To see the original handmade version, please click here
While working on a prose book about friendship and how childhood friendships shape those later in life, I noticed how touch and desire were at the core of my early friendships, kindergarten friendships, primary school friendships, and I questioned where that knowledge came from, how did I learn to touch, how was my desire formed, who teaches us, if anyone at all, to say no. In my teens and twenties I put myself in situations where I did not know that “no” was an option. To say “no” was to choose solitude, loneliness. To agree to unwanted touch seemed better than no touch at all. As if those were the only two options when to be touched by those we love was neither available nor deserved.
Out of the unspoken, non-verbal world of desire and punishment I made this book. I wanted to show how the trickle down effect of state-sanctioned violence – from the omnipresent inhumanity of apartheid to corporal punishment in school – and the disregard for individual integrity in the place I was raised in, South Africa, shapes how we see our bodies and the bodies of others, and how the subliminal messages of crude homophobic and sissyphobic songs and taunts of early childhood teach us that our bodies and skin are violable and shameful. The use of bright, friendly colours are a way of superseding the weight of what was meant to be unspoken.
I’m interested in the unuttered and unutterable, the wounding that happens in silence, the traumas that silence us. I make visual and abstract work because prose, my medium for almost thirty years, is not always enough. I want to tell these stories in ways that feel closer to the experiences themselves, through movement and gesture, through colour and shapes, away from the cerebral intellectuality that literature expects, and closer to the physicality that drawing allows.
Touched started out as four large sheets of paper drawn on with pencil while writing a novel about childhood friendships and how those early connections shape the types of relationships we go on to have later in life. I used the freehand lines and illustrations to try and access memories that were lurking below the surface. Memories of childhood fumbling, adolescent touch, lessons in desire and the forms it takes.
The large sheets were then cut into quarters and bound together to make a book, at which point I started using colour pencils, looking for the shapes in the unplanned lines, trying to piece images together, finding pleasure in colour and colouring in, giving shape to guilt and shame, rage and bewilderment.
The original artist’s book can be seen here. The single copy was then scanned and digitised, and a smaller A5 copy (in the images below) has been printed in a limited edition of 250, copies of which can be ordered via this link (€15, includes int’l postage).