Drawing Projects UK is delighted to feature the Pandemic Pillows by Mikey Cuddihy during lockdown. We have been in discussions with Mikey about an Open to Draw project for some time, and look forward to presenting her work in the real in our future exhibition and residency programmes when we are able to re-open our doors to the public. In the meantime, please read on to find out more about the Pandemic Pillows from Mikey herself, and about the artist. We hope you will enjoy this this, the first of our featured artist's lockdown projects!
The Comfort of Pillows
What I love is working with paper and that’s what brought me to the Financial Times (I’d been making cut out stuffed, biomorphic forms from newsprint, and I thought I’d try actual newspaper - I was attracted to the pink flesh colour of the FT; and also the sheets are big (broadsheet). It was before I even considered dealing with or working with the content. The newspaper itself is very visual - beautifully laid out, with enigmatic headlines, and the photographs have an almost romantic or ethereal look to them; the charts & columns give the ‘news’ in all its awfulness a pragmatic (?) calmness... There’s something comforting about the graphs & diagrams, and the soft beauty of some of the photographs printed on that ground of lingerie pink.
The first ‘pillows’ I made were in November 2019 – dealing with the fires in Australia (a mother holding a toddler to her hip looking at her burning house), and another with floods in India (a photograph of elephants). Framing the pillows with ruffles or frills seemed to add a touch of ironic poignancy. These works I brought together in ‘stacks’ attached to redundant mops and brooms…. juxtaposed with earlier biomorphic stuffed forms (from enlarged doodles).
I came to a halt when the Lockdown came up; couldn’t see the point in anything – let alone working in the studio. I had a vague idea – an image I wanted to use – from an article in the FT about the pandemic in India (a couple walking along a street, glimpsed fleetingly from the window of a bus) which I had already cut out, losing the text completely but keeping the dramatic headline: The Pandemic Portal. I spoke to my sister about it and she said ‘do it’. So, even in my despondency, I made the first Pandemic Pillow, for my sister. When I came into my studio the next morning, my heart lifted, and I carried on: I had a project.
The frill or ruffle acts as a frame – frivolous and protective. There is a lot of colour and surprise pattern: stripes created by sober stock market pages, and a kind of chintz from jumbled images; a red rose caught in the ruffles ('Ramadan')– some of it choreographed. Or a solid border of green – for Africa or nature, with a thin border of red, painted between the frill and the pillow ('Accra'). Sometimes, when an image is lovely in itself, but the accompanying text almost unbearable, I’ll highlight the image by making it into a ‘heart’ or a circle, losing most of the text, as in the circular Giraffe pillow. I loved those giraffes, but they were accompanied by a text about poachers running rampant and killing them. When I’d finished the pillow, with its border of green, I held it to my chest and cried.
Mikey Cuddihy, May 2020
About Mikey Cuddihy: After the death of both her parents (in separate car accidents) when she was nine, Mikey was sent to England with her siblings, where she attended Summerhill, a small progressive school in Suffolk. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art, before moving to London in 1971 to study painting at Central School of Art, and then Chelsea College of Art for her MA.
In the late 70's she moved to East London where she co-founded The Beck Road Arts Trust with Helen Chadwick, Genesis & Paula Orridge, painters Alison Turnbull, Trevor Shearer, Pete Smith, Sandra Porter, and filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski among others.
Her writing, which often appeared as fragments of conversations and texts within and alongside her paintings and installations, became a focus in 2006, when three of her stories were included in a Serpent's Tail anthology of short fiction by artists, The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B & Other Stories.
She moved from Hackney to East Sussex in 2011, to take on a more senior role at University of Brighton in Fine Art Painting. She also spent some time, writing a memoir based on her childhood and early years as an artist: A Conversation About Happiness, which was published by Atlantic Books in 2014. She left academic life in 2016, and since then she’s been able to focus on her practice full time.
Image (above): Pandemic Portal (for Deedee), Mikey Cuddihy, 2020
Image (above): Lemons, Mikey Cuddihy, 2020
Image (above): Accra, Mikey Cuddihy, 2020
Image (above): Ramadan Like Never Before, Mikey Cuddihy, 2020
Image (above): Giraffe (work in progress), Mikey Cuddihy, 2020