Full Vigour of Isolation
3 Questions for Laura
What was your process for creating this work?
This process is the result of transition. Throughout the pandemic, I had been working on a series of visual poems inspired by the Victorian classics, Brontë, Dickens, Gaskell and so forth, and found myself unable to leave Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, and its themes of landscape, belonging and return. This piece is the most recent of that bigger project and I began it just as I was leaving Uganda, which had been my home for four years and returning to Belgium, my adopted home. This piece started as a mediation on leaving Uganda and its extraordinary landscapes, and then – via W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz – to consider the impossibility of returning to a place that has once been home. For while time and space may be illusionistic and illusionary to the traveller, who can never feel sure, once home, that they have ever been abroad (Sebald). The traveller can also, perhaps, never quite recapture the illusion of home they held while abroad.
What is the significance of the medium you chose?
Full Vigour is worked in a range of textiles, including fabric recycled from household use, pages of the book Return of the Native, washed, kneaded and raw; photograph printed on paper; stitch, ink and watercolour. The acts of kneading paper and stitching textiles involve the transfer of oil, sweat and (a little!) blood from the artist to the work, and the (slow) layering process renders the piece personal and contemplative.
What is the significance of this work to you?
The title, Full Vigour of Isolation, emerged from the text used in the piece and to my mind underscores how some similarities between home and abroad may strike the traveller – such as the red iron oxide of the rich laterite soil of Central Africa and the rusted beams in Antwerp Central station, itself a monument of European colonialism in Africa … – but these serve to deepen the disconnect between ‘home’ and abroad rather than bridge it.
Laura Davis is a poet with a particular interest in textile visual poetry. She was born and raised European in the UK and now considers Belgium to be home. She has recently returned there after a decade spent living and working in Central Africa and the Middle East. Her poems have appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears, Seen as Read (2020), Live Canon Anthology 2020, Writers Kingston and in the Book of Penteract (2022). Her first collection, Found & Lost, came out in 2022.
She tweets @LaDaBel Insta @lauradavis1709.