Awakening an Untamed Presence

Awakening an Untamed Presence

In conversation with Simone Kennedy, Visiting Artist-in-Residence.


11 October 2021

In conversation with Simone Kennedy, Visiting Artist-in-Residence

Our Engagement and Curatorial Assistant Maria Markiewicz sat down with Simone Kennedy, Visiting Artist-in-Residence, to talk about Simone’s practice and the preparations for her Lunchtime Talk and Art Workshop. In this conversation, Simone reflects on her residency at the Tavistock Institute and what she has been working on since coming to London. How is her practice connected to what we do at the Institute? How are art and organisational development entwined? Read more below to learn about Simone’s work and the research she has been doing in the Tavistock’s archives.

Simone Kennedy, <i>The Unquestioning Faith of a Child</i>, 2013

Simone Kennedy, The Unquestioning Faith of a Child, 2013

Maria Markiewicz: What is the story behind your collaboration with the Tavistock Institute?

Simone Kennedy: I discovered the Tavistock Institute during my postgraduate study back in Australia in 2012, possibly earlier. At that time, I was very interested in John Bowlby, who worked at the Institute after the war, and his research on Attachment Theory, including his work with Mary Ainsworth. Their research observed the emotions of children accompanied by strangers with and without the mother to assess levels of attachment.

At that time, I was reflecting heavily on my own relationship with my mother, particularly my formative years growing up in London. All these reflections about the importance of the mother/child relationship meant that I needed to site the work; it was imperative that the work become integrated through the layers of the Tavistock Institute. This is where the collaboration began really, I would revisit the Tavistock Institute’s website, and this was where I first saw the description for the Deepening Creative Practice programme. I emailed immediately.

Simone Kennedy, Free Flight Fly (Trajectory Detail), 2014

Simone Kennedy, Free Flight Fly (Trajectory Detail), 2014 

MM: In a short poem that you wrote for the Institute’s website, you are writing that you ‘have come home’. How does ‘being home’ feel like to you and what have you been working on since you came here?

SK: Returning to London by myself has had a profound effect on my thoughts and creativity. After living in Australia for 40 years, I really needed to connect to my homeland. More importantly, I’ve become acutely aware of time and ageing. London holds such history and I feel as if I’m part of the history within this city. I recognise a certain presence if you like, through the culture and physically through certain buildings here. A few years ago, I discovered there are at least three generations of women on my mother’s side, all from Bethnal Green!

Currently, I am working on a soft ‘backbone’ sculpture loosely based on an anatomical spine. I’m also painting seven small ‘mother’ portraits based on some small soft sculptural portraits I started back in Australia. The art shops here are incredible! I have just discovered walnut ink, so this is what I’ve been using to paint them with.

Simone Kennedy, Free Flight Fly (Pre-feed Detail), 2014

Simone Kennedy, Free Flight Fly (Pre-feed Detail), 2014

MM: As part of your residency at the Institute, you will be leading an art workshop on 18 October. What have you planned for the participants?

SK: I’m very excited about the workshop. Essentially, I hope to facilitate a form of deep expression for the participants (via the unconscious), using collage as an immediate way to get ideas and thoughts down on the page. Practically, the workshop is divided into two parts, cutting and reparation (or building). It’s exploring deconstruction/reconstruction within this realm of play. The workshop is less about outcomes (although they are important) and more about the process itself.

Simone Kennedy, Changeling, 2021

Simone Kennedy, Changeling, 2021

MM: How did you find the Tavistock Institute’s archive at the Wellcome Collection? Whose works / letters / documents have you discovered there?

SK: I have been lucky to have access to the Rare Materials Room at the Wellcome Library, which also contains the John Bowlby archives. Currently, I’m looking through JB’s personal letters, a small handbook on Difficult Children and an essay in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis titled Processes of Mourning. Obviously, I’m restricted by time. It would be very easy to spend years looking at the archive, it’s so rich!

Simone Kennedy, Wellspring, 2020

Simone Kennedy, Wellspring, stage 1 of Pilgrimage to Imago, 2020

MM: One of your most recent works, ‘Pilgrimage to Imago’, is built around a primordial mother figure. Could you tell me a bit more about it?

SK: Pilgrimage to Imago has at its core my own unique story of a child in isolation. I’m working with this sense of absence/presence and I’m really curious to see how these realms play out upon my adult life. My return hasn’t just been about my love of England but inevitably it has triggered a return to the memory of my mother, my child memory of her and my understanding of the lack of our potential together. I believe this is what I’m mourning through my work, always this sense of loss, not just my own loss, but her loss too. It’s a case of us being inextricably linked and this is where the metaphor of the fly comes in, as an ideal metaphor to the ideas on loss and our combined histories. Through my works, I’m talking about intergenerational trauma. They are an attempt to understand it in a creative sense, awakening an untamed presence that feels restless in its darkness and difficulty.

Simone Kennedy, Changeling (b) (detail), 2021

Simone Kennedy, Changeling (b) (Detail), 2021

MM: What have you taken from the residency so far?

SK: I’m halfway through this residency and dreading the time when it will end. It is incredibly satisfying to be around people who are sensitive to art and art making, also understanding that it can be an open source of investigation, integrated through and outside of the organisation. Through this residency, I feel that we are building a relationship that has the potential to expand into a whole realm of artistic possibilities. The Tavistock Institute has a wonderful culture that nurtures trust and care, and this is filtering through into my practice.

Simone Kennedy, Black and White Line-up, 2021

Simone Kennedy, Black and White Line-up, 2021

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