I am currently working on a new work of creative non-fiction, a mix of art writing, experimental prose and memoir, exploring my experiences of social anxiety and the power of silence and art-making as a means to shape resistance to living in precarious times.
Inspirations include German-Jewish artist Eva Frankfurther (1930-1959) who lived and worked in London’s East End, sketching and painting her West Indian friends & neighbours and installation artist Chohreh Feyzdjou (1955-1996). I’m also inspired by Dave Heath’s black and white photographs published in his seminal work Dialogues with Solitude. Heath’s description of his working process is one of my starting points, his ambition to capture “the vulnerability of a consciousness turned inwards.”
© Ben Uri Gallery Archive
The House of Swallows
The House of Swallows is a work of literary fiction which reflects on legacies which are not always visible – an unknown bloodline, a hidden artistic legacy, a missing child – explored through the stories of three artist-makers, each connected to the exhumation of a Spanish Civil War grave in the early 2000s.
It is inspired by historical events which I heard about whilst on a writing residency in Andalucía funded by the Arts Council. It was the story of those ‘disappeared’ during the Spanish Civil War and in the years of dictatorship which followed. I was particularly drawn to the stories of the grandchildren growing up in the diaspora who are finding new and creative ways to research and document the lives of the ‘disappeared.’
Nell Costello’s story frames my novel which spans the 1930s to the first decade of this century. My literary experiment takes the form of fracturing my characters’ narratives across time and threading them together through poetic fragments, official documents, and recurring visual motifs drawn from historical and fictional artworks, including Picasso’s Guernica.
The novel forms part of my postgraduate research project funded by AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) & CHASE (Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England). I was awarded my PhD by the University of Essex in 2019.
“Las palabras viven y crecen también en la sombra. Hay formas de resistencia y de transmisión. La memoria tiene su propia estrategia.” (Words also live and grow in the darkness. They are forms of resistance and transmission. Memory is its own strategy). Manual Rivas.
“No se recuerda, no se juzga el pasado solo para castigar o condenar, sino para aprender.” (One remembers not to judge the past, to punish or condemn, but to learn.) Luis Pérez de Aguirre.
In Wolf Village
My first novella is about a photographer confronting the ugly compromises involved in reporting from a conflict zone. The novella has been inspired by the writings of the Surrealist artist Max Ernst, particularly his reflections on forests and his lifelong habit of confounding images of human beings with birds and other creatures. Somewhere along the way, this collided with my interest in maps and the work of women photographers such as the Hungarian artist Kati Horna, who documented the Spanish Civil War and was a lifelong friend of the visual artist Leonora Carrington.
In Wolf Village was shortlisted for The Novella Award (Judges: Nicholas Royal & Alison Moore)
The project was developed with the support of a Hawthornden Fellowship and a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland.