Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am

Archive for September, 2017

28th Sep 2017

Camera Practice 3 – Derelicts.

Burnley has been undergoing a fairly rigorous regeneration period of late, owing to many things but most notably the success of the football club and the opening of a rail link to Manchester, making it a proper satellite town that people can finally find on a map, or at least want to. Where there used to be derelict properties like this on almost every street, now they are being repurposed and recycled as flats, coffee bars and trendy offices for start up businesses. Whilst I obviously welcome this new lease of life, I’ve always had a fondness for buildings in this state; broken, empty and etched with the ravages of time and neglect. They are much more interesting, characterful and real than whatever they ultimately get turned into. I will miss them when they are all gone.

It is still exciting taking pictures of them though. It’s amazing how shifty and threatening people seem to be when you’re in a run down part of town with a camera. Especially when that town is Burnley. The facades have all been polished, sure, but in the cracks and the shadows the residents remain unchanged. I’ve learned to take pictures quite quickly, and then bugger off.

by Chris
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25th Sep 2017

Depression.

I always feel like I should be able to fix it somehow, if I can just trace everything backwards to my childhood and find the source of it, find the thing that is broken. I wish the problem was mechanical, a logical process of cause and effect, culminating in a resolution. It is not being comforted each time I cried. It is the first time I learned about death. It is my parents marriage falling apart. It is the cruelty of school. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain. It is an inability to connect. It is all of those things and more, or possibly none of them, either way it doesn’t matter.

In my teens I understood that not everyone saw and felt the world the same way I did; maybe all teens feel that, maybe that’s what being a teen is. My coping strategy then was comedy, and while it solved nothing it at least kept the gloom at bay. I’d get laughs out of my friends for validation reasons, I’d laugh at myself for sanity reasons. It didn’t always work, but it kept people around and I wasn’t a burden; nobody had to tolerate my affliction. My friend Dominic calls this part of me the ‘Court Jester’, and he gently reminds me when I fall back into that role.

By my late teens I was cutting myself. It was a form of transference, as though the surface level pain in my arms was easier to bear than the pain inside, with the added bonus of seeing it heal, something which the deeper pain never seemed inclined to do. That was short lived. A man called Mark, an ex lag who had once held up a petrol station with a shotgun, held a knife to my throat and told me that if I ever wanted to cut myself again that he would do it for me, and that I wouldn’t enjoy that one bit. I stopped immediately.

As I got older it grew with me, in sophistication and severity. It is not getting out of bed. It is not going out with friends. It is substance abuse. It is not eating properly. It is deliberately sabotaging relationships. It is fear of failure, and then ensuring it occurs. It is feeling too much, and feeling nothing at all. I blamed everything from my girlfriends, to my job, to my parents, to my education, to the political state of the world, and sometimes I remembered to blame myself. It didn’t matter. It persisted whether I attended to it or not. It does not relent. I actually wonder if I would feel abandoned without it now. It has become part of who I am.

These days when it comes I recognise it sooner, stress about it less, and accept it for what it is. Like a shapeless fog it moves slowly but stealthily so you’re always too late to get out of its way and it doesn’t fully leave for a few weeks after you’ve tackled it, but at least it leaves. Knowing it can be tackled is your weapon, remember that, especially when you feel too weak to use your tools:- Eat healthy food, take plenty of exercise, talk to your mates, do something creative, and ease off of any substance that takes your mind off things. You need your mind ON this thing, that’s the key. The slope is slippery and you will slide, but the slope is also long, so you might not slide off. Upon this slope we build our lives.

I believe you can make a friend of that black dog, but it is not your pet. It is wild. It is a hunter. You are either part of the pack or you are prey. As I write this tonight, on the very blog that has formed part of my creative life raft, I am definitely running with the pack, and all is well under the moon.

But I will take my turn as the hunted again some day. And we will see which of us has the greater resolve.

by Chris
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24th Sep 2017

Camera practice 2 – Barriers.

There is a security fence around my block of flats, more specifically it encircles some waste ground opposite my flat where another building was going to be until their money ran out. There is nothing there but scrubland, and traces of concrete foundations and waste water pipes. I couldn’t tell you what the razor wire is protecting, or whom it is protecting against. I don’t know if the additional security deters thieves from accessing my estate, or if it makes us look more attractive to them.

Whatever it is for, it is secure.

The Leeds to Liverpool canal also wraps around half my estate, snaking south out of the town and then heading west towards Blackburn, which always makes me feel sorry for it. It is very much like a moat. My second line of defence. Another barrier. The photo is the reflection of the motorway overpass on the canal surface. I nearly fell in whilst taking it.

Keep smiling.

by Chris
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18th Sep 2017

Camera Practice 1

My first decent practice attempts with my new camera, starring some people I don’t know in a pub, my mates beard, and a road I like to stand in the middle of so that cars don’t have to try too hard to hit me.

They were shot from the hip, and are part of my continued efforts to not rely on the auto settings of the camera, I’m trying to do it all properly like. I did take some colour shots, but they looked like they could have been done with any old camera, so black and white is my preference by a country mile. And speaking of country miles, I didn’t really get anything interesting from the landscape shots, so it would seem I also prefer people and interiors. By which I mean the pub. I prefer the pub.

Uploaded straight from my iPhone as a jpeg, because I don’t have photoshop. So the quality will just have to be whatever.

Enjoy?

by Chris
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14th Sep 2017

Return to sender.

It has been five years since I posted anything to this site. I barely recognise myself in any of it anymore. It isn’t the homecoming I thought it would be.

It’s amazing how much has changed in that time, and also how much has stayed the same; both of which are painful. I no longer paint. I am 40 years old now. I still work in an office job. I still smoke. I am still single. This stasis has eroded the best of me, and I have, in fact, begun to fade.

As for turning my back on painting, that was hard. I just lost the time, space and inclination, I couldn’t even force it. Creativity came in fits and spurts, I wrote some stories and poems, but I struggled to keep it up. Denying myself the chance to create anything had the same effect as denying myself oxygen; I got ill, and depression is no joke. There had to be a way to get it back, to be interested in the world again, to add something to it. So I bought a camera, and I guess we’ll just see if that works out.

There is a journey that I have been planning for what seems like forever, it started as a wish, but I am now staring down the barrel of the reality of it all and I just might be a little bit afraid. I have no choice but to embark upon it, I have already waited too long and there is nothing left to learn here, but change is scary nonetheless. The journey is a physical one, it will take me across the planet to distant lands, to new experiences, maybe even some adventure. The journey is also an emotional one, for I must be honest with myself and accept that I have become a wreck, an automaton who has distanced himself from the pain of feelings; a state I must go to war against lest it become permanent. The journey is also a spiritual one, not in the usual vein of people who use terms like that, I don’t need religion or a guru, this is about becoming a version of myself that I am at peace with.

Three years ago I paid off all my debts. Since then I have saved up enough money to pack up my life and go travelling for a year. I nearly lost my mind doing it, office work is a form of mental torture, but I persevered and I’m getting out of the rut.

Something is coming. I have no idea what, but it will be here for you to read about. The words begin to form, the need to write them grows and it is time once more to document all this shit, in the vague hope that I have something left to say. This will be the genuine story of a genuine life. A man who has found himself at the halfway mark of his existence, and wants the final half to have value. So he quits his life and goes looking for something else.

I’ll keep you informed. It will be nice to have a friend along for the way.

 

by Chris
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