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Studio Journal: Kate Walters


As part of her work for her current Arts Council Award, Kate Walters has been keeping a journal in her studio. She writes in this book before or after each session in her studio. What follows is a selection of extracts from May to October this year.



Making a drawing with many hands. I had thought it was ‘the world prays’ but now I see it is ‘the world begs’.

On the radio this morning I heard about a woman who was captured by rebels who tortured and murdered her family. They made her hang her own baby. They cut her brother’s head off because he refused to rape her. She said she wanted the world to know her story. She is a Christian and does not want revenge but peace and to be left in peace in her own country.

I was thinking of her when I made this drawing, and all the other victims of torture.



Mother with a white arm. God as Mother perhaps. Drawings recalling Beuys, my recent trips to Frankfurt and Berlin. His installation with the dark mass hanging, I remember being struck by the power of hanging forms.

Am I drawing fragments from a story? Is there a narrative element? Or is it about a moment, a hanging point, a place of choice, of realisation, insight? Deepak Chopra says every moment of insight is a moment of freedom.



17.5.07   Ascension Day

Drawing today of Dog and Deer. Am I exploring intrinsic qualities/moods/tendencies – dejection, victim-hood, martyrdom, soaring, acceptance?

Little drawing became about ascendancy, is that the internal condition of all life?

Drawing yesterday of ecstatic woman, from her hand red pours into a block of red. This connects with her sexual area. Is this about grounding the need to make into form, like lightening fusing with the Earth? Beuys’ piece ‘Lightning with glare on the stag’, referred to before.

These drawings would have more impact on a larger scale. What am I afraid of?  

Losing the spontaneity? The intimacy? Is Impact what it’s all about though?

Like a bomb? Or a tidal wave?  Is big bad in my book? Why is that?

Perhaps I see looking as caressing, I want people to be close, to lean forward, as if they are whispering or kissing? Or is shame bound up with these feelings, keeping the admissions small in scale lessens their impact?



Giving birth from the neck. Slaughter. Sacrificial animal from her neck the gushing and is there a figure there? Recalls the beauty of the butchery scene – the relief in the Egyptian display in Berlin. But it is not beauty to slit throats or is it in the giving of the body? (Christ).

The body which gives us our vessel - without which learning would be impossible.

More gratitude for the giving of flesh.



Tomorrow will be my first Birthday without Mum. There is a pain like a stone lifting on and off my heart. Today everything seems pointless. I have fed the birds and prepared paper with gesso.

My birthday.

Remembering what Anthony Gormley said about pursuing every avenue, not leaving any stone unturned in the development of work. To do so, to leave unexplored, results in a greater failure.

Is it necessary to feel, to experience emotional/physical pain/anguish in order to make work about these things?

It is the accidental, the chance happening through obliteration, which leads me to the drawings I am happy with - those which surprise or shock me, or present a quite new way of looking at things.




Drawing I did yesterday, which I might call Birthday Drawing, about a man’s fist going with force into a woman’s belly, is it her womb? She is headless and suspended. Above her is another headless suspended woman, heavily pregnant. Everything about the man’s body suggests force. He is brutal.



Before me a drawing about prayer, the impulse to pray, how it comes from the body, in this case the small of the back, the loins one might say of a horse or man. The figure is bent over in supplication. There are no feet, the figure is suspended.



Don’t like this work now.



A drawing about intimacy. Two horses resting together. Warm colours. They have their legs tucked in like cats. They are completely relaxed. Another drawing, listening again to Dido’s Lament, of a child bound to a horse. They are still and accepting.



Not sure drawing of a child bound to horse is finished. Not wanting to touch it through need to get into same drawing place.



Not sure where to begin today. Continued with a drawing of a couple, an antelope/deer came in, arches over the woman. The deer being about truth and safety?



Yesterday tried larger paper but it wouldn’t work. Kept changing it. Some parts I like, even those must go today. So much of what I do is about destruction, letting go even of good parts, areas I like, because they don’t work in the context of the whole. Now it is two sad horses, one is dying.

Later. Just made little drawing with horse, head and spear. Is it about consciousness? Already forgetting to date them.



Deer with a tree in the wind but it’s too easy. I must work on it further.



Got rid of the tree and the wind. Is now about generations, ancestors, being supported by our descendants. Went into the place of complete letting go, where I didn’t know what was going to happen, where the drawing has its own integrity, own life.



After our holiday to central Italy. Assisi, Croce del Pratomagno. Dreams of Christ, St. Francis, I climb a mountain to him, and to Mum.

Now back in my studio, I don’t want to go anywhere – for now, anyway.

Angel’s breath makes Jesus. Little drawing finished today. Also one of a horse praying, dark clouds are perhaps wings above him.





One week since visiting Assisi. I’ve just remembered that I saw blue lights in the Basilica di San Francesco. The drawing I’ve just been struggling with [to find a spiritual truth?] has a woman emerging from a field of blue light. Do the drawings emerge in a similar way to understanding? i.e. with difficulty! We learn the hard way! Or at least I do.



Working on Madonna of the Deer. Being birthed through purity of the Heart.



Heart as organ of birth.

Entering my studio, I need a little time to tune into my drawings. Do I need to ask visitors to shows to spend time with my work? Can I? Video artists make that assumption.

Heart as organ of birth. I give birth to trust, to inspiration, through my heart. Also to intuition and to will.

Working now on drawing as Horse as Supporter, Jesus as a Horse, kindly, eternal, weary.

Regarding the marks [the ones I leave, do not tidy up, or obliterate]: they are evidence of my attempts to identify and create the marks which will lead me to a drawing of significance and which possesses truth within itself.



Struggling terribly with drawing about heart birth of a deer. I don’t like it, think I will tear it into three pieces.

I write with Mum’s pen. Walking the dogs earlier, I thought perhaps the big picture does not reveal itself, it needs to be in little pieces, like the dawning of awareness or consciousness. Each little drawing is like a little flash of insight.

Feel more sure of this [or does it suit me to believe this?]- that truth, little bits, comes in whisper-sized drawings. To do also with having a inner quietness to hear the voices. A big drawing or paper is like a big space needing a big noise or sound. A little drawing is the correct vessel for small, yet insistent voices.



Also, the playful nature of drawing, of the exploration I do, seems -  so far - to be better suited to little pieces. Drawings as note-pages, as a diary, almanac, book-marks, pressed flowers, all those things we leave between pages to mark them. Is about developing my own language, dictionary, map, keys. 

If the dead are invisible, not subject to any laws of physics as we know them, can they come and dwell in our hearts when necessary? (Dream I had later about taking digital photographs for the dead to see). And not lose their own integrity? Do they behave more nobly, more selflessly than us here? Can they blend with our bodies? Be with us just enough?



Delivered drawings Saturday. Feeling restless. Need to concentrate more on the living. Let the dead take care of the dead.

One touch with the pen, the magic is back. Drawings always have their own intelligence, their own logic.

Bluebird, In My Horse Body, What the Dead and yet-to-be-born-know, Navel Birth [my favourite] - very spontaneous, guided drawings.

I watched a seagull practising his flying this morning: little hops, beating wings, all on top of a roof ridge.

Playing Stabat Mater by Schubert.



Mother with child and animal. Deer in blue. My dream last night about all art being an act of manipulation, or transformation. Faure Requiem, Bach concerto for 2 violins.



                    Work of sight is done.

                     Now do heart work

                     On the pictures within you               

                                                                           Rainer Maria Rilke

Thinking of drawings as messengers.  Bach, Handel sung by Kathleen Ferrier. Re-reading Sylvia Plath’s poems.







With two horses I am free. Ave Maria, Winterreise by Schubert.



Struggled with drawing with red horse carries white horse. Five weeks I think since we climbed to the Croce del Pratomagno.

[Let me Weep, Rinaldo, Handel]

Stabat Mater, Pergolesi. Photographing recent drawings today. Not sure what I think. Mostly OK, less successful ones still on studio wall, they are steps along the way with less good views! Important, nevertheless.



Arising spontaneously. Things need to arise spontaneously, not be made to come/occur – then their origination is a different place.



Suddenly the drawings seem slight, fragile things. Listening to Purcell Funeral Sentences. Working on Moving away from the Shore. Green Meadow (– became Horse Yoga).



Not sleeping well, feeling very tired. Island Heart. Grey child. Feeling bad is a good time to work. Read today in Harpers that Vivienne Westwood said ”Art and suffering go hand in hand. Your feet must bleed.”



Sunday. Tired, things difficult, not knowing where to start, where to stand. Phaedra ( my horse ) was in my dreams last night or the one before, carrying children, protecting them. Importance of visionariness, having the courage to believe one’s own visionary gift.

Exhausting one way of working, lurching again towards more expressive, distinct lines/marks, more solid blocks of limited colour.

Infant, blue figure above. Limbs are distorted stumps, legs useless, arms too long, never met.




Anselm Kiefer, in Heaven and Earth –

“…the limits of our memory, particularly of our beginnings.”

“…it is my body that holds my spirit, as in nature.”

 “… Kiefer’s art is based on the assumption that a deep field of lost images housed in the memory of the modern mind will resonate through intuitive structures made by the artist.”



Strange new drawings. If they are really a new way of seeing the unseen, they are going to be difficult to recognise. It is going to be difficult to see if they are any good. There is nothing to compare them with.



Day out of studio yesterday. Needed distance, especially with news of ------ suicide.

Feeling today that work is insignificant, because it is small. Like a dot, just about one central thing. Not relationships between things, just one thing arriving from outer space, one little speck. Should I just accept that? Is each little piece sufficient unto itself?

Agnes Martin, the Dragon, the ship in the harbour.



Death Mother. The Mother of Lost Souls. The mother we all go to. When you see someone, really see them, they have to look at themselves, they can no longer hide.

Drawing this bright morning of the soul kissing the body before taking leave.



Holding onto my rosy thoughts. Tired of death, gloom and menace. Want brightness, joy, keep the death at bay. Wonderful dream of having tiny dancing flowers/spirit butterflies around my upper body. Wonderful colours of pinky-violet. Little like hollyhock ultra-violet which has grown from the seeds Mum gave me.



Anniversary of Mum’s death.

After Documenta I feel better about my work and what I am doing and seeking to achieve with it.

In Frankfurter Dom I went into deep meditation and saw Mum in her new body. A little like a bird in form, very soft and gentle. Pale, almost transparent. Like a vapour condensing, but which will not complete the physical process as we understand it here. She is in a state of gaseous balance, just visible, for now anyway. Or did she assume that shape just so I could see her in those moments?



Just done little drawing about two aspects of vision – one which allows one to venture forward, and the other which hits one in the face (vision allows me to see things which cause pain): one hits oneself in the self/face, whilst pinioned on umbilical snake.



Grandma’s birthday.

Why is “being mothering/ed” a term of abuse? Being mothered isn’t good. What is “fathering” about? It isn’t even a term we use. Why are so many men absent or weak or brutal? Why can’t we nurture?



Joseph Campbell, from Pathways to Bliss:

“In Christian symbology, the father atonement is the primary image: Christ goes straight through the Cross to the Father. Frequently in images of the Crucifixion, you have Mary standing at the foot of the Cross. Now, in many cultures, the cross is the sign of both the earth and of the feminine principle. Mary is the Cross; she was Christ’s gateway from eternity to the field of time, and now she is the gateway back. Birth into the world is the crucifixion of the spirit, and the crucifixion of the body releases the spirit back into eternity.”



How we give birth to our children.                 

                                                                                                Copyright Kate Walters 2007


Kate Walters was at Goldfish between 2nd November - 1st December