Spring 2021 Exhibition
Me, Myself & I

Dawn Ford

  • Drawing by candlelight, Jamie's Restaurant, Bath

The question, ‘how do I approach a new art project?’ made me realise that I cover an unbelievable amount of miles with regards to ideas, research, photography, notes on responses, memories and feelings. Of course all of this takes up an enormous amount of energy and time. But when I capture that ‘it just is’ photograph or drawing, it feels like nothing else.
Over the years my approach to an art project hasn’t really changed: I can still struggle with ‘artist block’ and scramble around for that all important nugget of inspiration. When I find ‘it’ then I devour the exploration and thankfully idea development follows.
Over the last 4 years I have found myself most at home with my creative exploration of a personal journey. Since indulging in my love of drawing and photography I have felt a sense of ‘me’ that hasn’t been there for 20 years. I still really enjoy sewing, especially hand-sewing; loving the closeness to the material and the unpretentiousness of the needle work. I also enjoy ‘making’ but it needs to evolve from a place of meaning or memory.

Drawing with tapas in piano bar in Aix en Provence

Drawing, Don Henrique, Lagos

Grayson Perry quote from studio wall

My five images:

These 5 photographs are of objects that hold enormous sentimental value for me. Why? Because at the core of who I am is nostalgia and family. Objects that have a personal history; whether they’ve been worn, held, used and read, mean the most to me.
Initially the title ‘Me, Myself & I‘ inspired ideas of me; the young quiet and sensitive child who went to three different primary schools, one of which I ‘started’ twice – after a break of a year in another school. Then I toyed with the idea of the sixteen different houses I have lived in; seven by the age of 17, (see Poem 7/17) researching and remembering so many various wallpapers, curtains or bedding prints from the 70s and 80s. But they never made it to the final 5 images.
I also spent time looking at conveying me – ‘who loves to draw’, ‘who loves to read’ and ‘who loves to sew’, but the content, placement and ‘over-busyness’ of the image always seemed off par. I kept going back to the simplicity of the first photograph I took for this exhibition – My first shoes.
My dear late Gran has featured heavily again in this exhibition, which was not an initial starting point or a conscious decision. But I learnt after many weeks of exploring this title, that my heart was in these items and the photographs I had created ‘told part of my story‘ in the way that I felt most ‘at home with‘. The strength of this collection of photographs I feel lies within the personal documentary; these objects – capture the ordinary, the everyday and simultaneously the cherished.
I adore lighting, shadows, composition, placement and ‘less’ is always ‘more’ for me. Quite by chance I happened to take a photo of my first pair of shoes, with the warm glow of a table lamp at the side and I was completely blown away by the depth and richness of the red and the tonal variations within the main image, which predominately is browns or greys. This pleased me no end. It reminded me of an Old Master’s painting, a still life perhaps and it felt strongly linked to the photos of me drawing (in Bath, by candlelight, as featured in my Virtual Art Gallery). This really set the bench mark and the ‘feel’ of what I wanted to produce for this exhibition.
I realised after taking an enormous amount of photos that some items photographed better at eye level, when kneeling, and others from more of an elevated aerial view. This initially perplexed me but I came to terms with ‘capturing’ the item and achieving the right warmth of lighting rather than the matching of view point.

1. My first shoes

This photograph of my first pair of shoes (made by Start-Rite) is one of my favourite images I have ever created. My reaction to it was very powerful – on an artistic level as well as an emotional one. These first shoes are one of a few things that my mum kept from my early years and childhood and I love them. The rich red colour, every crease, every scuff; and over the years they have accompanied me on every house move and they take pride of place in my studio.

2. Cream bowl with pink trim, 3 spoons

This one really got my heart beating fast – I found the placement so exciting. And apart from changing the cutlery to forks and then knives and back to spoons again, I knew it was a keeper. The bowl and the cutlery belonged to my dear Gran. The bowl reminds me of desserts like her rice pudding and her cutlery reminds me of those tasty Sunday roast dinners and the family gatherings. I absolutely love the composition of this image and the manner in which the slightly aerial view flattens the bowl, which I quickly recognised is also the way I tend to ‘see’ when I draw.

3. Book of Poetry , hand-written letter and the little brown jug

The little Book of Poetry belonged to my dear late Gran and she very kindly gave it to me when I was twelve years old. It’s her letter in the photograph, which accompanied her gift of the book on my 12th birthday. As a young girl I would stay over at her home and we often read the book together. My favourite was ‘Goodnight my dear mother‘ . After some consideration I added her little brown jug to the table and it gave the photograph the depth that I felt it needed.

4. Lawn cotton, 7 buttons and a pair of reading glasses

As part of my research for this exhibition I revisited old sketchbooks and photographs that I had taken inside the Foundling Museum in London. I experimented with swatches of cherished clothes fabrics of my children, their hospital birth ‘tags’, written notes and official documents, but the image as a photograph wasn’t forthcoming.

I owe my love of sewing to my dear Gran and the smaller pieces of cotton and the buttons photographed here were out of her blue ‘sewing tin’. When I began playing around with these folded pieces of fabric something ‘clicked’. I added the small buttons and placed them by the side. It wasn’t until I included her reading glasses that I felt it was truly complete as a beautiful image.

5. Her first shoes

The last image is a photograph of my daughter’s very first pair of shoes. I can hear dear Alice’s young voice when I see these precious white shoes. I can picture her in a much loved, beautiful, white petticoat dress, happily tottering around our then family home.

I have a dress that I hold very dear – it’s a beautiful cotton summer dress that I have kept for over 30 years. It was ‘the dress’ I was wearing the evening I was to meet my husband. Right from the start I imagined that dress featuring in this exhibition. But despite my efforts it didn’t photograph as the others; so reluctantly I left it out and it was back to the ‘drawing board’ again. Finally after photographing other objects – I had a delightful surprise when I took this one of Alice’s shoes. The photograph gave me an incredible feeling. I also love the way that I start with my first pair of shoes, and purely by chance, I finish with my daughter’s.

7/17

Hiding behind her legs.

She never knew the house for long, the street, the people.
Unpack, pack. Arrive, leave. Unpack, pack.
Familiarity never had a chance.
Friendships made then gone. House cleared and off again.

She never knew the school for long, the classroom, the pupils.
Hello, goodbye. Arrive, leave. Hello, goodbye.
Always the new girls.
Friendships made then gone. School uniform discarded too soon.

She connected for the first time.
Unpack, pack. Arrive, leave. Hello, goodbye was a thing of the past.
Familiarity grew and was embraced.
Friendships made and stayed. The uniform made it through to the last day. The house was a home.

Hiding behind her legs
no more.

Dawn Ford

Please contact me if you are interested in my work.

Email address:    dawn_ford01@yahoo.com

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