Right now, I’d like to be sat at Eames Fine Art Studio, a cup of coffee in my hand, a swell of art works on the walls, while I survey my art piece and scribble furiously into a pad. About a month ago, I was tasked with writing a sestude (62 words) for an artist’s print, for ’26 Prints’ a project with the Writers’ group ‘26’ and Eames Fine Art Gallery. I was wonderfully offered the option of either taking the artist’s print home, to hang on my wall, or to return to the gallery and luxuriate in being a writer. I chose neither option and instead, as I finesse my first draft, I’m surrounded by a mixture of clutter and laundry, while recently being pulled away to wash horse urine off a cat. I do at least have the cup of coffee.
Back on January the 26th I made my way to Eames Fine Art Studio, for my first 26 pairing evening. I’ve worked on several 26 projects before – 26PairsofEyes, 26Lies and my own creation 26Twits; but I’ve never been able to attend one of their pairing evenings before. 26 allows for writers, largely copywriters, to write something entirely different from their working life projects and puts together, usually, 26 writers with 26 concepts to write 62 words.
The evenings always sound like great fun, with the drawing of your piece usually meaning the pulling of a piece of paper from a hat, with drinks and chats with fellow writers and artists. The journey for me to get back on a weekday from London however, required a bus, a tube, a train, a 20 minute walk and then a car journey, which means often this isn’t particularly feasible. For this event I left a few hours early from work and made a long wander towards London. Before I left for my train, I discovered I hadn’t brought a notebook and pen with me, so picked one up on route. In a couple of cafes, and on the train and tube I finished Han Kang’s Human Acts and scribbled notes, in this new notebook, for what would become my Human Acts poem.
The 26Prints writers and a select group of artists gathered at Eames Fine Art Gallery where 26 artist’s original prints had been wrapped in silver packaging and numbered. We writers and artists hovered and nibbled from the table of cheese, brownies and wine.
I struck up a conversation with one of the artists, where I helpfully mentioned the previous 26 projects I’d worked on where I didn’t instantly click with what I was paired with. There was the quote I found jarring and a portrait that was austere, this seemed to make her wobble, how would her writer relate to her work? Of course I said, the very fact that I didn’t instantly gel with the works I had been matched with before had made me work harder, and approach them from different avenues than I might have otherwise. I think I won her over.
A hush fell over the room as the elaborate selection process went into full swing. There was a silver bowl of bingo balls each inscribed with a letter, these letters matched up to a list of names. When your ball was drawn, you pulled a number from a hat to match you with an artist.
My name was called first. I rifled in the hat and pulled out a number 7.
The silver paper was drawn down to reveal a print by Sophie Layton, the artist I had been badly reassuring earlier. When the rest of the pieces had been revealed – a spattering of Picasso, Rembrandt, Matisse and more modern living artists, I got to speak with Sophie about her artwork. It turns out the print had filmic leanings – named ‘Tabernas’ after Spain’s Hollywood outpost and composed of two prints from films – ‘Drive’ and ‘Paris, Texas.’
To me it seemed to be divided almost like a giant clapperboard, and was split with light and Edward Hopper-esque colour connections; neo-noir in print. A magic lantern frozen on paper. I felt a whip of energy from being linked with filmic piece, an artist I had only just spoken to, and being picked first.
I love film, have studied screenwriting for several years, culminating in a year’s Writing for Film and Television diploma at Vancouver Film School, and the previous weekend I had been attending a Writersroom with screenwriter Barbara Machin.
I already had words to scribble in my notebook.
Each of us signed our insurance forms to take the piece home, one woman was going to be walking a Rembrandt down to Camden, although she might have considered the bus, with the sudden weight of a well-known print on her arm. Others, meanwhile, were taking taxis with Picasso, and reconsidering their home insurance policies, or dashing for trains their artist’s work in hand. After signing my life away, I tried to lift my print and stumbled at the first hurdle. Regardless of whether I ordered a taxi to the train station and then another on the otherside to the parking lot, I couldn’t see myself getting home with this heavy print. I wasn’t even sure it would fit in my car, or where it would stand in my home.
I had to make my excuses and scurry home with the image captured in my mind, rather than hanging from my wall. But I found myself writing reams of images and ideas in the same notebook that I’d scribbled in about ice and blood only a few hours earlier.
Now I’m surrounded by mess trying to streamline my thoughts into a willing first set of 62 words for the first draft deadline.