Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Yesterday, I called 999 as I was concerned for neighbours who were shouting and deep down I suspected domestic abuse. I was right (unfortunately) and as I was on the phone with the police, I witnessed a physical fight between a man and a woman.
Following the incident, I wanted to share the signs that I noticed. I know that, often, many people behave passively, not because of selfishness or because they are wicked, but rather because they don't have the knowledge or practice to know what to do. So I made a few stories on Instagram about them.
My hope was that people would feel empowered to call the police to support others in similar situations by sharing what I know. I had a lot of sincere and encouraging feedback therefore I have put the stories as permanent highlights on my Instagram (click here to see the story highlight).
As usual, when I witness such violence, I find myself personally triggered. I struggled immensely to fall asleep, assailed by flashbacks and past memories of abuse and the need to be pro-active and to educate others on these unseen realities. So in my head, I start to think 'How can I show people how it feels?' and art ideas started to swirl in my mind.
The strongest image that kept creeping back is a forceful wrist grab. In my experience, both as a survivor and a witness, they (in my life 'they' were always men, however, I don't want to target men specifically as abuse can be done by all genders) always grab the wrists or arms first. It is often the first physical contact during interactions.
Hence, I wanted to do a piece of work featuring that. So I looked for references images. I didn't found many. I even had to take a picture of my own hand grabbing my own wrist which was rather disappointing to look at. I sketched a bit to understand the visual of wrists grab.
I feel unsatisfied as the images aren't nearly strong enough for what I envision. Ideally, I would use life models or friends and take my own photographs to help me out. I do not have that at hand at the moment. I had a rough idea of the direction though. And I can tell, I am going to need to scour the internet for much longer than that, to find all the references I need.
I am not defeated. This is part of the creative process.
Sometimes, as I work through those early stages, I learn how much more work I need to do towards the end goal. Before I can draw, or paint, or experiment, I need to have a basis. In this case, I need to put my energy into setting up the foundation first and foremost. I need to spend time looking for more reference images and by practising drawing hands and arms. Both take time.
I wanted to explore other routes or look through older works where the art may relate to the topic. When I was in the foundation year of my art psychotherapy training, we were asked to keep an art journal. I looked through it and found two images.
The first one is this bolshevik poster inspired image. Here the wrist grab is the feeling I am trying to convey. But I want the grabbed hand to be tensed and relaxed at the same time to convey fear and submission. And I want it to have long thin elegant fingers to represent vulnerability. For the grabbing hand, the position isn't quite what I would need but it does have this bulky powerful aspect to it that I want.
The second image also called out to me. I was arrested by the 'no escape' and that eye forced to see which to me definitely evokes pain. Somehow it isn't quite the right tone for that original idea. I do think this would be an interesting inspiration for another drawing on the topic of domestic violence, to convey another feeling or aspect of the trauma.
My next step was to go back to the drawing board. I do a lot of sketching ideas there and then and it is one of my favourite things. I like starting with drawing a rectangle to represent my piece of paper. Then I try things out and I leave notes on the side as to the medium I should use, colour or even what it means to me.
It is an easy way to explore ideas and concepts. By doing this, I learned that this could become a whole bigger project where I explore my own past traumas of abuse. As usual, when working with such difficult topics, creation is a very slow process. Often it needs to brew inside of my mind (sometimes for years) before I can move on to the next stage of making it.
Writing this post, I realise I struggle to feel the feelings I am actually trying to convey. Therefore, it is clear that I am not ready to express it just yet since I barely know the feeling myself. My relationship with my own feelings needs to strengthen and I need to familiarise myself with them before I show them to the world.
These ideas need to brew for longer.
To be continued...