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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Stepping Out

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

I watched a family of thrushes pottering about the lawn, looking for food. I hardly noticed them at first, they blend in so well with their surroundings. These birds have been ‘regulars’ along with an increasing number of swallows and pied wagtails. I’m happy to have these feathered friends as my neighbours and delighted to be able to stop and observe them for a while as they go about their business.

The last few weeks have felt like a bit of a whirlwind. I just returned from a few days in Orkney for the installation and opening of my exhibition ‘Toward the Northern Night’ in the beautiful Loft Gallery at St. Margaret’s Hope. I’m very grateful to the committee, as well as the coordinators and fellow artists, Ralph and Patty Robinson, for all their generous help in making this possible. The opening of the show was yesterday and it will run for a few weeks. If you want to see images of the new work and read a little more about the pieces, click here.

At Freswick Castle we have slowly started hosting guests in the last few weeks, along with meeting friends who are travelling on to Orkney or along the North Coast 500. Each time I’ve met someone there has been an expanding and widening of my horizons and a gradual rebuilding of the social structures that were in place before the regular motion of our day to day lives ground to a halt so abruptly.

In one way or another, during these last weeks, I have felt propelled into a dimmed down, mask-muffled version of ‘normality’ as we have known it. It is a deep dive into the sea of social interaction, and I sometimes feel the need for a life jacket.

Just before an interview with Radio Orkney, the interviewer and I briefly discussed what it was like to emerge out of the lockdown restrictions and step into familiar life again. He was thrilled to be back in the saddle. I, on the other hand, expressed my hesitation to come out of the safety of my womb-like world. It has been an adjustment to be sure, and I feel as though I’m having to relearn some things. With the emergence comes a shift from that introverted side of myself, the part that yearns to hide away for a little while longer. That part has been nurtured rather significantly in the last year, giving permission to explore more carefully deeper aspects of my life that get put to the wayside because of other more ‘pressing’ tasks and obligations.

However, it is great to have my combine pieces out in the light of day after months of working away in the studio. And it is helpful to see the artworks relate to each other and create a narrative against the backdrop of a white walled space — another stage in the creative process. The gallery provides the intimacy and light to be able to step into these small worlds within a world.

Of course, with all of it comes a vulnerability, as many artists can attest. In this case, something of myself is suddenly being put out there for all to see. After being the only one with the works for a long stretch of time, it takes renewed effort and courage to navigate my way through the sudden exposure. The rawness I feel is real and a part of me is suddenly being projected into a public arena. Things are laid out bare for people to comment on, to like or dislike, to shrug off, close off, or to allow some kind of interaction to happen.

With that comes a new way of seeing and learning.

When things are honest, open, exposed - it is then that we can fully relate to the world and communicate and find out more about ourselves and the extent of our capabilities. It requires risk and renewed sense of courage, every day.

For what is life without risk and re-learning? What is living without some element of exposure and vulnerability?

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