Love and Loss
Image – Jody Graham drawing a magpie using burnt branches from bushfires.
Love and loss are powerful motivators, persistently compelling me to act with more thought and care.
In October 2018, while on an artist residency at Grafton Regional Gallery, a visit by an exceptional magpie changed my life. Prior to this visit, I made a decision to abandon my interest in drawing birds, as I preferred to focus on sculpture, installation and moving my practice into non-representational mark making. At this time, I was also collecting random bits of discarded string and similar material for a rug I was creating: It All Adds Up.
I named my daily magpie visitor Freda. Freda was an impressive magpie who favoured standing on one leg, electing to stand like this because she had string wrapped around her claw. As some of the string dangled down when her foot was tucked up, it was a potential hazard for catching on random things in the grass and on the ground. What a dilemma! This could not be ignored and prompted me to form a relationship with Freda. Over the next week, we spent a lot of time sitting and quietly staring at each other, gently building trust so I could get closer to Freda and help her situation. Eventually, I removed most of the string, but it had been there a long time and some fragments remained embedded in her claw. This was a unique encounter, further encouraged by a random bit of string. The offending piece of string now stored in a matchbox as there was not enough to interlace all of it into It All Adds Up.
Freda went on to bring her baby Fred. Fred’s personality reminded me of a rambunctious teenager. Daily, they both sang and entertained me, swooping in when I arrived back at the residency accommodation, keeping me company while away from home.
The daily close up study of a magpie compelled me to draw birds again. I began with line drawings, trying to capture idiosyncratic avian features. Curiosity for the bird world was jolted into action after this experience, I became a bird watcher. Pen and ink line works developed into mixed media larger scale portrait drawings of birds, encountered while bird watching. Words written in these works reflect my personal thoughts about love and loss. Sometimes these words are connected to the desire for more and the imposing destruction that causes. Other times handwriting reflects the unpretentious need for love.
Eventually the day came when my residency was over and it was time to say goodbye.
The joy of experiencing wild creatures calmed my sadness when leaving them behind.
A few days after returning home to the bustling city of Sydney, I heard the familiar caroling I had come to know so well from Fred and Freda. Instantly, I dashed outside to see if my fellow friends had followed me…
Jody Graham 23/8/2019