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  • TraceyJayneThomas

On the road to somewhere

Charcoal drawing, view from a moving car

I discussed previously how I'd been travelling back to see my mum, and had been inspired by the work of William Anastasi (see my earlier post; 'Poetry in Motion'). Alongside the seismographic drawings, I took intermittent photographs from the moving car, with the intention of adding a further dimension to the story of my journey. Back in the studio, using the photos as source material, I sketched out a small selection in charcoal.

I have a particular interest in peripheral vision, and depicting various depths of field within a single image. My paintings Hitchcock I & II explore aspects of these subjects, using acrylic. As an expressive medium, the nature of charcoal and paper allowed me to define and diffuse aspects of an image. It is immediately responsive and well suited to depict movement.

The next stage was to make a sequence of charcoal drawings, creating a graphic novel style story board to sit in harmony with my seismographs.

The selection of charcoal drawings sequenced together form a story board that consolidates and complements the seismographs, bringing together contemporary and traditional drawing – of which both illustrate what it physically felt like to be going back – one a visual experience, one a recording of motion.

My initial plan was to mirror the seismographs, to select an image from a specific section of the journey to marry up with the relevant seismograph. However, when seen laid out as a set of seven drawings they fell short of information, the selection was too limited. More images were needed to effectively read them as a whole; as a cohesive collection to take the viewer on the journey. In expanding the selection of drawings to twelve, the sequence presented a story in a graphic novel style format.

What resonates for me in this set of drawings is the thoughtful quietness amongst the visual noise depicted by the movement of the car. That quietness is underpinned by the simple use of charcoal on paper, adding emphasis to the reflectiveness of thought.

The work is a response to the emotional minefield of returning to my childhood home.

Going back halts me in my tracks, there’s an inner implosion. All the happy holidays, get-togethers, arguments, embraces, slammed doors, love, tears, Sunday dinners, feuds, Christmas mornings, they all run riot through me as I sit still, with the road rushing under me, being projected forward to my past.

There is a concept in sociology: Habitus clivé. On the Road addresses my sense of habitus dislocation; a cultural, social, environmental dislocation from my childhood home and upbringing.

Aged sixteen, I left school to work in the same factory as my mum, we were a family of factory workers. It's what you did. I very quickly realised that I wanted something different. In short, I took night classes when I could, and moved away to the Welsh coast when my children were little. But, of course, there were changes more complex and nuanced than that along the way.

The way my life has changed – the way I made my life change - those active decisions to exclude or include, to move away, to re-educate myself, leaves me something of a 'fish out of water'. I am dislocated from my past.

I have lived away for so long, and my environment and experiences have been so very different to those I left behind, that with every visit back I feel an increasingly stronger sense of alienation, of distance. In recent years those feelings have been compounded by physical changes; regeneration of the city and town streets I grew up in, and alterations being made to the house to cater for the practicalities and fragilities of old age. Bricks and mortar remain, but so many changes have been made over the years that when I walk through the rooms, I have to close my eyes to remember the home I knew.



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