Home Drawing Drawing : Nina Simone’s Gum

Drawing : Nina Simone’s Gum


The hair clippings of St Clare of Assisi, the Basilica of Saint Clare: Assisi.

Nina Simone’s Gum’ is a ebook by Warren Ellis. Entitled after the truth that Ellis had pulled the gum off the leg of a piano Nina Simone had performed again in 1999, in what was to be Simone’s final efficiency in England. It was twenty years later placed on show as a relic; an object of nice non secular worth; the ebook being about how one thing so small can type such highly effective connections between folks, it’s, because the blurb says, ‘a narrative concerning the which means we place on issues, on experiences, and the way they turn out to be imbued with spirituality’. 

Nina Simone’s Gum

I went to see Nina Simone at Birmingham City Corridor in 1969, she was astonishing. Recollections of the occasion nonetheless transfer me, and when she sang ‘Younger Gifted and Black’, I keep in mind hairs standing up on the again of my neck because the primarily black viewers rose to her phrases. It was my first actual expertise of what it meant to have a really completely different id to that of a white, male anglo-saxon. I had simply accepted issues as they have been, however on going to artwork faculty, I used to be lastly starting to get up and uncover that the world on the market was a conflicted place and that what I took with no consideration, was a state of affairs many others would see as a place of privilege.  Simone’s efficiency was an unforgettable expertise and I may simply see why one thing as humble as her discarded chewing gum could possibly be so vital to somebody who had attended one in all her concert events. 

That is how relics work. Objects turn out to be the repositories of the spirit of the one that was related to them. This could possibly be, as within the picture that opens this submit, a saint like Clare of Assisi, who’s nonetheless golden shorn hair is stored to remind us of her piety or Jesus Christ; the nails from his crucifixion being energised with some form of non secular essence of his being. 

A Holy nail relic: Trier Cathedral 

However you do not have to be that particular or saintly, anybody’s non secular essence will be handed on utilizing a relic, the commonest state of affairs being if you end up given an urn filled with ashes after a cremation. I do know of a number of households that maintain their grandad’s ashes in an urn sitting in a cabinet and each on occasion they flip to these ashes and ask for grandad’s assist in supporting them by life’s difficulties. The objects that turn out to be relics will also be very mundane, a tooth, a nail, a used discarded chewing gum, however of their very banality, they inform us a narrative about life, about how essentially the most humble, neglected object, has the potential to offer bodily type to non secular issues. 

The artist Alina Szapocznikow, used to make use of chewing gum to make sculptural concepts, after which {photograph} the outcomes. 

Alina Szapocznikow, “Photosculpture” (1971)

These pictures additionally faucet into the idea of the relic. The artist’s traces changing into very like these of a misplaced saint, Szapocznikow’s chewed and hand pulled tiny sculptures, now honored as excessive artwork, turn out to be relics not in contrast to those we discover preserved in glass vitrines in lots of Catholic church buildings. A relic works as some form of externalised thoughts. With out their bodily presence we’d discover it very troublesome to consider the concepts related to what relics stand for. The explanation we have to make bodily objects to hold our concepts, is due to the identical motive, every artwork object in impact working as an externalised thought, an idea made actual, moderately than remaining as a thought trapped inside a head.

You can even take into consideration a drawing as soon as it’s accomplished as a sort of relic. Its very materiality is a crystallised concept. We’re intrigued by an authentic drawing and as we glance intently at its handcrafted marks, we recreate in our minds the artist’s contact and in flip we’re touched by the concept of a sure mixture of supplies holding inside itself an concept. When I’m lifeless my drawings must discuss for me. Mute like all relics, folks will carry their very own tales to them, due to this fact I hope my works on paper can have sufficient substance to them to permit for a lot of doable tales to emerge and flourish, the drawings’ very muteness hopefully providing others a silence inside which to make their very own sounds. 

A drawing from an outdated sketchbook

No matter concept I had when making this drawing I’ve forgotten, however the particular mixture of supplies stay, the drawing holds its type, solely barely distorted by time, maybe slightly light and the paper barely flattened resulting from compression and dampness. It now operates as a relic, a frozen thought preserved in paper and ink, a sort of fossil. If now framed behind glass and placed on show, the framing begins to take away it even farther from the world and heightens its iconic potentialities and begins the journey in the direction of changing into a reliquary.

The body inside a body

An empty reliquary body 

The empty reliquary body above is simply ready for a saint’s toe or tooth to be mounted inside its ornate surrounds. It’s designed to offer honorific worth to no matter is positioned inside it. It wants one thing like Nina Simone’s gum to finish it. In reality the gum was forged in silver by Hannah Upritchard, a London jeweller and the Belgian dressmaker Ann Demeulemeester produced an intricately carved silver ring in its picture. 

Hannah Upritchard: Silver casts of Nina Simone’s Gum

I suppose this sequence of concepts has come to me as a result of I am about to retire and the library at Leeds Arts College is pondering of archiving a few of my outdated sketchbooks. In the event that they do and as I’d hope, they maintain them secure, sooner or later they’ll appear to some future researcher as unusual outdated relics of the previous and my life will likely be a distant reminiscence. It’s unlikely I’ll have ever modified anybody’s life in the way in which Nina Simone did, however on a extra modest scale, maybe a few of my educating or my drawings did assist some folks enrich their very own lives and if something of mine could possibly be thought to be repositories of my spirit, it will be my sketchbooks.

Sketchbook concept evolving in relation to how my varicose veins really feel

Glass leg votive in progress

See additionally: 

False begins Exhibition: A side of my work that reaches into the custom of the votive


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