The initial partnership began when Emily asked Nick to participate in her PhD project researching drawing as an emotional, autobiographical, feminist gesture. A series of interviews produced in-depth discussion on topics that began to intersect in issues concerning hierarchy; the problems of being a woman artist, artist mothers, the inherent difficulties in verbal and written communication, and the importance of both knowing and not-knowing when art-making, particularly in drawing – traditionally low in the pecking order of material gesture. After two years of talking about drawing, they decided that it would be an amazing opportunity to take some of the findings from their discussions and make them into more material gestures during a three-week residency at The Garage.
Nick and Emily deliberately started from a precarious position of ‘not knowing’ what was going to be made, just using available, low-value art materials and found objects – and to play around with them. Very quickly they decided to embrace mistakes as part of the work, generating as many ideas as possible by making rapidly, rather than creating polished, finished pieces of work. The collaboration quickly became a joyful, humorous dissemination of information, celebrating feminist, anti-patriarchal leanings and questioning the role of language. All the work stemmed from a large wall drawing which was continually added to (and will continue to be worked on) with all the ‘thinking’ that is behind drawing as a feminist and autobiographical gesture, illustrating links between thinkers, artists, materials, and themes.
They made a series of posters and badges, playing with language and colour, using quotes from artists, writers and theorists as well as using their own words. A large ‘quilt’ was made using baby wipes and rubber stamps (a work in progress), the words a never-ending tide of all the actions that are performed at home all of the time. A simple sound piece involved recording both Emily’s and Nick’s washing machines and playing them simultaneously – invoking a different kind of ‘domestic’ conversation. The game of ‘enjambments’ was devised, using words from the wall drawing in order to generate longer ‘three word’ combinations that better describe ‘domestic’ and ‘autobiographical’ practices. ‘Sun-grams’ were made – beautiful images of low-value, found objects that were then playfully paired with made up, non-binary, humorous labels consisting of the usually quite ugly words to describe male/female genitalia. The three weeks culminated in an ‘open residency day’ with tea, cake, free gifts! And a talk and an open discussion that posed questions around guilt, shame and how serious, important work can be made about domestic, interior life.
Nick and Emily consider that the successful collaboration that began during the residency to be just the beginning of an ongoing partnership for future projects based around a feminist manifesto for drawing. Many ideas for potential work have been generated, foregrounding drawing practice as a place in which non-hierarchical, non-binary, caring, reparative and collaborative gestures can be made.