Square Re-dressed

Karen Wood (left) and Clarisse Halverson (right) at the final view PV 5 December 2019

“A simple structure
An encounter
A conversation”


Art hidden under lights


a word wander:

Susan Merrick’s
choice of materials
Bring you a playful step closer
to making the mystery of Imagination
your own every day.
In the space between,
the rejected feminine elements are
Laughing and whispering noisily across the gallery surfaces,
Making their presence known,
Pulling at the threads of things
Like mischievous ghosts.

I feel like I am 15 again
Susan is making everything fun.

I feel like I am 12
Playing ancient characters
from storybooks.

The process of reclaiming material from all ages, epochs and ocean beds will never look right under the glare.
Mud and guts of the world.
Utilitarian pins and nails and things.
Ashes in my mouth.
Tear it down before it’s done.
The art is hidden under the lights.
All the surprising combinations
blooming in the conditions set.
Defying ideas
Of what we thought we were doing.
A garden under lights.


Mermaid tail with photograph scales
Susan Merrick, photo by Tina 5.12.19
View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clarisse Halverson (@artin_thegarden) on

One for you and one for me

Responding to Susan Merrick’s clothing swap

Dear Susan,

I am lying on your lilo inside the gallery, inside your clothing exchange to write you this note. It’s nice to be lying down for a rest after installing all morning, my film is now on the wall and you’re in it!

I have left you a silky summer yellow top with a snakeskin pattern. I bought two because I wasn’t sure which would fit me and sure enough neither was a great fit for my small breasted self.

I had the smaller one adjusted to fit me it was for Yellow a reference to the yellow haired Medusa, I just had to have it, I’ve never seen snakeskin in yellow before!

Clothing is often like this whenever I dress up in my 30s. Not part of my identity, but rather personas I can put on or take off depending on what expressions are calling to me to be spoken.

I recently explored the cultural (outside) and internalised (inner) ideas and images associated with the mother archetype my ideas of mothering, I was surprised to dream her as an erotic blond, I called her the Red Mother she was challenging me to revise what I would allow and be of myself.

However yellow is the colour of vitality and life force energy for me and the wig washes me out (I am not a natural blond)

So I leave it up to the laboratory what it will become. Either:

  • Part of a clothing swop trade
  • Or a conversation starter, becoming part of future works.
This is the singlet I swapped for the yellow one I was trading.

Inside-Outside Conflict

Yesterday was demanding and today will demand more of me.
(show up, show up anyway?)

I wrote this morning a stream of consciousness, and I find that although it was inspired by an everyday encounter and not this project specifically, I notice the themes I am exploring have weft and wove throughout my perception and provided metaphors with which to express the experience.


There is a conflict between Inside and Outside,
Rapunzle’s tower feels so tempting today:
Hunker down
Anger burns up the walls
from the furnace of my heart
Come close and the flames will lick you
yes, Dancing in the fire
That’s my idea of a good day today.
Alchemy transforming the elements at my borders
New crystalline mementos…
not gargoyle heads
not medusa heads
not lion heads
not papyrus or paint pots
flowers! yes, flowers
Blooming like the night lily
on the border between sky and pond.

There is a conflict between inside – outside.
Do I keep up my walls
and perform, stoic as a buttress?
Do I dress myself in crocodile’s
in a moat bordering my childish upswell
with a warning snap to give me time?
Time to feel
Time to think
Time to respond.

Aha, see, there is the conflict
Truly I don’t fare well alone with my thoughts
Alone with my words
Alone with my ideas,
Running round and round like stale bread in tin.

There is the conflict:
How easy it would be to withdraw from the not me,
the not wanted, the not cool,
Paying the price in rigid conclusions
and stony constructions encrusting my mind with
a labyrinthine resolve to protect my ideas of self and other
Suspended like a moth in a specimen glass
Against my instinct
My training
My advice.

I need the outside, the other, the
input battering my keep
with the energy and colour of a summer rain
creating rainbows in the autumnal chill
To grow
To learn
To revitalise:
The phenomena of intra-action
The entanglement of multiple beings
Be-ing in this life
This ecosystem.

The place between this Inside mood
and Outside pull tugging at my skirts
like twenty cubs, or a vigorous wind.
How many mothers, parents, sisters, brothers
feel harassed by the pull of other world desires?
Two worlds meet in the space between.

I don’t really desire solitude,
just a place to stand where I can be;
Be one of many on the lily pads
Drinking from the top and bottom
of an ecosystem that supports me

(Re: Yellow) “I am” and I am glad, hello!

Responding to one of Karen’s newer paintings:

Karen Wood installing her work at Spitlefields Studios (London)
for the Urban Rural Exchange exhibition this month

A depth to dive into
A shadow, a black.
Spaces to skid in with glee
Hidden from view
A secret me.
Behind my eyelids
An inner me.

A shock of gold
A beam of splendour
A heart-lifting brightness
An etheral sun-smile
Beaming from the heart of me
“I am”.

Aloft in the ceiling
this painting beams down on me
Dripping tendrils of gold on the floor
Painting the lines to dance with
Borders to investigate
Blocks of view with which to

I see myself in it;
There is an order and a wildness
in this one Karen
I said to you as soon as I saw it
This is my favourite yet
Not just because yellow has that effect on me
But because it is balanced on
the edge of vision.

Dear Karen,

I wrote this word flow for you, in response to your painting. As you know I have mentioned that yellow is usually my favourite colour in any situation that a favourite may be stated. Not to use in my palette per say, but to feel. Yellow feels good.

