I had visited Havana previously in 2017/18 so my expectations were similar to that. On that first visit I stayed near the University on a very noisy road with zero Internet. This visit was very different, firstly the neighbourhood of Vedado is quiet. Tree lined residential streets near parks and little ‘shops’ from outside people’s houses. Just lovely.
The house of the Residency is gorgeous and that word should be in capital letters. Outside space to sit (I really missed that on the last house), plants everywhere and the biggest, fluffiest husky dog I’ve met so far in life.
Now, I’m not great with dogs, I have one but my dog is the size of this one’s head! I had decided early on that bribery is the way forward so I brought along some dog toys so Ajax would eat them and not me.
My bedroom felt like an artists bedroom, a huge table that I immediately filled with art ‘stuff’, a big, comfy bed and air con!
Inside the house are spaces that can be used as studio spaces, I chose the one near the kitchen, with a high ceiling and a beautiful tiled floor. I hung 3 pieces of fishing wire from window to window and then pondered what to do next.
I met with the Curator, Dannys and also the coordinator, Ene. Both were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I walked round the immediate vicinity of the residency with Ene, we sat on the John Lennon bench and had a chat, (with John as well as each other), she showed me a few places to eat and where to grab a taxi.
I wanted to get started immediately as I had filled my sketchbook with ideas.
The wall hangings worked. The idea and the process of those ideas worked. The notion of ‘holding it together’ worked. My thoughts of memories and loss and more importantly, feeling the loss, I was able to put into my work with the pink and the sewing. Both I will take further.
In the end, the final outcome was a more simple, uncomplicated process. When I think about my loss, it is just that, grieving for someone who is no longer here. She was and now she’s not. Basic but actually all encompassing. That’s the outcome of my work at the Residency.
I didn’t use the cling film as much as I thought, and that’s pretty much down to my work going in the direction of ‘stitches’. The sculptural pieces about habitat and ‘home’, need to be moved on (excuse the pun).
My hearing loss also wasn’t a huge focus. It was more about living with it than mourning the loss. It’s a continuous process as my hearing changes daily.
The foundations part was evident, especially as there was a hurricane mid residency and the house stayed put, because the foundations are strong. Life imitates art or the other way around.
When I hung my work up around the derelict building, I felt all sorts of things. Proud, happy, content and also excitement as to where my work will take me next. I also felt complete, like a 3 stage residency had been finalised. I came, I saw, I conquered.
I had ideas in my sketchbook before I arrived, I knew I wanted to play with wall hangings in a sculptural way. I wanted to mix my work within a derelict building setting. I knew I wanted to explore ‘stitches’ and how this opens up to further work about foundations and what keeps us together. All of the above, I felt I achieved.
I saw parts of Havana I haven’t before, I met artists, went to galleries, private views and saw many, many derelict and beautiful buildings that are still standing. I saw a wonderful drag show, I watched live music and met a Cuban singer who’s voice was like velvet in my ears.
I constantly had the aroma around me of ‘eau de mosquito repellant’, which totally worked! I found gorgeous new friends, the language barrier was never a problem, hand gestures, a bit of mime and the odd understandable word all helped.
On this visit, I also explored more about the Afro-Cuban religion and dances.
I leave Havana and the Residency on a high. I’m calmer, happier and more balanced. I know where my art practice is heading and what I want to do next.
I would like to thank Omar and his team of people for helping me achieve the above and I believe Omar has a certain percentage of British-ness in him, maybe an elbow amount….