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Welcome to the 31 Art blog


Each week one of our artists will post a blog

An Unlike Year - Mike Higgins

By justanact51, Mar 23 2015 04:51PM

Tin HInge (detail)
Tin HInge (detail)
28 Stitches (detail)
28 Stitches (detail)

My creative output (as an adult at least) has been in three mediums. I started off with sculpture in stone and wood, then moved to ceramics and printmaking. The last two I’ve displayed at the Open House previously. The content has always been abstract or something that I’ve found to be aesthetically pleasing. This year, the content is much more personal.

In October 2013, Steve Punter, a fellow resident of the block of flats where I live in London, took his life following a period of unemployment and depression. I knew and liked Steve and his death left me profoundly shocked. Over the following months I really missed him. Although at an intellectual level I could make sense of the reasons why he did what he did, I couldn’t come to terms with it at all. It didn’t get any better. Indeed any unexpected death, be a person under a train or the loss of a friend of a friend, sent me to a very dark place.

Grief, more so than other emotions it seems, links together events that are separated in time. For instance, the death of a public person or celebrity can lead to an outpouring of grief that seems out of proportion to the closeness to that person.

And so it was with me. Steve’s death took me back to the loss of my Dad when I was young. I think becoming the “man of the house” at 13 complicated the process of grieving for him, and it is something that I have avoided until now, although suspected was always there.

So how do you grieve someone who has been dead for 30 years? How do you do it when you have no mechanism for dealing with loss?

For me, poetry played a key role. I’d not written a word of poetry for over 20 years but had recently started going to a poetry night, “Bang Said the Gun”, at a local pub. It arrived at just the right time.

The first couple of poems were both difficult and emotional to write. In fact writing them is still hard and draining. I’ve learnt that poetry allows me to visit a place to grieve, and even be overwhelmed, yet be able to safely return. It allowed me to contain the juggernaut of sadness as it thundered over the horizon on a Monday, knowing it would hit on the weekend. It allowed me to take the sucker punch of grief as I stepped of a dancefloor on an otherwise happy night out.

Over the year, the feelings changed and I found I could approach other things. My Mum has dementia and as a family we are losing her by degrees. I am unlikely to become a father myself. A year on from Steve’s death, a group of his friends met to remember him. And my poems have allowed me to express my love and affection in different ways too.

An important part of the process has been sharing the poems with others, something I want to extend in the Open House. But I didn’t want it just to be “Mike’s Wall of Misery”. I decided to illustrate some of the poems with a related print. I have played with relief printing previously and this year have learnt monoprints, drypoint and etching with various degrees of success. The process of printmaking has again allowed me to come back to the themes in a different way.

I hope you visit us and take something from the poems and the pictures.

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