The exhibition of sculptures and installations by Brazilian artist, Tonico Lemos Auad, at the De La Warr Pavilion proved to be a fantastic jumping off point for writing in our February workshop. The London based artist makes sculptures that act as tools for processing thoughts – and his work really did get all our writers digging deep into their experiences and imaginations.
We started in the gallery by looking and writing, using our notepads as a way to get first impressions out of the head and onto the page. I asked everyone to think particularly about the materials Auad was using and the processes that might be involved in their creation and presence in the gallery. As always we chose 5 words to sum up our thoughts and shared these as a group. This provided a starting point for what turned into a really in depth discussion about the artworks on display, musing about natural processes of erosion, alchemy, transformation and photosynthesis, and considering the actions of the artist himself as part of this ongoing process of ‘manipulating’ or shaping the materials within the sculptures. We noted how even clearly manufactured objects like the metal cans in the installation ‘Small Fires’ had then been sandblasted, etched or painted by the artist, continuing the recycling of materials we saw elsewhere in the exhibition.
The sea, was another theme, we couldn’t help but pick out from the show – there it was in panorama of ocean and sky as we looked out the large gallery windows, there it was in the Pablo Neruda poem Auad references in, ‘In the wave-strike over unquiet stones’, and it was there too in the chalk sculptures that made up the installation of the same name.
The sea became our starting point for writing too – as we went outside to stand on the beach and write about what we saw and felt and smelled, but also about the natural forces and cycles we saw in action before us. After 10 minutes of free-writing to the rush of wind and waves, feeling the warmth of the sun and hearing the clatter of pebbles turned by the tide, we came back to the quiet of the gallery, and the quiet of the chalk sculptures that so dominate the space.
We then read a text about how chalk is formed, which included some rich geological language, and I invited writers to sit with these stones, and write about them, about the processes they saw as being part of their formation, including, if they wished, the shaping hand and mind of the artist himself. I suggested that they might like to include some of the language from the factual text in their own writing – but to otherwise just freewrite and allow ideas and associations to just spill onto the page.
For our third and final free-writing period, we turned to the collections of pebbles that we’d brought from the beach. Each writer had brought 3 stones back with them, and after reading another factual text, this time about the stones and flints on Sussex beaches are formed and deposited in the area, we wrote about these stones, again focusing on the natural forces and cycles that had created them too.
With lots of writing and new ideas hatching in our notebooks, we then had a tea break and started editing our three pieces together, finding that because the same themes linked them all, that they were starting to form a single poem or series of poems. Everyone had time to start drafts of these, before we called time – and each writer chose 3 lines from their writing to write on their three stones.
We then took our pebbles down to the Pavilion foyer, where we’d marked off a square beneath the stairs, with a view of the sea and beach beyond. Here we created a collaborative, performance poem, casting our unquiet stones down with a clatter, each time creating new poems by the chance landing of pebbles.
You can read poems from this session here on the Drawn To The Page blog, and we’ll be back for our next session, at the Jerwood Gallery on Saturday March 19th.