Thursday, December 14, 2006

Á La Recherche Du Temps Perdu

I received three cardboard boxes from my mother in the post today. In one was my late aunt's sewing machine, a gift to me from her daughter. The other two contained possessions from my childhood to my mid-twenties – or rather, the possessions that weren't lost or given away as my family moved around. Every item was wrapped in red tissue paper, and sprinkled with heart- and star-shaped sequins. As I opened each parcel, sequins spilled onto the floor.
I've laid everything out on my kitchen bench. There's a miniature porcelain tea set that I adored as a child. I think my grandparents gave it to me. Each piece has a small bunch of cornflowers painted on it, and is trimmed with a thin line of silver. There are two beautiful Japanese bowls – one for rice, one for tea – moulded in thick grainy clay and painted with a dull Indian blue glaze. They were a gift from my then closest friend, who brought them back from Japan. A year later we ran away to Osaka together. She was 18. I was a year younger.
There are things I vaguely remember collecting – and some I don't remember at all: a small, wooden, heart shaped table, in pieces; a tin of heart shaped cookie cutters; a multi-coloured collapsible medicine cup from my retro phase; an empty bottle of essential oil called Wood and a small, empty vial of jasmine oil (I used to mix herbs and essences and heat them in my first studio to try to disguise the smell of enamel). There are five wooden egg cups, dyed red, and five very fine shot glasses in blue.
Finally, there's a makeshift cardboard folder containing the English papers I wrote in high school, when I was 16. The essays and short stories are all bleak and a little over-influenced by Franz Kafka and Margaret Atwood. Death, love, sex and feminism are recurrent, if not entirely coherent, themes. Everything was pretty much a self-portrait, even when it wasn't meant to be.
It was intriguing but discomforting to recognise the seeds of my art in these early writings. I was a very troubled teenager but even now, I like the person I was then – the 'me' before I tried to change myself for other people, before I consciously dumbed myself down and hid behind an ingratiating façade. I was hurt, confused, and obviously very isolated from my 'peers' – and yet I was myself.
In some ways, now, I feel more like the person I was at 16 than the person I was at 26. Except I don't feel alone. And I am happy.

No comments: