Drawing : Nina Simone’s Gum

The hair clippings of St Clare of Assisi, the Basilica of Saint Clare: Assisi.

Nina Simone’s Gum’ is a ebook by Warren Ellis. Entitled after the truth that Ellis had pulled the gum off the leg of a piano Nina Simone had performed again in 1999, in what was to be Simone’s final efficiency in England. It was twenty years later placed on show as a relic; an object of nice religious worth; the ebook being about how one thing so small can kind such highly effective connections between folks, it’s, because the blurb says, ‘a narrative in regards to the which means we place on issues, on experiences, and the way they change into imbued with spirituality’. 

Nina Simone’s Gum

I went to see Nina Simone at Birmingham City Corridor in 1969, she was astonishing. Reminiscences of the occasion nonetheless transfer me, and when she sang ‘Younger Gifted and Black’, I keep in mind hairs standing up on the again of my neck because the primarily black viewers rose to her phrases. It was my first actual expertise of what it meant to have a really totally different identification to that of a white, male anglo-saxon. I had simply accepted issues as they had been, however on going to artwork school, I used to be lastly starting to get up and uncover that the world on the market was a conflicted place and that what I took as a right, was a state of affairs many others would see as a place of privilege.  Simone’s efficiency was an unforgettable expertise and I may simply see why one thing as humble as her discarded chewing gum could possibly be so essential to somebody who had attended considered one of her concert events. 

That is how relics work. Objects change into the repositories of the spirit of the one who was related to them. This could possibly be, as within the picture that opens this submit, a saint like Clare of Assisi, who’s nonetheless golden shorn hair is saved to remind us of her piety or Jesus Christ; the nails from his crucifixion being energised with some form of religious essence of his being. 

A Holy nail relic: Trier Cathedral 

However you do not have to be that particular or saintly, anybody’s religious essence might be handed on utilizing a relic, the most typical state of affairs being if you find yourself given an urn stuffed with ashes after a cremation. I do know of a number of households that hold their grandad’s ashes in an urn sitting in a cabinet and each from time to time they flip to these ashes and ask for grandad’s assist in supporting them by means of life’s difficulties. The objects that change into relics may also be very mundane, a tooth, a nail, a used discarded chewing gum, however of their very banality, they inform us a narrative about life, about how essentially the most humble, ignored object, has the potential to present bodily kind to religious issues. 

The artist Alina Szapocznikow, used to make use of chewing gum to make sculptural concepts, after which {photograph} the outcomes. 

Alina Szapocznikow, “Photosculpture” (1971)


These photos additionally faucet into the idea of the relic. The artist’s traces changing into very like these of a misplaced saint, Szapocznikow’s chewed and hand pulled tiny sculptures, now honored as excessive artwork, change into relics not in contrast to those we discover preserved in glass vitrines in lots of Catholic church buildings. A relic works as some form of externalised thoughts. With out their bodily presence we might discover it very tough to consider the concepts related to what relics stand for. The rationale we have to make bodily objects to hold our concepts, is due to the identical purpose, every artwork object in impact working as an externalised thought, an idea made actual, relatively than remaining as a thought trapped inside a head.

You may also take into consideration a drawing as soon as it’s accomplished as a kind of relic. Its very materiality is a crystallised concept. We’re intrigued by an unique drawing and as we glance carefully at its handcrafted marks, we recreate in our minds the artist’s contact and in flip we’re touched by the thought of a sure mixture of supplies holding inside itself an concept. When I’m useless my drawings should speak for me. Mute like all relics, folks will deliver their very own tales to them, subsequently I hope my works on paper may have sufficient substance to them to permit for a lot of potential tales to emerge and flourish, the drawings’ very muteness hopefully providing others a silence inside which to make their very own sounds. 

A drawing from an outdated sketchbook

No matter concept I had when making this drawing I’ve forgotten, however the particular mixture of supplies stay, the drawing holds its kind, solely barely distorted by time, maybe somewhat pale and the paper barely flattened as a result of compression and dampness. It now operates as a relic, a frozen thought preserved in paper and ink, a kind of fossil. If now framed behind glass and placed on show, the framing begins to take away it even farther from the world and heightens its iconic potentialities and begins the journey in direction of changing into a reliquary.

The body inside a body

An empty reliquary body 

The empty reliquary body above is simply ready for a saint’s toe or tooth to be mounted inside its ornate surrounds. It’s designed to present honorific worth to no matter is positioned inside it. It wants one thing like Nina Simone’s gum to finish it. Actually the gum was solid in silver by Hannah Upritchard, a London jeweller and the Belgian clothier Ann Demeulemeester produced an intricately carved silver ring in its picture. 

Hannah Upritchard: Silver casts of Nina Simone’s Gum

I suppose this sequence of concepts has come to me as a result of I am about to retire and the library at Leeds Arts College is considering of archiving a few of my outdated sketchbooks. In the event that they do and as I might hope, they hold them protected, at some point they’ll appear to some future researcher as unusual outdated relics of the previous and my life can be a distant reminiscence. It’s unlikely I’ll have ever modified anybody’s life in the best way Nina Simone did, however on a extra modest scale, maybe a few of my instructing or my drawings did assist some folks enrich their very own lives and if something of mine could possibly be thought to be repositories of my spirit, it might be my sketchbooks.

Sketchbook concept evolving in relation to how my varicose veins really feel

Glass leg votive in progress

See additionally: 

False begins Exhibition: A side of my work that reaches into the custom of the votive