Artist in Lockdown Series #3 - SUSIE MACMURRAY

How has lockdown affected your routine and practise?

In some ways lockdown has affected my daily studio routine surprisingly little. I’m lucky to have my a studio space attached to my house in the form of a converted flat roofed garage. I can just step out of the house and into the studio without leaving my garden. The downside is I can’t go to my shared studio at Rogue Artists Studios for supplies or to do the larger, messier things when I need to. 


What have you been working on today?

Today I have been slicing up deer antlers into fine slivers on the bandsaw, sanding them and drilling a hole in each one in preparation for stitching them with saddlery thread onto fabric. The antlers are from a previous site specific work Herd made for Attingham Park, which I have dismantled in order to use the materials for new work. Just at the cusp of the outbreak I was in contact with Tatton Park in the hopes of sourcing many more antlers, but for the meanwhile I will make use of what I have here. Such bad timing. Hopefully when this is all over I can pick up my plans, although the season the deer shed their antlers will have passed.  


Some of the work I’m making with the antler slivers at the moment are sculptural pieces which I hope to show eventually at Pangolin. I’ve just finished a little one that will go into one of The Cure3’s lovely cubes to raise funds for the Parkinson’s Trust. More long term I’m researching a new figurative garment sculpture along the lines of Widow and Medusa,  made of the sliced antlers. It has a working title of Stalker. Thoughts of protective skins, fear and bravery, hunter/hunted and the emotional scars carried from past emotional trauma are amplified by the current situation. We are presently a bit like creatures curled up, sheltering and uncertain of the future and of the defences we have built. I am put in mind of armadillos, porcupines and aptly of pangolins.


What are you missing the most in this time of isolation?

I may be carrying on as normal within the studio, but I am missing very much the human contact I get from the two good friends who come a couple of days each week to voluntarily assist me with my making. As I live on my own (with my dog Rose) their company is very welcome and the studio feels extremely quiet without them... although I’m saving a fortune on coffee! I worry of course about my grown up children and their partners, both living down south, but the upside is that I speak to them more often than in normal times. I have no immediate elderly relatives to be concerned for.


What are you doing to remain positive?

I’m making a conscious effort to be mindful of any silver linings I can find.  My 2 walks with Rose have become highlights of the day, no longer just squeezed in between other more important things in my schedule. It’s so good to get outside and breath the air, which certainly feels cleaner. The roads and playing fields near my house are lovely and quiet. I am enjoying pottering in my garden with enough time to dig and plant, divide and take cuttings. I’m also delighted that frogs have spawned for the second year in my new pond. Part of the daily routine is now ‘tadpole watch’! Pleasure in small things.


What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

I don’t know that I have any erudite advice of use to other artists. Alongside frustration I am finding a certain sense of the pressure to produce being suddenly taken off. I suspect others might feel this too, and perhaps this is a good time to escape from the news and social media into ‘play’ and allow and follow the unexpected a little further with no expectations. I found myself freehand drawing with a needle and embroidery thread the other day - not something I would normally have considered as ‘work’. Certainly I always find the handling and manipulating of tactile materials mentally soothing. This is part of my personal need to make art, so perhaps that’s something to think about. 


Can you recommend a good art related book, podcast or film/series for everyone in lockdown?

With regards to books, I’m currently rereading A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. She’s an author I love and who I would recommend to anyone who doesn’t already know her work. On the subject of food, sadly I fear I will not emerge from this any lighter or fitter. As an isolating single person, anything I cook I have to eat without sharing with anyone else! I am getting surprising satisfaction from roasting a small chicken, complete with gravy, baby roast potatoes, cheesy leeks and steamed veg. Such a comforting meal, and then it feels good to make risotto and soup to carry through the rest of the week so nothing is wasted. I have resisted baking, so far...


April 24, 2020