “active ingredient” in mood enhancement (Anastasia Babouchkina and Steven J. Robbins 2015 ) 

Mandala is Sanskrit for magic circle.Used for meditation and contemplative purposes 

http://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-37-02-164.pdf


 Traditionally, mandalas served a spiritual purpose and more recently they have been adopted as an artform 

Karen and Henderson, Robyn (2010) 


A mandala ‘‘expresses the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship between man and the whole of nature’’ (Jaffe, 1964. p. 266), and may be regarded as ‘‘an archetypal symbol reflecting the common neuropsychological inheritance of humankind’’ (DiLeo, 1983, p. 13). It also represents ‘‘the center of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy’’ (Jung, 1959, p. 357).


 For Jung and others, mandalas often symbolize the Self, and appear sym- bolically to represent the striving for individuation, wholeness, and psychological integration through the reconciliation and unification of opposites (Arguelles & Arguelles, 1972; Clarke, 1994; Edinger, 1992; Fontana, 1993; Jung, 1959; Moacanin

have found that the construction of mandalas – particularly when drawn spontaneously – may be useful in the individuation process. Indeed, ‘‘the mandala image is not only a symbol of wholeness and healing, but can be actively employed as a means toward that end’’ (Clarke, 1994, p. 139). 


(Chandelier from Lodeve Cathedral France )

Research with infants conducted by Fantz & Miranda (1975) demonstrated that people are born with a desire to look at circles. Kohler (1992) also found that circles are more quickly perceived and recognized as meaningful. Children as young as two years of age draw circles, and by age three children begin assigning meaning to the circular forms they created (Kellog, 1967). Therefore, drawing mandalas taps into a child’s natural affinity for circles.


I was much struck the concepts around the striving for individuation and wholeness – I was amused that my ‘doodling ‘could be an active employment towards improving my wellbeing – I also liked the idea that we have a natural affinity for circles – means I am not as completely bonkers as I thought