I have never worked for so long on a single project, especially one having only seven images. I started working intuitively, got stranded, found the error, resolved the problem and return to the initial concept. I see it now as a successful research project where the practice led to research, which in turn clarified and developed practice.
I became interested in the scientific search for relations between mind and body, having learned that not only can mind influence body but it happens vice versa too. The reciprocity fascinated me as I was accustomed to a traditional way of seeing body and mind as separated.
I enthusiastically tracked links between hormones and essential human passions, like anger or lust. As a framework for the new project, I took the biblical concept of Seven Deadly Sin (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy & pride) .Domesticity is a common subject in my work. Here, interpreting a scientific subject I wanted to contrast it with a naïve form, hence the stitched sampler emerged as my medium of choice.
My first attempt looked completely different to the ready work. I was using bold red, corresponding with anger, but it jus did not look right.
With the next one I was still using colour but toned it down, and restricted to the letters. I preferred a chemical structure camouflaged by white thread on white canvas. I made the first sampler Wrath, (Working title was then 7 Deadly Sins) show it in a summer exhibition and left it there.
I was not satisfied and did not want to mechanically make more pieces, but did not know how to progress. The question was working its way in the background and more than half a year later I added proverbs. I was not too precious about my Wrath, besides stitching takes time, so I reused it, pulled out blue thread and dropped a piece of wisdom onto the canvas. It was all going well for wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth and pride. My Internet research for chemical correlates was bringing sufficient results.
I was constructing the chemical/proverb twosomes with a clear conscience until I had to face envy and greed. And it was not clear, and it was not straightforward anymore. I was looking for advice how to tackle these two, but not being able to articulate my point and explain what I was doing I did not find any. That was about the time, when continually searching for a way out of this mess, I came across neuroendocrinology. It is a discipline investigating interaction between nervous and endocrine systems. It promised some answers, as many of the chemicals in the work were hormones.
I dived into Nick Neave’s Hormones and Behavoiur, introducing neuroendocrinology to students of social sciences (promising) and emerged few weeks later knowing that research informs only about rather fragmented observations. The findings were correlations but not causes. And here I was looking for the headline and sound bites. I was felt I was doing something wrong; trying to be scientific about my fantasies.
Quotation from Frittjof Capra:
During [these] periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight.
With the hindsight I quite enjoy the final part. The more I was looking for the answers the more I realised that they do not exist. And in the utter gloom came the realisation that I had lost sight of anything else but a scientific proof. I somehow missed the point: mixing samplers, folk morality and a quest for scientific proof? In a spectacular breakthrough I rediscovered the whole idea of converse philosophies. And it reminded me that it all came from, the interplay between incomparable word orders, from making sense of these incomparable, incompatible sources, forming a single world view.
I was not illustrating a research report and I did not need a proof anymore. I could make up a fantastic structure as long as I label it accordingly. Working within a visual language of chemical structures I exploited the linguistic analogy and randomly pulled their cut pieces out of a hat, borrowing Dadaist method of making a poem.
Emotions are the subject shared by both scientific enquiry and moral philosophy expressed in proverbs. Folk morality is straightforward and timeless. It presents its truths with conviction, not asking for a proof. Scientific truths are settled by following a method, controlled, and living only until disproven. A sampler for me represents the epistemology diametrically opposed to the scientific one. I intended to trap and interweave these two, reflecting a mismatch and commotion of conflicting ways of making sense of the word.
love samplers and tea towels, this disinherited art. I remember them from the kitchens of my great aunts living in small villages of Southern Poland. In cold, formal rooms ruled framed behind glass, hand coloured religious prints but the kitchens were decorated with homemade needlework, pinned straight onto a wall. They constituted a second, closer to the Earth order of moral guidance; being in the middle of the decorative hierarchy; below Sacred Hearts or Virgin Maries residing in the day rooms but above post card landscapes. The samplers had a picture in the middle and a proverb stitched on the top and bottom. My education was taking place in silence, during breakfasts and samplers turned out to be a lasting part of my visual library.