In January 2023 I started a conversations project during my residency at Applecart Arts. I sit down and have a conversation of approximately one hour with someone I am interested to have a conversation with. Whilst there might be particular things I am interested in, I don’t have questions planned in advance and what happens is organic. Whilst we talk, I paint. What I share here is the painted/drawn outcome of the conversation. Afterwards, I write up my reflections which come from the conversation. Then, they go into my gallery of conversations, which you have found yourself in here…
Nifra Noordeen is an artist who lives close to Plashet Park, where Applecart is located. She came to meet me during her lunch break from work. We first met in Manor Park last summer when her studio had an open day. I loved seeing her beautiful oil paintings of flowers, her work with henna and also the organised system she had for her art materials.
When we met it was a really hot day, so we got cold home-made lemonade and went to sit out on the grass in the shade. Someone nearby started blaring out music on their portable speaker really, really loudly. It was hard to hear what Nifra was saying. I felt annoyed by it. We talked about how neither of us are the kind of people who would ask for them to make it quieter. At some point, Sasha, who works in the cafe, came out and asked them to turn it down. She had a friendly chat with them and they lowered the volume. I felt relieved.
Nifra still has the studio space but said she’s been finding it difficult to find the time to go there since she started a new full time job in a civil servant training programme. However, she said that she was busy with henna work, which she has a lot of demand for when there are more weddings or other celebrations. She said it can take a whole day of sitting in an increasingly uncomfortable position, to complete it. It made me think about when work is and isn’t sustainable for our bodies and how it is not something we mention when talking about our jobs.
She described how contributing to society/community is very important to her. She is currently learning British Sign Language because of a deaf student who was in her class at university and then continued because of the friendship with her teacher. She was working as a carer throughout a lot of the pandemic and explained how it was too much of a tough system to be working within to carry on, as well as being very physically demanding.
Nifra was another artist who I appreciated connecting with about the challenges and rewards of freelance and employed work, as this has been an ongoing (often annoying thought spiral) going on for me this year, particularly relating to the security and stability which can come with comparably predictable income. She described how in the civil service, she has found that she is looked after, for example making sure she has a good screen and comfortable seat where she works from home. I remember my sister going from running her own business to working for Natural England and how they also took care of things like this, which was a pleasant surprise for her.
Bar the loud music, I found this conversation peaceful and easy. It was nice to sit and paint and talk on the grass and stay relatively cool. It reminded me of this conversation with Rodrigo when he described recently enjoying painting from the floor rather than at a desk. Writing this, I noticed how much I mention the experience of the body, and how that is something I am thinking about more and paying attention to, due largely to the course I am currently taking with Body Informed Leadership, learning more about body-centered practices.