Blue Black Feather: some thoughts on the audio-description of the drawing and its link to poetry

drawing of a fantastical landscape occupied by a Jay and a Crow

Blue Black Feather [c] Colin Hambrook

I’ve been revising how to make the audio-artwork to go with the exhibition. I initially scripted descriptions in two parts – giving a straight description of the drawings followed by the context of the making of the image and the narrative it tells. Now, with input from Joseph Young I’ve opted for combining the three facets of the audio-description. I’ve had a go at incorporating the details of the illustration with descriptions of the making of the images, drawing on narratives in the poems being illustrated and the personal stories which were the starting point.

I enjoyed sharing the following script for a creative audio-descriptive piece in the Knitting Time workshop at Pallant House this week:

I had already started this A4 coloured drawing when I decided it would be an apt illustration for the poem Blue Black Feather. It conveys a love of nature in a dream-like landscape made up of birds, faces and human figures, which inhabit a series of hills and pastures. It pictures the encroachment of urban life on the landscape in a series of simply drawn tower blocks which run down the left-hand side of the drawing. It just needed two birds and so I drew a Jay dominating the right hand side of the foreground and a smaller crow further up and on the left, with which it is communicating.

The poem relates to a story from the mid-eighties of when I found  a perfect blue-black barred Jay’s feather. Living in North London during the early 1980s was a depressing time. All my efforts at getting somewhere to live were being thwarted at the same time as all social housing was being sold off. Ideals of community and social awareness were fragmenting. I squatted a housing association property. For a time our eviction notices were thrown out of court by the judge because the housing officers were so embroiled in corrupt deals. Everything, seemed bound up in corruption.

I got very excited by the jewel-like quality of the feather. In my fragile state of mind this piece of treasure seemed to be auspicious sign; an omen of better things to come. It glowed, like something from the garden of Eden. On an impulse I showed the feather to a fellow passenger on a tube train. I happened to be following one of the sillier fashions of the time, wearing striped pyjamas. It was a trend started by the Boomtown Rats who I’d seen play a couple of times.

So, when the woman who I’d shown the feather to announced that she was an off-duty police officer, it was not wholly unsurprising that she’d assume that I’d escaped from Friern Barnet, the nearest mental hospital. She took me aside on the platform, clearly debating with herself what she should do and whether or not she could be bothered to take me all the way back to the police station. She wavered – especially as I had nothing on me to identify who I was. On grilling me about where I was going she asked me if I was harmless or not. She realised I couldn’t cause much damage, armed with a tiny feather. And so she then asked if I’d go back to the hospital of my own accord; making me promise faithfully that I would do so. And so I agreed, escaping the psychiatric system by an edge once again.

At the centre bottom of the drawing is a prominent ball shape across which a skeletal figure is draped. And to the left of the figure is a large cross-hatched shadow which is draped from the bottom corner of the picture, across the bottom tower block and up into the fields above. There is sense of underlying fatalism within this drawing. The frightened expressions on the faces in the submerged figures are expressive of a search for meaning and purpose in a random brutal urban environment.

About Knitting Time: art and poetry on the theme of psychosis

'Knitting Time: a journey through loss' is a poetry and visual arts project reflecting on the theme of art and psychosis. A book and exhibition of the work is due to be launched at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex on 10 October 2013 to celebrate World Mental Health Day. During this research and development phase I want to gather responses, thoughts, recollections and comments, so please fill in my surveymonkey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/F2MN2MT and add your let me know what you think? Or feel free to email me via knitting-time [at] btinternet.com
This entry was posted in art, Birds, mental health, psychology, sound art. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Blue Black Feather: some thoughts on the audio-description of the drawing and its link to poetry

  1. Wendy says:

    Colin – we have so many things in common! I saw Boomtown Rats, I went to Pizza Express in my pyjamas (big red and whiters). I knew squatters in North London. This is so entertaining – hopefully I’ll see bird drawing at exhib as I can’t get it on here!

  2. NICK says:

    Love it! When is it published? What a wonderful way to think. Nick nlewis399@Gmail.com

  3. I can identify with this.like you I’m a nature lover. Love the drawing superb. Joe

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