I have been exploring tri-colour symbolism for a while now, (red-black-white) and was rather delighted when I discovered yellow is often the fourth colour to emerge in any language according to linguists Brent Berlin and Paul Kay. Da Silva writes:

Specifically, they found that if a given language contains only two color terms, these refer to white and black. But if a language contains three terms, then it contains (in addition to the previous ones) a word for red. And so on and so forth concerning—in the following order—green or yellow, then blue, then brown, and finally purple, pink, orange, and gray.

Francisco Vas Da Silva (2017) ‘Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Crow: Chromatic Symbolism of Womanhood in Fairy Tales

I shared this discovery with Andy Jones last spring when he shared his maps with us at a CAS Artists CRIT and I noticed he is using the same primary colours to represent his own symbolic language.

I am really tickled by the idea that in language, these colours emerge first. Perhaps that makes them good tools for finding our own languages. In your case, with a colour palette taken from the roads of London, it occurs to me as if for the first time that you are picking up the symbolic visual language of the road system (a recognised cultural language of instruction) and dissenting (deviating) from the traditional interpretation. Your dissent is saying there is so many more ways that you can move in these spaces, not only that, you have created a visual language to express it and which others might learn to read.

In my case, I am not quite sure I have the words yet for the terrain of my cultural deviation, so I instead leave you with this:

The use of yellow here is in part inspired by your painting. In this digital drawing my impression of your painting merges with an encounter with Rapunzle (who I saw had dissented by chopping off her golden hair — an act of defiance). See my recent blog post ‘the first telling’ (of ‘The Woman with No Hair’) to decode what the red box and the gold lines represent (or devise your own meaning).

Since Susan Merrick took photos of me on Tuesday, my digital sketchbook has exploded with images. Like your fast manipulation of electrical tape, digital tools have a useful ability to keep up with my thoughts as I test out ideas.

No Lines

In response to “rules for ash”.

This was written two years ago to express an alternative viewpoint which is being pulled in to sharp focus, as we each need to create a structure, a perimeter and a parameter within which to work if we are to achieve anything at all.

There is no line
No outline
It works as a drawing exercise
But to live by it is to lose
Spacial awareness in a sea of objects
Focus in a mass of information.
Abandoning form and boundary lines
Constructed by the mind
External action is fruitless
A leak of energy, unmastered
You see everything but also nothing
Raw material remains unmanifest.

It helps to know the eye and the active
mind are pulling focus
Ordering reality, not passive observers.
There is no line until you make it
Just don’t fight too hard to keep it
As the tension between forms is the
Agitation sparking creativity
Which never can create without grinding,
Pounding, exploding forms and 
edging out on the wake of change 
that which must die
Not because it can’t co exist
But because it is food for your task
Material for new forms.

13 January 2017

Language Problems. To rant or not to rant?

A conversation on Instagram

@ashok_glow responds:
Why say “rants”? A bit disrespectful

Because that is what the invitation was. They were invited to rant. Artists responded to the open call how they found fit. It was an invitation to an uncensored or passionate expression of frustration. I think we got something from both @adaee12 and @artistsarahmisselbrook that was that but also so much more. Beautiful and potent. @maijaliepins

It was as if I was ‘given permission’ (?) or ‘the floor’ or ‘time/space’ to constructively ‘rant’ about something. Personally I found it incredibly cathartic, I shouted across The Valley, across the Channel and across the internet… and there were engaged ‘listeners’… for me, it was a truly wonderful experience. 😊@artistsarahmisselbrook

That’s true. I consider a lot of the writing and thinking and talking I do to be rants, so when I saw the ‘5 minutes rant’ I saw it as the perfect outlet for my work. Like you said, it takes away the pressure of what you’re saying having to be perfect or make coherent sense and just lets it be its own thing. @adaee12

Language persists in being both problematic and useful.

What negative connotations does ranting have?

  • How might we reclaim the rant?
  • Can rants be useful?
  • Do you need to get permission to proceed with ranting?
  • Where does ranting fit in to social etiquette?
  • Does any current social etiqutte of ranting serve one or many?


I cried in public today
On stage I stood
Before all those faces 
And I feel so proud
That I didn’t squash it down
But flowed
Staying on the thread.

Susan Merrick red and yellow
asked me do you want a hug?
“Yes please” I said and continued talking
with an embrace of support.
“I like hugs” I said.

Definitely not alone.
Perhaps when we use our voices
people will stand with us
Just enough to steady ourselves
Flowing on the tide.

I shared my experience
Pushing back
A “yes but…”
I pushed with my hands
Defining my space?

“Ooh I’m feeling quite emotional”
I admitted to the crowd.
That pushing action
Arms out, hands flat
Feeling that action

Am I on my soapbox?

(I didn’t think that then
I just felt the sensation)

Sometimes you need to push back I said
When you’ve taken on some much of the “other”.
A balancing act.

(I can’t remember what I was responding to.)

What just happened?
What did you see?

(Raw and loose
Contemplating me)

Responding to your whispers

Intrigued by the imposed audio limitations placed upon your artist group, I can assure you that your whispers are coming through ‘loud and clear’.

Observing you on your ‘island’, your cell, I can connect with you from my ‘natural soapbox’ (a large protruding rock within the valley). I will respond with a ‘rant’ with a self-imposed limitation that it should come from this place. However, the quest for clarity of thought, of word, of action risks going unseen.

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