Elsewhere – Where Are We Now?

Treble Denim, buff stoneware, unfired greenware, 2020

We are better connected than we were three months ago, but we don’t really know the pathway through the next three and beyond. The Market Festival in Dumfries last Saturday was full of communal joy and genuine bonhomie but behind the mask we aren’t quite sure how long this spell of almost normality will last…we are still hopeful for an end to the unknown.

Treble Denim, biscuit fired buff stoneware, Andy Brooke, 2020

The warp and weft of physical connection is still strong but we long for the touch of our fellow humans – we are tactile creatures who feel strange not feeling the rough or smooth palm of another in ours. It means a lot when someone contravenes the code and shakes our hand in a generously transgressive gesture. But then we feel the need to cleanse ourselves of a potential danger that is never far away; we are still inside a battle which stubbornly sticks around.

Treble Denim, detail, solarised

This ceramic piece was made in cramped conditions before we moved up to Dumfries at the end of September. My studio had been largely packed up and only clay was available to use as an expressive material – the generous earth gave me tactile voice for unspoken ideas and responses to the Lockdown. Through all the stages from squelchy wet to dried and brittle, time became a physical process for creating endless metaphors for the life we live.

Treble Denim, detail, inverted

Why Treble Denim? Denim is a strong textile weave which we have all had close to our skin at some time; it is also a good metaphor for the warp and weft of human life. And making denim from strips of supple stoneware seems to add grandeur and eloquence to a universal humble material.

Yet even as this fragile biscuit fired piece has mostly (with a few cracks of attrition) survived a move of 350 miles, packed within the contents of our entire house on a removal truck, we also will survive this time and become stronger.

Single Denim, collagraph print, Andy Brooke, 2020

These collagraph prints which will be exhibited with the ceramic work in the Elsewhere exhibition in Dumfries, are made from real strips of old jeans which are cut and stuck and inked and pressed into paper to leave behind an imprint of their textures…from loose ragged curves of faltering lockdown social encounters to the nearer normal grids of social connections we now experience. But for how long, we are wondering…

Where are we now? Connected and living positively through a challenging time, with inevitable fraying at the edges of family and social connections as harsh conditions are imposed. But the strength of our humanity lies in the powerful fibres of love which connect us, as strong as steel or spiders’ silk.

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